Category Archives: Business Process

NEW E-signature approval – now, how can you put this to work to reduce your operating costs and make legal transactions easier for clients?

Process improvement in Law firms - lean thinking, legal practice managementGood news here for clients (and for law firms) as we now have reliable backing for use of e-signatures in commercial transactions at least. The linked note from this Joint working party probably provides the clearest concise summary you will find of the current legal position on e-signatures across different areas of law, so you can decide how far you are willing to go in introducing more efficient (for you) and easier ways (for the client) of getting the job done.

I strongly recommend that you download the guidance note from the link below and share it widely in your practice to help initiate or progress improvements in process.

Download the working party’s guidance note and review here >>

A joint working party of more than 20 City law firms, co-chaired by Linklaters, has come together today to endorse the use of digital signatures in a business context. The joint working party of The Law Society Company Law Committee and The City of London Law Society Company Law and Financial Law Committees has produced a guidance note to help parties who wish to execute English law commercial contracts using an electronic signature.

The aim of this initiative is to make document signing faster, easier and more convenient by offering signatories the ability to sign documents directly from a smartphone, tablet or desktop. Electronic signatures have the potential to put an end to the time consuming practice of having to “print, sign, and scan” multiple documents and allow a signatory to access a document securely over the internet and insert his or her signature in the appropriate place.  Read more here >>

To explore how best to implement this guidance in your processes and working practices, contact Allan Carton at Inpractice UK on 07779 653105 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk.  We are happy to have a preliminary confidential discussion to explore options for free and without obligation.

GC Insight: Lawyers need to push more to understand the business

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh GC at Serco with a frank assessment of where lawyers – in-house and private practice – need to improve and develop.  More focused on process; better understanding and focus on what needs to be delivered for the business.  His interesting take on lawyer “pull” and not enough “push” to get to know the business feels about right.

Good insight too on how to remunerate to motivate to develop people and culture with the right priorities going forwards.

Making effective changes and innovations here should start by listening to clients … afresh – aiming to innovate and add value to the customer journey.

Read the full interview here >>

Business Analytics and Reporting to help you run a better law firm – Bi24

C24, Wright Hassall

Improve the performance of your legal practice – fill gaps in the capability of your practice management system.

CASE STUDY:  Wright Hassall, solicitors implemented Bi24, which is C24’s business analytics and reporting solution for law firms, connected to Wright Hassall’s key data feeds across management reporting, practice management systems and marketing applications.

The Outcomes:  Easy access to data and insights has changed the way teams work at Wright Hassall, providing users across the entire organisation from Managing Partners to support staff with the ability to perform ondemand, self-service reporting whenever they need to. Data can now be pooled between different applications to drive greater insights across work in progress cases and ensure better returns on investment for marketing activities.

One of the most important developments is the ability for the firm to create dynamic client facing dashboards that assimilate information into one place; showing the client’s current billing position, work in progress, outstanding payments due, hours worked and activities undertaken. This enables Wright Hassall to keep their clients up to date and provide them with regular reporting so that they are aware of payments due, which is increasingly important in a post-recession era where maintaining healthy cash flow is a business reality.

Additionally, Wright Hassall are now able to extend their reporting capabilities out to customers of their clients, for scenarios where updates on legal matters are required to be reported to a client’s wider customer base. For instance, Wright Hassall can provide reporting via portals to the tenants of their property management clients with updates on tenancy agreements, disputes and queries. This enables Wright Hassall to differentiate itself by becoming a data services provider to its own clients, in a way that suits the business models and growth objectives of its key client base.

IT Director, Martyn Wells, highlighted the change in the business through the introduction of better reporting practices. “Data is now driving behaviours within the firm. When partners are creating their forecasts and business strategies for the year, they are now proactively seeking out data insights from the Bi24 tool to inform their strategies”, commented Wells. “We are also seeing how better reporting through Bi24 can allow us to stay competitive in an age of fixed price fees, enabling us to continually assess costs and margin positions for better business decision making. Data is now supporting us in achieving our ambitious growth targets.”

DOWNLOAD a copy of the full CASE STUDY REPORT here >>

For more information about other proven technology solutions that can improve the operation of your business, contact Allan Carton at Inpractice UK.

Unique online delivery system for ILM & CMI approved management training

Blended LearningeAlliance Education Centre

Our L&D business partner, eAlliance has just launched an innovative learning and education platform that enables law firms to deliver fully accredited ILM and CMI approved training  qualifications to staff using a partial or fully online service to support delivery of programmes that cover essential personal skills needed in any legal practice:

  • Team Leading (Level 2)
  • Leadership & Management (Levels 3 & 5)
  • Coaching & Management (Levels 3, 5 & 7)

Why is the Education Centre different to a normal Learning Management System (LMS)?

The Education Centre delivers a “qualification in a box”.  It has all the standard features you would expect from a modern LMS, but is uniquely configured to intuitively support the learner’s journey through a qualification programme. It contains online curriculum, learning resources and support materials that have been mapped to qualification units in key business subject areas from team leading to senior executive level.  It equips your trainers and L&D team to:

  • Plan and manage every aspect of a qualification delivery process
  • Give access to quality learning and resource materials, pre-mapped to each unit
  • Provide tutor support materials and tools
  • Host virtual classrooms, online tutorials and social media forums
  • Manage assessments, communication and reporting
  • Support blended or fully virtual delivery models

Supporting Tutors, Training Providers and Businesses

The Education Centre is fully customisable, enabling you to create your own qualification programmes from a range of key subject areas. With a virtual classroom, easy-to-manage assessments and simple communication and reporting features, this system has everything you need to deliver professionally recognised development programmes that will make a real impact on both your people and organisational performance.

Which qualifications do Education Centre Support?

Team Leading:

Leadership & Management

Coaching & Management

To contact eAlliance to request more information or to book a demo – go here.

Your business will suffer if your practice doesn’t get started on this … but your competitors do?

Unlock Cash4 “Lean” tools to radically improve your legal practice, but few lawyers in the UK have applied them … yet.

Given the current economic climate there has never been a better time to be leaner, more resilient and operationally agile, but what do these approaches actually mean in the context of running a lean legal practice? In this article, I will introduce you to “Lean”, its five core principles and some of the lean tools that you can apply to make your business more resilient, agile and profitable; also reducing WIP and improving cashflow.

What is Lean?

“Lean” has five ways of thinking at the core of five basic principles, enabling a business to ensure customer/client satisfaction, driving up profits and creating business processes that are efficient, effective and agile. To live by these principles, I can help lawyers to understand and apply a number of Lean tools and techniques to support its adoption that most are unlikely to have considered before (outlined below), adding a completely new perspective to how a law firm and lawyers could operate more effectively.

Without this Toolbox of lean techniques, it is very difficult for lawyers to envisage how they can work (often very) differently, to constantly improve the business and value of services to clients. Lean thinking should introduce radical improvements by enabling lawyers to capitalise fully on their expert knowledge but also release them to think afresh and “out of the box” about what best practice can be.

The five core principles of Lean are:

Customer Value – companies compete by consistently delivering greater value to customers than their competitors, and the first principle of Lean is the identification of what customers value, or more specifically, what they expect. To do this you need to engage with your customers and ask them! It may appear obvious that a legal client may want to win a case or mitigate risk, but how they do this and the processes they go through may be very different. Some may value an online process that is quick and simple; others may prefer the personal touch. Some want to maximise use of technology; others aren’t equipped to do that. You need to know that and to respond to their situation. A Voice of the Customer (VoC) study is a great way to elicit what your customers actually value.

Value Streams – all customers measure value through experiences. Your customers’ experience when engaging with you and other companies they deal with has a profound effect on how they perceive your value and set their expectations of you. The way you interact with customers to create value are “value streams”; interlinked processes that describe how you create value or – when they fail – how you destroy value. An example of a value stream within legal practice can be the process of completing a residential or a commercial conveyancing transaction. Both are made up of a set of basic building blocks. However, the value created at each stage for one customer can be very different for another. A “Value Stream Mapping” (VSM) exercise helps you to describe and understand how you create value … so you can then modify your approach to add more.

Flow – once you have described the way in which value can “stream” to your customers, it is essential to understand the efficiency and effectiveness of the streams. We call this flow and it describes how efficient and effective your “streams” are in actually delivering value to customers. An optimised stream will have zero waste, zero defects and deliver 100% on customer expectations. i.e. the “experience value” equals the “expectation value”, but this is rare. Examples of how “flow” is visualised in a legal practice can be:

  • The number of backwards and forwards communications between the various parties; and,
  • The amount of time spent waiting between each activity.

Based on experience, I’d estimate that the total time spent on a transaction is less than 10% of the total elapsed time. This level of inefficiency has a cost and an impact to the customer and your business. A “Waste and Defect Analysis” (WADA) helps to understand flow capability.

Pull – this principle focuses on the laws of supply and demand. It is generally easier to create supply than to stimulate demand and so there is often an imbalance. “Pull” centres on having the right level of resources/services available to meet demand as it materialises; often described as “Just in Time”. We see pull failures everyday in stockpiles and traffic jams where we experience the value destruction effects when we have to wait for things to happen before we can take the next step. Pull is a way of optimising delivery of value by ensuring supply is delivered to the ‘drum beat’ of demand rather than creating supply and hoping that customers will fall in line!

The new smart motorways are a way of controlling the supply of road space in order to meet customer demand. In legal practices this can mean the alignment of marketing and business development activity to ensure that all departments are working to capacity and not over burdened with work; or where a flexible and agile workforce or processes enable the practice to adapt to changing customer demand. To understand pull you need to complete a “Customer Demand Analysis” (CDA).

Perfection – imagine a world where everything you do is perfect; nothing goes wrong, everything works and there is no waste. You win every case you get or every contract is immediately accepted by a third party and never challenged. Perfecting a process is best achieved by internal teams focused on creating Zero waste/Zero defects. When your teams are embracing the other four principles of Lean, the focus on “perfection” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. An example of how “perfection” can be built into a process would be the use of checklists or “field-required notifications” to ensure that you gather all the data you need at the right time; otherwise some effort would be wasted or reworking might be needed.

Being “Agile” Helps Too

A further benefit of being lean is that it also makes your practice agile. By constantly reviewing what customers want/need and the value delivered; then adapting business processes accordingly, you are able to maintain customer satisfaction. A proactive “Voice of the Customer” activity enables firms to stay ahead of the game by starting to adapt processes and develop services that meet the customers’ demands. Agility does however add complexity, so there has to be a balance in how flexible you want to be.

Strategically, every business should be “agile”. Listening to the Voice of the Customer is invaluable in enabling you to achieve this as you develop your business strategy and improve your business.

As you start to adopt lean, your people will increasingly recognise business processes and they will begin to work more closely and collaboratively with your customers. Your business will become more resilient to changing demands and market pressures as you become more efficient and effective in what you do.

The question should not be whether to adopt lean, but “what happens to your business if you don’t adopt lean thinking … and your competitors do?”

If you want to discuss how Lean can help your legal practice, contact our leading consultant in this area, Dr Lee Williams at solutions@inpractice.co.uk or call +44 (0)161 929 8355.

Conveyancers’ New Year Resolution – Get closer, dig deeper with new prospects and clients to win more business … and enjoy the job more.

Silhouette person jumping over 2015 on the hill at sunsetEvery conveyancing practice that wants to grow their client base by providing more service to existing clients, their family, friends and work colleagues should help their conveyancers take a step back; help them to think and talk between themselves about what they could do to make it easier to help their clients to recommend them. 

This would help … so read on to find out about just some of the opportunities that are currently being lost (there are more that we discuss and address during this workshop).  Something to share with your team to help kick 2016 off in the right direction?

Key conclusions from our review of the results of the most recent research by the Property Academy and TM Group of 4,500 consumers and comparing them against the previous year (which we reported here):

Finding:  Confirming our research over many years, only 13% of the clients chose conveyancers that offered the cheapest price; down from 18% the previous year.

Our Advice: Conveyancers should be investing time now to learn how to sell their service much more effectively on value, not price.  Our mystery shopping of conveyancers confirms that very few firms are getting this right with most of the questions being asked revolving around “how much?”

Finding:  It also no surprise that clients who chose the service primarily for a lower price were significantly less likely to recommend their conveyancers enthusiastically to others.

Our Advice:  The key lesson here is that if you want to keep clients for life and build your business around new business from their friends, family and work colleagues, it is dangerous to cut your prices and service.  If you have little margin to ensure they get a service they really value, the chances are that a good number will not be happy and won’t come back.

Finding:  21% of people chose their conveyancer through a recommendation from a friend; up by a third since the previous year.  However, more than double that number (42%) would be willing to recommend their conveyancers, so opportunities are still being lost here.

Our Advice:  Conveyancers should focus on understanding and delivering what each client values in the service and relationship; then make it easy for existing clients to recommend them.  That involves routine ongoing research and review of what clients want and get; both formal and informal. Always ask clients if they would recommend.  You don’t want any “smiling assassins”, so talk to your clients and show willing to adapt.

Findings:  Choosing from an estate agent recommendation is still the most frequent route, but the 38% of clients who made their choice this way was down by 8% from the previous year.

Our Advice:  Perhaps clients are becoming more cautious, which gives conveyancers more opportunity to win new business directly by selling services better – on value.  However, there are clearly significant benefits in working with estate agents.

Property Academy Research - How did you choose your conveyancer, 2013, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Findings:  Older clients and owners of higher value properties are more likely to recommend their conveyancers to others.

Our Advice:  Again confirms all our research and experience in practice over the years.  It hasn’t changed but lawyers have failed to be pro-active in developing the opportunities.  If you are going to invest time in developing relationships, focus on them as you are likely to get the best return on your investment.  Few firms segment private clients by age and property values, but should do.  These are also the most likely people to benefit (directly and for their families) in other higher value private client legal services.  Have you done this and initiated relationship-developing initiatives focused on their particular needs?

Findings:  On how and how often to communicate with clients during the transaction …

Property Academy Research - How to contact, 2014

Property Academy Research - How often to contact, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Advice:  When it comes to deciding what a client will see as giving them the value they want, you simply must ask them.  Different people want different things; confirmed in the critical questions about communication (where many firms unintentionally get it very wrong); how and how often clients feel they want to be contacted by their conveyancer?

There is more enlightening information in this Home Moving Trends 2014 report; well worth downloading here to share across your practice.

If you are interested in developing your conveyancing services and your people to make the most of the opportunities available now, call me on 0161 929 8355 for a free, confidential discussion to explore some options; or complete this form and I will contact you.

Is engaging your people high on your agenda for 2016? If it is, now is a good time to explore new options that can help you leapfrog competitors.

Employee EngagementIt should be!  Engaging people in what you want to achieve – when there is a lot of change and re-focusing of priorities needed – is a critical area of management where most law firms should be focusing right now …. but where is the best place to start afresh or re-engage? 

Let us help you explore how you can use some tools to make this happen (to keep the momentum going), with confidence.

Senior management in most law firms struggle to engage and develop people and to implement new business development initiatives on target.  Nobody feels they have enough time, but a lot of precious management time and energy is easily wasted through lack of consistent focus on what everyone is trying to achieve.  

The Challenges and the Opportunities for UK Legal practices – READ MORE HERE >>

It could be so very different, with Simitive to help structure and manage engagement, projects and development of people.

People – from the CEO or Managing partner to the office junior – work more effectively if they are helped to understand what they can do to make the best use of their skills and experience – and fill gaps as they become apparent; not having to wait for the next formal appraisal.

Many senior managers are too busy because they feel only they can do all of the jobs they do; eating up every second of the day. That does not make for a sustainable business. Management need to find a way to develop others around them to share the load, contributing more, with sound support to ensure results now and fill the gaps in skills and experience along the way.

Arrange a FREE Demonstration of Simitive for you and your team.

Simitive – developed and implemented successfully in other professional services sectors – provides a framework to support better and more effective, routine engagement of people in all aspects of the work they do;  fee earning, management, projects, personal and business development, mentoring etc.  Transparency and alignment of objectives and tasks enables managers to constantly review progress and provide input when needed, quickly adapting the plan by agreement as things progress.  Internal communication, collaboration and innovation all benefit too.

The Simitive solution comprises 3 key components to add structure to management of your practice:

  • Simitive ObjectivesSimitive Goals & Projects provide interactive, real-time management and monitoring of organisation, team and individual goals, objectives and projects. The system ensures that all organisational, team and individual goals and projects are clearly defined, agreed, visible and up to date, with a clear line of sight upwards and downwards through the whole organisation. Clients using Simitive Goals & Projects report a 20% saving in administration time, a 20% saving in wasted effort and a significant increase in the level of employee engagement on the desired outcomes of the organisation.Simitive Review
  • Simitive Review creates an on-going ‘living review’ that aligns with an individual’s goals and allows a more sophisticated, ongoing and adaptive way to communicate. Users of Simitive Review typically see completion rates increase to over 90%. At the same time the quality of conversations increases with over 85% or reviewees and reviewers reporting significant improvements in the quality and value of their appraisals.
  • Simitive LearningSimitive Learning Management helps law firms manage the SRA’s new competency requirements (that are replacing CPD), providing a real-time learning management platform that engages every individual directly in identifying, agreeing and completing learning and development activities.  It enables you to work together with your people to define what learning activity is required, when, and by whom.  It also chases your staff pro-actively to advise of training required.  Simitive’s Learning Management System (LMS) supports SRA-style behavioural, competency and skills frameworks, providing the platform for talent management and succession planning.

To arrange a demonstration contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk