Law firm management
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Law firm management
Law firms face unprecedented change. Increasing regulation; greater competition; and more demanding clients. This stream looks at solutions, challenges ad opinions - and offers suggestions
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Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers? by David and Karen Skinner

Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers? by David and Karen Skinner | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Lean process improvement: Who says there's no messing with lawyers?
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Some #law firms are facing up to the challenge that is cost management, by tackling the operations and process side of business management.

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SRA Risk outlook 2013 – What COLPS/COFAS and conveyancers need to know

SRA Risk outlook 2013 – What COLPS/COFAS and conveyancers need to know | Law firm management | Scoop.it

In her speech at the launch event, Samantha Barrass (SRA Executive Director) said “Risks are often described like cockroaches-they hide well, multiply quickly and become everyone’s problem to stamp out.

 

The Risk Outlook is part of our repellent, exposing the risks and putting controls in place to ensure that the serious ones are managed out as early as possible. In order to achieve this, we need a clear view of the risks and to put in place controls, which includes Law Firm’s management of risk and the actions they take and are able to evidence with documentation, to manage the risks within their business.”

 

The way we manage risk at all levels within our own Law Firms must take into account the risks identified by our Regulator (SRA).

John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Colourful language - and yet makes the point. Law firm leaders need to identify and manage their risks in an organised and coherent manner. Specific risks are outlined in the article, and revolve around the same old issues of cash management, conflict management, client care, and due diligence.

 

Those risks are exacerbated by the current financial and economic difficulties experienced by law firms, wth governance, including decision-making, and succession planning the deeper issues affecting all others

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Five Strategic Planning Questions You Must Answer

Five Strategic Planning Questions You Must Answer | Law firm management | Scoop.it

As a consultant, I encounter strategic plans that remain too broad.  It’s sad but true. They’re designed to appease everyone and leave room for interpretation.  From my perspective, there are two reasons for this.  It stems from fear or inability to have the tough conversations (and conflict) to get to clarity. Or it stems from the framework we often use in strategic planning which can force broader answers. To avoid being too broad, start by asking yourself the strategic planning questions below. On the surface these questions will seem simple and easy to answer, but when you start to address them, I suspect the answers will be more challenging than originally thought. 


Via paulgreen, John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Read on - this could mean you!

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John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's curator insight, August 25, 2013 9:50 PM

This is very common, sadly - especially in the professional services markets where we operate a lot of the time.

 

Attempting to satisfy everyone in a partnership environment - where most firms begin, including those who have migrated to an ABS, LLP or Limited Company retaining their original partnership culture - ends up satisfying no-one. That means no progress, or as we have often seen the weakest or most risk averse effectively making the decision, and the business of being in business gets forgotten.

 

PSF governance is the biggest barrier to their progress. And internal conflict management - or more often avoidance - the biggest opportunity. Meaning internal political management is an essential characteristic of leaders...

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Accountancy giants consider ABS moves | The Law Gazette

Two of the UK’s major accountancy firms are considering applications to become providers of regulated legal services.

 

KPMG today confirmed it is considering whether to apply for an alternative business structure licence.

 

Its rival Ernst & Young has confirmed to the Gazette that it is keeping its options ‘under review’ with regard to the Legal Services Act, having flatly denied any interest in ABS status last year

John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Accountanst to form MDPs with law firms. Who knew this was going to happen?

 

It was only a matter of time, though its impact will likely take a little while to properly settle down. What reaction will it provoke in law firms? Probably very little for the vast majority...

 

Or am I wrong? Do tell...

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83 jobs to go in Hill Dickinson shake-up | The Law Gazette

83 jobs to go in Hill Dickinson shake-up | The Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it

Top-50 firm Hill Dickinson has confirmed 83 job losses as a result of a restructure of the business.

 

In a statement today, the international firm confirmed 14 redundancies at partner level and 69 job cuts among other employees. A total of thirty-nine employees are subject to compulsory redundancy, with the remainder accepting a voluntary settlement.

John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

More and more law firms are being run as corporate businesses, with loss-making or 'non-core' products/offices being sold off.


Si this a good thing, or a bad thing? If you went into the law for security, how do you feel?

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New law firm makes two key appointment to management - Yorkshire Post

New law firm makes two key appointment to management - Yorkshire Post | Law firm management | Scoop.it
New law firm makes two key appointment to management Yorkshire Post Harrogate-based Towers Legal, which was launched last September by former head of commercial litigation at McCormicks, James Martin, has brought on board Josephine Nylan as head of...
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Where small is beautiful, and success is down to making things work effectively and efficiently. Good to see smaller law firms showing that success is achievable.

 

One wonders how much is driven by it being newer, and thus less hidebound by tradition...

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Market Place | Burnetts Solicitors

Market Place | Burnetts Solicitors | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Your default description here (RT @BurnettsCumbria: Website compliance policies from £35+VAT at our new online Market-Place http://t.co/Gkr9Do0Y3w #24hrlaw)...
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Way to go - Cumbrian law firm Burnetts shows how the web and online buying can be harnessed. Wonder how they will analyse client behaviour and quantify the benefits - and if this is an experiment that will be watched by others with anything more than cynicism.


We applaud them. Good luck. Hope it works for you.

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2,550 law firms ‘at risk’ of failure | Solicitors Journal

2,550 law firms ‘at risk’ of failure | Solicitors Journal | Law firm management | Scoop.it

London firms fare worst while Wales has smallest proportion

 

As many as 2,550 or 31 per cent of law firms across the UK are 'at risk' of failure in the next 12 months, research by the Association of Business Recovery Professionals or R3 has suggested.

 

London firms fare worst, with almost 36 per cent of firms at risk, followed by the east of England and south-east England, both with 32 per cent.

John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

So says R3, teh Association of Business Recovery Professionals in research published at the end of June. It chimes with the SRA revelation that 30% of law firms are under scrutiny, and comes as the reporting season is under way.

 

It's the beginning of a perfect storm of events over the next three months for hard-pressed law firms.

 

Tax payments due at the end of this month; the potential for a quiet summer; possible quarterly rent due in September; PI payments due in October - and where will those premiums be; and continuing and increasingly harsh terms, if lendng can be got at all, from the banks.

 

Time to take stock, perhaps. Cashflow is always important, and never more so than now; strategy and business management become more so if firms want to thrive and not just survive.

 

Perhaps...

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Managing Relationships With Legal Project Management

Managing Relationships With Legal Project Management | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Effective legal project management is very much on the minds of law departments, outside counsel, and the business units that partner with both sets of lawyers.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Legal Project Management: is it different from 'normal' project management? Some will argue so; others that you need to understand how legal firms work. They're different, there's little doubt - and yet the principles are the same; and this article provides some great advice.

 

Written for the US market, it still bears reading because there are some opinions that forward-thinking law firms would do well to learn...

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Walker Morris names first non-exec director

Walker Morris names first non-exec director | Law firm management | Scoop.it
LAW firm Walker Morris yesterday revealed that it had appointed the former Deloitte managing partner, Stuart Counsell, as its first non-executive board director.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Innovative? Law firm Walker Morris appoints its first NED. Trendsetters; early adopters; or just odd?

 

As more law firms adopt those business practices which have been used by other sectors for years, and more turn to appointing practice managers and directors, NEDs could also become part of the landscape.

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Profits squeeze as top-50 firms open results season | The Law Gazette

Profits squeeze as top-50 firms open results season | The Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it

Preliminary results posted today by three top-50 firms show profits falling in 2012-13 on modest rises in turnover.


Osborne Clarke: revenue up 14%; profits down 5%

SJB: unaudited turnover up 2.5%; PEP down ~10%

Pinsents: provisional turnover up 5%; no profit figure.


 

John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

A worry for many observers has been exactly this. Our specific concern is that law firms merge to grow revenue, yet profits fall. The recent Altman Weil survey showed that most AmLaw 100 firms were concerned about profitabilty and operational management, yet focused on increasing revenues, growing business and net profits.

 

These results may just be a blip. We don;t think so, though. Worrying times...

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Legal Business Development

Legal Business Development | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Best practices in legal project management, legal business development, and alternative fee arrangements
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

No comment needed. The following extracts from Jim Hassett's blog says it all. Go read!


My favorite question in the survey asked “Which of the following legal market trends do you think are temporary and which will be permanent?”  14 trends were listed including more contract lawyers, fewer support staff, more non-hourly billing and increased competition from non-traditional service providers.  Two answers were tied for the top, with 96% of respondents saying they were permanent:  A focus on greater practice efficiency and more price competition.


My favorite question in the survey asked “Which of the following legal market trends do you think are temporary and which will be permanent?”  14 trends were listed including more contract lawyers, fewer support staff, more non-hourly billing and increased competition from non-traditional service providers.  Two answers were tied for the top, with 96% of respondents saying they were permanent:  A focus on greater practice efficiency and more price competition.


More generally, law firm leaders were asked:  “What will be your firm’s greatest challenge in the next 24 months?”  The top three answers were old school:  increasing revenue (15%), new business (15%) and growth (12%).  All three would have made a lot of sense as the primary focus of leadership in 2005, 2006 or 2007, when the legal market was growing

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Shakespeares boss warns it could get even tougher for law firms

Shakespeares boss warns it could get even tougher for law firms | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Following the collapse of Birmingham law firms Cobbetts and Blakemores attention has been acutely focused on the city's legal sector.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:
More dire predictions for High St law firms, with a number of knowledgeable experts predicting an increase in the number of small law firm failures. The combination of increasing regulation and competition, coupled with demanding clients, reducing revenues annd higher costs means times will be harder for any firm not thinking, planning and implementing business disciplines. With some estimating 8,000 fewer firms within ten years, and almost 6,000 firms with fewer than five partners, it doesn;t take much to see where the problems might lie. Fortunately for those who do plan ahead, there are real opportunities available...
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John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's curator insight, June 2, 2013 10:01 PM

More dire predictions for High St law firms, with a number of knowledgeable experts predicting an increase in the number of small law firm failures. The combination of increasing regulation and competition, coupled with demanding clients, reducing revenues annd higher costs means times will be harder for any firm not thinking, planning and implementing business disciplines.

 

With some estimating 8,000 fewer firms within ten years, and almost 6,000 firms with fewer than five partners, it doesn;t take much to see where the problems might lie.

 

Fortunately for those who do plan ahead, there are real opportunities available...

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Pricing revolution pays off for Pannone

Pricing revolution pays off for Pannone | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Profits grew 12% to £10.4m at Manchester firm Pannone, due to a change in its pricing structure.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Brief article expounding the benefits of a rigorous pricing strategy, evidenced in higher profits at Pannone. MP Emma Holt confirms "greater emphasis on pricing and reshaping the business" played a crucial part.

 

So, a good business strategy, and legal process and project management had their place. The question is whether your law firm has either...and if you expect higher PEP figures in the future...

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Segmentation of the Legal Services Market – ‘The Banker’s View’ | Opinion | The Lawyer

Segmentation of the Legal Services Market – ‘The Banker’s View’ | Opinion | The Lawyer | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Price point and service model are the first areas on which the UK legal market is segmenting, but as Barclays’ Lee Everson says, there is more to come.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

A well-reasoned and informed argument for law firm leaders to take a new approach to their sector. 

 

Rather than evolving the model from a traditional law firm model using a client-biased perspective, this article argues that some contenders are starting with client needs, and building their model from there. This begins with price-point differentials, and includes fixed-fee pricing as one angle.

 

Worth a review before looking ahead to the next five years...if there is that long a future for some firms.

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High Court asks SRA to consider firm's fitness to practise after contempt ruling - Legal Futures

High Court asks SRA to consider firm's fitness to practise after contempt ruling - Legal Futures | Law firm management | Scoop.it
High Court asks SRA to consider firm's fitness to practise after contempt ruling Legal Futures The incoming Lord Chief Justice has asked the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to consider a law firm's continuing fitness to practise having found...
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

In an unusual move, the High Court refers a law firm to the SRA, after numerous 'breaches' of practice and ethics - compounded by the principal's refusal to attend the courts and explain himself. Some of the excuses used beggar belief - my twelve year old could have thought of better reasons not to be able to go somewhere.

 

The real question is whether the SRA will do anything...

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Challinors reported to SRA as second client claims he lent firm £400k | News | The Lawyer

Challinors reported to SRA as second client claims he lent firm £400k | News | The Lawyer | Law firm management | Scoop.it
A client of financially-strapped Midlands firm Challinors has complained to the solicitors’ professional watchdog after it emerged he could lose some £400,000 loaned to the partners over the last two years – in a move that has fuelled calls for the...
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John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's curator insight, August 2, 2013 10:24 PM

More questions over the integrity of Challinors partners and the wisdom of their clients - and of the decision of the SRA not to intervene. And as a partnership, I guess the partners are as worried as the staff - more so if they truly have J&S liability.

 

This saga all makes for sorry reading. What was the firm's management thinking? What was the COFA doing?

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Challinors confirms appointment of administrator | The Law Gazette

Challinors confirms appointment of administrator | The Law Gazette | Law firm management | Scoop.it

Midlands firm Challinors has confirmed it has filed a notice of intention to appoint an administrator.

 

The multi-service firm, with offices across the west and east Midlands, said in a statement today the move will protect its position pending a sale of the business...

 

...and yet...

 

According to Companies House records, a new company under the name of Challinors Legal Limited was incorporated on Tuesday. Company directors include business consultant Dr Kersten Puck.

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John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's curator insight, July 25, 2013 4:38 PM

Much to reflect on. An alleged court case over an unpaid loan; a new company set up; Cobbetts. 

 

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/Corporate-recovery-specialists-help-law-firm/story-19561827-detail/story.html#axzz2a4WmtFnD

 

Good job the SRA are "unconcerned".

 

And hopefully not the start of any kind of trend.

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It's not enough to be a good lawyer - Law Gazette (blog)

It's not enough to be a good lawyer - Law Gazette (blog) | Law firm management | Scoop.it
It's not enough to be a good lawyer Law Gazette (blog) Shami Chakrabarti was profiled in the Gazette's My Legal Life recently and commented that, in becoming the director of Liberty, she had to embrace a number of new roles and said: 'Sometimes...
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Some great insights into why law firms struggle to get lawyers and Partners interested in running the practice as a business.

 

This discussion chimes so easily with a Linked In thread where pretty much the same issues are being debated. Do lawyers want to practice the law, where they are trained, have to qualify, and have to undertake CPD; or run a business where training is non-existent, learning is by making mistakes, qualifications are rare, and CPD practically impossible.

 

Add to that the perfect storm faced by many law firms, and it's little wonder that many firms are struggling. It's a shame that too many think they can 'muddle through'. Keeping one's fingers crossed is not a strategy...

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Feature: The first 100 days | Analysis | The Lawyer

Feature: The first 100 days | Analysis | The Lawyer | Law firm management | Scoop.it
The top ranks of UK firms are teeming with new faces. The Lawyer asks what their plans are for taking up the baton?
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

A fascinating insight into managing law firms, from those who've been there - all with a Partner background, rather than as profesisonal managers and leaders. Great reflections on what might have been done differently.

 

If only more Managing or Senior Partners could read this, and apply some of those learnings and that advice to their own firms. And, by the way, these lessons apply equally to medium-sized and smaller firms, too.

 

Thankfully many Managing and Senior Partners have not and are unlikely to be convinced of the need to manage the business of law, rather than a law firm which happens to be in the business of charging for advice. Otherwise firms like ours could be out of business ourselves...

 

Read and learn...

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Brodies LLP reports strong revenue and profit growth

Brodies LLP reports strong revenue and profit growth | Law firm management | Scoop.it
Revenues top £46m and operating profits before partner distributions up 9.3% to £19.3m
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

Brodies gets it right: increasing revenues *and* increasing profits.

 

Key phrases include: Change will continue"; "second year of three year strategic plan"; "targeted investment...across the business"; "continue to help them achieve their objectives".

 

Can your strategy plan - if you have one at all - have the same focus, and could it help you match, or even exceed, their level of success?

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Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat Leader?

Are You a Thermometer or Thermostat Leader? | Law firm management | Scoop.it
When it comes to leadership, are you a thermostat or a thermometer? Mark, my friend and colleague, posed that odd question to me this week. He went on to explain the difference between the two. A t...
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

I love this analogy. What kind of manager are you when the temperature in your business changes - and how do you react?

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gunnercooke – a truly innovative UK law firm – Slaw

gunnercooke – a truly innovative UK law firm – Slaw | Law firm management | Scoop.it
There are many within the legal community who scoff at Twitter saying that “it's as a useless piece of fluff”. However for those interested in learning about legal innovation and connecting wi.
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

gunnercooke - sounds like another virtual law firm with a couple of twists. No timesheets, and matters billed 'for what they are worth' - with both parties accepting the attendant risk of ver and under spend. Also,an executive 'prepared' to make difficult decisions. Clients love the certainty of fees and timescales.

 

All well and good. Except as one individuals asks "where are the trainees?" Or is this another case of a professional services sector sucking out those requirements from other firms which do invest...

 

One to wathc, methinks...

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30 high-impact firms in ‘serious financial difficulty’ | The Law Gazette

More than 30 of the top 200 UK firms are in serious financial difficulty, the Solicitors Regulation Authority revealed today.

 

The regulator is in what it calls ‘intense engagement’ with 160 firms at risk of failure, of which eight are in immediate danger.

 

At the SRA board meeting today, it was confirmed that one-fifth of those 160 are ‘high-impact’ firms in the top 200 in the country.

 

The regulator is trying to avoid any more costly interventions into firms which are in financial trouble and is working with those most at risk to minimise the impact to clients and the profession as a whole.

 

Samantha Barrass, SRA executive director, said: ‘Our supervisors are going to these firms and they are taking on board the messages and beginning to look at behaviours that need to change.’

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John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's curator insight, June 13, 2013 10:12 PM

Reading the mostly anonymous responses to this warning of dire problems makes one want to weep. In the midst of severe problems in the legal sector, people prefer to hide behind 'nicknames' and be (sometimes personally and vindictively) critical of the regulator. And the government. And the banks. And clients. And insurers.

 

In fact, anyone except themselves. Which is mightily sad because there are very many lawyers working hard at satisfying clients*and* running and growing their businesses. However, one does wonder whether some should take a cold hard look at themselves, and rather than beef about 'events', get on and do something constructive.

 

There is little question that many law firms are suffering reducing revenues and increasing costs. Some of those are being caused through government intervention; some through increasing competition; some through the continuingly difficult economic climate. 

 

Some of the problems are caused because lawyers (waring: generalism) are not experienced in, or from our observations as consultants, practice managers and directors, capable of running law firms as businesses. That's more of an observation than a criticism, and mostly agreed to by lawyers.

 

And yet. One wonders what clients think of their attitude. What their bankers think of their approach. What their partners and staff and colleagues think of their attitude. What kind of atmosphere there is in their office. What  kind of motivation there is for the staff.

 

Rant over. Let the brickbats and complaints begin. What do I know anyway. I'm not a lawyer. I have run successful law firms though...

 

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SJ Berwin name poised to vanish as King & Wood merger vote looms | News | The Lawyer

SJ Berwin is gearing up for a vote on a global merger with Asia-Pacific firm King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) that would see the UK outfit’s name disappear.


Via Sally Calverley
John Wade: pragmatic support for law firm leaders's insight:

There's little question about who the junior partner is in the acquisition - not merger. The question is whether the senior partners will really get what they seem to expect.

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Sally Calverley's curator insight, May 24, 2013 9:34 AM
SJ Berwin's troubled financial situation has perhaps led to its willingness to be subsumed by the Asia Pacific giant. However, the warning sounds can be found deep in this article: the Australian big boys of Mallesons will want a high end/high profile tie up that gives them an improved international brand - see the Ashurst, Herbert Smith and Norton Rose tie ups. Does SJ Berwin really pass muster on this scale?