Monthly Archives: November 2011

NW lawyers under pressure, but new initiatives are working … for some

A recent survey by PwC showed that the average profit margin for law firms operating in the NW has dropped to 13% (2010: 16%), although average profit per equity partner in the North West increased to £246,000, with 60% of law firms reporting an increase in profits in 2011. Nationally most firms outside the top 10 reported a fall in profits.

The 40% of firms most likely to report falling profits have been the high street operators most likely to be impacted by the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (ABS). The working capital performance of most law firms has held up well, with practices reporting improvements both in the number of debtor days and the length of work in progress – but this is an area where many firms have performed badly in the past so it’s no surprise that financial pressures have forced firms to focus more on these areas. They are the easiest to control internally.

Worryingly, a trend revealed by the survey is that “despite market conditions, headcount has started to drift up again. Utilisation rates for professional staff have been flat or even in slight decline. Equally surprising, given the focus on support costs, has been the renewed upward trend in the numbers of back office staff for many firms.” Larger firms have started to look at more efficient ways of operating their own business, looking towards legal process outsourcing, offshoring and even “North shoring” – ie. maintaining work in the UK, but carrying more of it out in the North where office space and salaries are cheaper.

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Legal Sector can help law firm members in Greater Manchester (all sizes and sectors) to improve and develop their business – to reduce operating costs, increase profits and launch effective new business development initatives. These are areas where we can deliver radical reductions in operating costs and improvements in service to clients. All part of the rationale for the work by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in supporting the Legal Sector.

To get involved, any employees of legal practices that are members of the Chamber can join their LinkedIn Legal Sector Group here, participate in LinkedIn local “Special Interest Sub-Groups” each relating to Legal Technology, Financial management, HR & People development and Facilities management. We are also organising local forums for members of each SIG like this one for people involved in Legal Technology scheduled for 11th January 2012. To check if your practice is already a member of the Chamber, all you need to do is apply for membership of the LinkedIn Legal Sector Group here and we will take if from there.

Your practice could become members if any of your offices are located in the Greater Manchester area.

Download membership fee details here.

Allan Carton

Survey information courtesy of the Business Desk

Greater Manchester Chamber, Legal Sector – the City card saved me £48.80 on a meal for Four

One of the many benefits of membership of the Legal Sector is the “Chamber City Card” which gives you and all your staff with a card lots of discounts on all the local services and products listed here. They change from time to time.

Today it includes deals at 26 restaurants and 17 bars and cafes in central Manchester; also 19 restaurants in Manchester suburbs.

I tried it out myself at Hale Kitchen & Bar last Friday night. Using my Chamber City Card meant that I paid £48.80 less than I would otherwise – excellent!   Good for them too as the offer of a discount was enough to get me to try them out, when there are lots of other options in Hale.   I discovered it’s a good place to eat; great food and relaxed atmosphere, so I’ll be back again very soon.

Could this be good for you AND your employees?  If you have a card, are you using it?

Maybe I will see you at Hale Kitchen & Bar?

 Allan Carton

Linkedin Users – default setting you may want to change

This is worth checking out on your Linkedin profile, although Linkedin has changed their policy as a result of user feedback since the piece below was published by Steve Woodruff back in August.  When I checked today I found that my account allowed Linkedin to use my name and photos to be used in third party advertising … which I doubt many of you want.  So you should follow the instructions below to check and amend your profile.

“Apparently, LinkedIn has recently done us the “favor” of having a default setting whereby our names and photos can be used for third-party advertising. A friend forwarded me this alert (from a friend, from a friend…) this morning.

And I expect that you, like me, don’t want to participate.

This graphic shows you how to Uncheck The Box.  (Click on the image to make it bigger):

1. Click on your name on your LinkedIn homepage (upper right corner). On the drop-down menu, select “Settings”.

2. From the “Settings” page, select “Account*”.

3. In the column next to “Account”, click “Manage Social Advertising” .

4. De-select the box next to “LinkedIn may use my name, photo in social advertising” .

*UPDATE: After you finish with Account, check the new default settings under E-mail Preferences (such as Partner InMails); and Groups, Companies & Applications (such as Data Sharing with 3rd-party applications). It’s a Facebook deja vu!”

Worth checking your profile out to see how it’s set today?

Allan Carton

We can help your lawyers generate more fees right now!

I  ran another client feedback session yesterday from one of our client /introducer opportunity reviews – which work very successfully every time – to partners at a law firm client. This was just a small exercise that covered 6 individuals for 5 key clients.

From these independent 45 minute meetings with clients we identified substantial immediate opportunities to earn more fees at all clients; also, longer term opportunities with all of them and enough guidance to help the partners begin to think about both operational and strategic changes in their business.

Not only that, but the clients – without exception – very helpfully explained how our client law firm should tackle each of the opportunities with them.

These discussions dig deep very quickly because of the independent business-focused approach we take and the advance research we do on their business.  “Columbo moments” are also invaluable.  To give you a feel for what comes out of these sessions, here is just some of the feedback from one FD for just one of these clients:

  • Need to get in now before they grow too much larger … and stick close as they are on the acquisition trail and the key contact may move on before too long.  Given the contacts to do this.
  • Should meet the in-house legal team, based relatively locally.  As it turns out, one of the firm’s partners knows the new Legal Director from a previous company, but others didn’t know that he knew her.
  • Get the legal team involved in training and CPD
  • Found ways to get the MD on board too with seminar events
  • Asking our law firm client to be more persistent in getting the FD to attend events – he wants to, but struggles to get there.
  • Employment opportunities where work is currently handled by a larger firm at higher rates and at lower levels, so there’s an invitation here to offer a competitive service that our clients (with a specialist employment team) hadn’t presented yet.  The FD believes that big benefits on price and quality of advice could be achievable?
  • Longer term, develop solutions to take more responsibility for pro-active management of their property portfolio.  The business is growing through acquisition, so our clients could at some stage soon (not just yet) make his life easier and take more control of this to build on an already excellent relationship with our clients in this area.
  • Offer a package on personal legal services to their 900 plus, locally based employees … except employment.
  • Commercial contracts – should be potential to do  more at some level by developing the relationship with the legal team.  Contacts given and an offer to introduce us to the right people (although that proved not to be necessary).
  • Personal legal advice and wealth management for Directors has never been offered – to prove how good we are so you can feel good about recommending us to their employees
  • Our clients need to understand more about their business, so he pointed us at sources of information, also what he’s interested in reading about.

…. all in the 55 minutes this meeting stretched to in the middle of his hectic schedule because we were able to take a step back and talk about him and his business.

For more information on how we can do this for your practice very cost effectively, contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or by completing this form.

FT & MPF Research Highlights Opportunities for Law Firms to Strengthen Client Relationships

Some slides here from enlightening research by the Financial Times and Managing Partner Forum comparing the perceptions of 433 senior execs in law firms and their clients – many of which don’t marry up well; confirming conclusions in a lot of the research we do for law firms in this area.

The report on research findings and presentation identify areas of opportunity for legal practices prepared to be proactive in getting closer to matching what clients really want in their practice.  Good information to work on here to help retain and grow business from existing clients; also to target the weaknesses of  other legal practices that many be complacent about their clients’ changing requirements.  Well worth reading the full report – but don’t just read it … act on it now.

The presentations provide a good snapshot you can share.  Get to know what keeps your client CEO’s awake at night and get your IT people talking to their IT people .. for starters.  The “JFDI” principle applies to get moving on relationships sooner.  Don’t think too deeply about it before you start talking because you never know where a discussion will take you until you get started.

The full report can be downloaded for free here>>

Contact Allan Carton for more information on +44 (0)161 929 8355 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk