Monthly Archives: May 2010

Why wouldn't you want to reduce costs?

Most legal practices with 50 people or more can probably save significant money (to improve profits and to invest) by tapping into expert knowledge of prices and procurement practices to reduce the cost of routine commodities.  This applies to, for example, stationery, print, gas, electricity, telecoms, mobile phones, business rates, archiving, waste, postage, vending machines, catering, IT consumables, cleaning and insurance.

Real Life Savings – year 1 …. and continuing

21 Partners – £52,000; 19 Partners – £47,000;  29 Partners – £23,000;  38 Partners – £35,000;  25 Partners – £28,000; 20 Partners – £38,000; 41 Partners – £29,000;  40 Partners – £42,000.

These are real life examples of annual savings made by legal practices just by changing their buying  practices; all of which goes straight to bottom line profit year on year.

You keep 60% of the money you would otherwise have paid to your suppliers in Year 1.  You then keep 100% of all future savings thereafter, having established a new lower cost threshold for the future.   Doing the review work costs nothing at all.  You only commit to share the 40% of first year savings when you know precisely where, what and how much you will save.

Why not try it?  We can do this for you.

This is easy to do and worthwhile whatever your starting point – just call 0161 929 8355 or email solutions@inpractice.co.uk to get started.  Even if you think you’ve already done as much as you can internally, you have nothing to lose.  If there are no further savings, there is no fee to pay. 

For more information on our very successful and effective service that has been proven to make these kinds of savings in law firms, contact us at solutions@inpractice.co.uk or call us on +44 (0)161 929 8355.

Allan Carton

More cost-effective, convenient CPD

Have you tried either of these yet?

The Legal Web is a series of online ebooks published in pdf by Nick Holmes and Delia Venables. Each year they publish two or three new, topical and up-to-date ebooks, each enabling you to earn 5 hours CPD – one per chapter.  All include practical articles written by Nick and Delia and many other leading experts  in their fields, (including some from Inpractice UK) covering all aspects of legal information and legal practice affected by the web.  You can read the ebooks on screen, with live web links, or print off in chapters for armchair reading; then answer a simple online test at the end to qualify for CPD.  We are included in the “Modern Practice Topics” issue.  More information here worth checking out.

OR …

The Solicitors Group provide a very cost effective means of obtaining CPD on a comprehensive range of technical legal topics via Live Audio CPD sessions.  These 1-hour sessions again enable lawyers to top up points from the comfort of your own office. You don’t need any specialist equipment to be able to take part in these sessions, just a normal telephone line.  Members receive a 50% discount for each additional session booked.

It's time for lawyers to learn to be "Lean" – to really be able to do more for less

There is a lot of talk today about law firms become leaner, doing more for less, streamlining operations, becoming more competitive, improviing service …  It has to be done, but how do you do it? This 1-day workshop introduces law firms to the basic principles of “Lean Thinking”, giving you and your people tools to work with to make this happen.  It is delivered in a workshop style, using a balance of lecture materials, group discussions and practical exercises and delivered by Lee Williams and Allan Carton.

NEW LSB cost benefit analysis of the impact of referral fees in legal services.

The LSB has just published an informative 117-page cost benefit analysis of the impact of referral fees in legal services today. You can download a copy here.  Good information and well worth the read and the LSB have yet to respond to these research findings. 

Report Conclusions in relation to conveyancing:

There is evidence that the choice of conveyancer is determined by estate agents on the basis of referral fees and this has contributed to the trend towards having panels of conveyancers and national firms and away from using local firms. This trend had already begun before 2004 with large firms seeking to centralise referral arrangements and move towards using more formal panel arrangements. Smaller conveyancers who do not pay referral fees often have other arrangements in place with estate agents such as reciprocal referral arrangements regarding probate work or the need for a valuation in a matrimonial dispute or offering hospitality.

We do not find that referral fees impact the quantity of conveyancing undertaken which is instead based on the number of property transactions and re-mortgages. However, competition to access introducer panels has led to referral fees increasing over time from around £50 – £100 in 2004 to £250 – £400 today. There is no evidence that this is increasing conveyancing fees paid by the consumer which have remained broadly constant over time. In addition, the available evidence also suggests that the average conveyancing fee for those paying referral fees is lower (at £543) than those who do not pay referral fees (£687). This may reflect that formal arrangements have facilitated investment in technology that reduces the cost of the conveyancing process. [Inpractice Comment – not sure we agree with this conclusion.  Owners of higher value properties – where quality of service has been tried, tested and proven from past experience – tend to use their existing solicitors.  It’s a big jump to saying lower prices are due to technology …. although it could be!]   Given that referral fees have risen but conveyancing fees have stayed the same, this reflects a transfer from conveyancers to estate agents. It is unclear if this has been passed into consumers in terms of the price that estate agents charge.

There is also no evidence that the quality of conveyancing was being reduced because of referral fees. For example: There was no evidence of problems regarding the title of property;  Referral fees have facilitated significant automation of the conveyancing process and the use of non-qualified staff. While national conveyancers offer a remote service with communication by phone and email, compared to local conveyancers who may offer face-to-face services, there is no evidence that the different approach to communication reduces quality; National conveyancers are able to access information regarding searches implying that there is no local advantage. Further, small local conveyancers do not believe that their service suffers when they provide conveyancing advice for long-term clients who have moved out of the locality; and, Evidence on the number of complaints is low, customer satisfaction is high and the speed of transaction appears to be faster for those who pay referral fees – 57% of estate agents thought these firms faster compared to only 2% who thought those who did not pay referral fees were faster. [Inpractice Comment – our experience suggests that this is due to higher volume organisations not YET getting the right mix of people skills and technology working together properly.  Not directly related to referral fees though.] 

Report Conclusions in relation to personal injury claims:

There was no evidence that increases in referral fees had led to an increase in the price of legal services. Price does not play a strong role in personal injury cases because of the prevalence of “no-win-no-fee” agreements, but the majority of motor cases go through prescribed cost and fast track regimes in which legal fees are regulated.

There was also no evidence that referral fees were causing consumer detriment through a reduction in the quality of services.  For example – Success ratios for motor claims remained constant over time at over 90% although interviewees indicated that liability was often clear and therefore quality could not be judged on success ratios alone; and information is readily available on the value that different types of standard claims should receive and there was no evidence that increases in referral fees were leading solicitors to under-settle so as to save themselves costs.

Furthermore, arrangements between large introducers and large solicitors usually have service level agreements associated to them in which lawyers must meet certain requirements typically related to communication and speed of response. In part these agreements are in place to help protect the reputation of introducers. Evidence is available on very high customer satisfaction levels and there are very few complaints made related to referral fees.

Referral fees have helped to facilitate the growth of CMC and insurer referrals through providing an income stream that can be used for both marketing and investment in technology to manage the claims process. Consumer evidence has supported the link between marketing and making additional claims which would not otherwise have arisen. There is no evidence that this has led to a deterioration of cases since success rates have remained constant. The increase in the number of claims has probably led to higher insurance prices although this has been partly offset by referral fee income. It is difficult to describe this as causing consumer detriment where consumers have valid claims. We note that concerns about some fraudulent claims have causes other than referral fees namely the (non-)verifiable nature of some claims.

Instead or using referral fees, lawyers working with some trade unions will instead often provide other legal services to the trade union for low prices or offer to conduct training and education for free. These arrangements have a similar economic effect to referral fees although they do not involve lawyers making payments to the unions. No evidence was found regarding any trend in the value of alternative referral arrangements used by trade unions. No evidence was provided that any change in the number of cases or values of claims in employer liability was linked to referral fees or their equivalent.

We will give you our further thoughts when we dig a bit deeper into the report.  We’d be interested in your thoughts too. 

The report was commissioned from Charles River Associates (CRA) and forms a key part of the LSB’s policy analysis. Further evidence is expected from the LSB’s Consumer Panel when they publish their consumer evidence – this is expected before the end of May.  The LSB will then consider these reports together with other evidence before responding.

Speech Recognition without a computer?

Terry Ellwell, MD at LOASys tells me that at a recent installation the Managing Partner announced that he did not have a computer in the office as he was always out and about; however, he did have a laptop at home.  So LOASys (click here for an online AV demo) enhanced their DPM application (which sits on the dictation device itself) so that dictations can be uploaded from any computer with an internet connection anywhere in the world and the dictations will find their way back to the firm’s LOASys recognisers via our ftp site.  They call it their “homing pigeon app.”

Also by the user using the key word – “Instruction” at the beginning of a piece of dictation their Recogniser software will effectively bypass the Speech recognition engine for this piece.  Thus users can intersperse Instructions and Dictations for Speech Recognition from the portable device just as they do from the ‘wired’ interface.  A valuable plus for LOASys which they say competitors do not have even in their ‘wired’ versions.

LOASys will be porting this app to the Blackberry, iPhone etc. although they take the view that these devices are not good for proper dictation as they do not have the professional dictation controls that DPMs (at a cost of just c. £250) have.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.  To find the 6 steps every legal practice should take to get the most out of dictation systems to improve profit margins, download our recent article first published in Managing Partner Volume 12, Issue 9.

Allan Carton