Monthly Archives: October 2009

Funding for Innovation to Grow your Business?

There is funding available from Business Links to help law firms do what they should be doing in the run up to 2012. Every law firm should be developing new business strategies, developing and refining more competitive services, getting into use of the Internet to help develop new business and build stronger links with existing clients and contacts, changing how lawyers think about and communicate with clients – getting closer to them – and improving how they get a return on investment from IT.

Business Links recognise that the successful exploitation of new ideas is crucial to a business being able to improve its processes, bring new and improved products and services to market, increase its efficiency and, most importantly, improve its profitability. This is for “Innovation” in your business, not new inventions. It is important to be clear about the difference between invention and innovation. Invention is a new idea. Innovation is the commercial application and successful exploitation of the idea. Fundamentally, innovation means introducing something new into your business. This could – and today, should – be:

  • Improving or replacing business processes, practices, organisational structure and/or supply chains to increase efficiency and productivity, or to enable the business to extend the range or quality of existing products and/or services
  • Developing entirely new and improved products and services – often to meet rapidly changing customer or consumer demands or needs
  • Adding value to existing products, services or markets to differentiate the business from its competitors and increase the perceived value to the customers and markets.

Contact me (Allan Carton on acarton@inpractice.co.uk or on 07779 653105) if you need help with your ideas or need to access funding.

Listening to clients (and Introducers) is good for your business and good for profits

Darren Francis and Allan Carton have been working for a wide variety of firms on “client listening” exercises over the years and both agree that they are producing better results now than ever before.  It is enabling our clients to respond quickly and confidently to changes in attitudes, expectations and the wider range of legal options now available.  Lawyers need to be listening harder now than ever before to keep up, but taking this seriously will take most firms ahead of the bulk of their competitors very quickly. We’ve produced a few case studies on recent projects that you can obtain by emailing me at acarton@inpractice.co.uk 

In return for taking the time to listen to your clients, you will:

  • Retain clients you would otherwise have lost – we find this on virtually every project
  • Sell more services to your client from different areas of your practice – more cross selling
  • Generate new clients and business from existing introducers and referrers
  • Develop your lawyers’ personal skills – so they understand the value of key account management and develop a better understanding of the client/lawyer relationship

 

On the negative side – if you are not getting closer to your clients and your competitors are, you will lose business and clients to them.

Responses to questions asked in a positive, constructive and objective environment that most lawyers won’t ask, can be very revealing; probably the best market research you can do to retain clients and cross-sell services. For example, how often do your lawyers ask, share responses and  agree a plan of action to respond and capitalise on the feedback to questions that go beyond the basics of websites, newsletters and phone responses (which are all important too)?  Questions like: How many opportunities has the firm missed to work with you in the past 12 months?  Why?;  What are your current key business drivers?  What keeps you awake at night?; Are you seeing any interesting or creative pricing models in the market? What do you like about them?; What changes are you expecting in your industry over the next 12 to 24 months

Fairly typical examples of specific key findings, which influenced recommendations (and then future actions in the firm) include the following:

  • A client (a FTSE 100 company) revealed that they were not aware that our client firm were capable of providing a range of regulatory services.  At the time of interview that client was using a top 10 City law firm for these services and indicated that they would be prepared to discuss instructing our client firm on a range of regulatory matters (not lease because of the potential price difference).  This process has since commenced and our client firm have received initial tranches of instructions.
  • An interviewee indicated that – while he was happy that the firm was capable of providing the technical legal services that they required – he felt that there was not sufficient ‘beneath the skin’ understanding of the sector in which they operated.  Recommendations following this interview have resulted in the commencement of a secondment programme which is designed to both strengthen the relationship and demonstrate that the firm is taking necessary and visible steps to better understand the client’s sector.  This idea of developing more thorough understanding of (and therefore provision of services to) individual sectors, forms a key part of the second project that we are currently undertaking for this firm.
  • While relationships with individual partners were strong, clients raised concerns that they didn’t know other people at the firm.  There was a clear desire to widen relationships.  This was flagged up to the firm as a significant risk, not least because individual partners are likely to see these clients as a portable part of their own CV.  The firm agreed also that development of client skills should form a greater part in the personal development of non-partner lawyers, including trainees.

 

Feedback from these independently conducted interviews – structured to achieve specific objectives for each client – is also a powerful tool to help lead increasingly essential improvements in partners’ personal skills in client management and communication. For more information on how we work with our clients on these independent and objective interviews, please call Allan Carton on 07779 653105 or contact by email at acarton@inpractice.co.uk

Have you considered coaching for key lawyers and managers?

Time and time again, Managing Partners, CEO’s and Practice Directors talk to us about their frustration with partners who say all the right things about improving the way they run their part of the business, but don’t actually do it!  The partners themselves get frustrated because they want to do it (whatever “it” is) but don’t know enough about what they need to do or how to change to put it into practice.  That includes many managing partners who have taken on the job without being fully equipped, but really want to get it right for the benefit of the firm and for themselves.

Personal coaching is probably the most effective solution in these circumstances; a type of initiative that law firms have only taken on board seriously in the past few years, where the value and impact and willingness of lawyers and managers to get involved has traditionally been grossly under-estimated.  These valuable people need and want more support, knowledge and understanding of the role they should play in their practice, given their personal traits and characteristics and the environment in which they work. 

Coaching can be for just one key person in the firm, or individually to teams – both for managers and for lawyers and can produce radical improvements in the ability of lawyers to make the changes they want and changes that are being asked of them by others. For each person involved, you can expect successful coaching to:

  • Build understanding and skills on business leadership; delegation, team effectiveness, empower/engagement;
  • Develop key behaviours needed to deliver on business objectives;
  • Provide managers with the essential space they need to reflect;
  • Build self awareness;
  • Motivate, inspire and support them to be their best in order to deliver superior performance;
  • Develop emotional intelligence; e.g. emotional resilience, motivational leadership, intuitiveness etc;
  • Build confidence and creativity;
  • Help them to manage the complexities and challenges of change within their organisation;
  • Help them stay focused on tasks whilst building team cohesion;
  • Helps managers to learn rather than teaches them;
  • Equip them to become the coach to their staff, ensuring a coaching style of management throughout the organisation

Anybody interested should call me please on 0161 929 8355 or email me at rmaguire@inpractice.co.uk This is one of the areas we explore in our introductory in-house Performance Management workshops.

How do you feel about this? Is this a good thing for lawyers to get involved with?