Monthly Archives: May 2012

Re-Engineering the Business of Law – New York Times

Introduction and conclusions here to an excellent article from J. Stephen Poor, chairman of  international law firm Seyfarth Shaw, who were the first US legal practice to apply “lean thinking” to legal business processes. 

From our experience in the UK, we wouldn’t say that improving productivity in the legal world is easy, otherwise everyone would have done it already … but it works to simultaneously reduce operating costs and to improve value for clients.  The starting point is to talk to clients about what they want that is different from what they get now to bring them on board.  They like it.  They want to work with you because it helps them get better value from you – but very few legal practices have that conversation.

According to J. Stephen Poor, whose experience is well worth exploring …

“True long-term success requires businesses to improve continually and reimagine how they operate in the face of changing competition and market forces. Yet this innovative urge, which drives so much of the rest of the American economy, is largely absent from large law firms. These address the traditional measures of law firm profitability …

What we did not anticipate was the resistance from other crucial stakeholders – especially clients. Much of what we’ve done is most effective when deployed in a collaborative change process with clients. What we overlooked at the outset is that, by and large, our clients are lawyers, too, and many of them are the products of the culture of their own business.

Understanding the various viewpoints and building the business case to involve this crucial constituency was something we learned along the way. The nature of the process requires a continuous, but slow march toward improvement and adaptation. Some things we tried worked and some did not.  Nevertheless, the continuous move forward takes persistence and, perhaps, a bit of stubbornness.”

Read the rest of this article in the New York Times (7 May 2012)

Contact us if you would like to receive a copy of a) our presentation to the Law Management Section on “Become a winning law firm – lean, agile, pro-active and innovative” or b) our recent article in the Law Management Section’s journal, “Managing for Success”

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Get into the driving seat, decide where you want to go

It’s time to get pro-active in developing your business if you’re providing legal services.  These news clips from just the last 2 days reflect the “topsy-turvey” world lawyers work in today – and what is going to keep happening over the next 3 years as the legal sector settles down in the post Legal Services Act, OFR, ABS era

This pace of change is not going to slow down any time soon so lawyers need to decide how best to position themselves for the future.

Two solutions well worth exploring:

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SRA Update on COLP & COFA Timetable

From the SRA’s May update …

You can nominate your COLPs and COFAS from 31 May until 31 July 2012.  Expect an email before the end of May from the SRA to your firms’ authorised signatory with a link to the web-based nomination form so you need to make sure they know who that should be. As the result of another deferral by the SRA in May, the date for the SRA to give approval to nominations is now 1 January 2013 when COLPs and COFAs must start fulfilling their duties – which applies to existing law firms, including sole practitioners.

Some useful guidance and more information here

Lexcel is a great way to get your house in order to ensure compliance – so if you are thinking about going down this route, have chat with Mike Jackson who has taken many firms through the process very cost-effectively since the standard was first introduced.

Contact Mike direct on  07802 281 599 or at mjackson@inpractice.co.uk

Or complete this form and Mike will contact you.

MMU Law School – a unique and proven way to develop top level management skills in your legal practice

All the Managing partners and others I have met and worked with who achieved this qualification to date have sung its praises – they all feel they’ve benefitted a lot from it; not just in added knowledge and tactics, but also from the relationships formed with others attending.  They learned from experts in the legal sector about Strategic Planning and Alignment,  Clients & Markets, Using Financial Analysis to Build Profitability, Motivating and Managing Teams, Leadership and Managing Change and Developing and Implementing Strategy.

If you or one of your colleagues want to do this, you still have time, but you need to get your skates on as the first “Induction” session starts on 26 June 2012.

MMU Law School’s CPD accredited post-graduate Certificate in Legal Practice Management is a 10-month, part time course of study for senior managers (lawyers and others) in legal practices who want to add more good management know-how to their practical experience – and to develop their understanding and skills in a safe, open environment, supported by active participation of others in a similar position in other law firms.  It is led and very actively supported by tutors with extensive management experience in legla practices – so everything here is relevant and real – where participants can work through common issues and potential solutions together.

Designed specifically by legal services market experts for managing partners, senior managers and practice managers to enable them to tackle significant change.  See MMU Post Graduate Certificate in Legal Practice Management for more detailed information.

The sessions are delivered by a combination of business school and external practice management experts who have extensive experience of working with and understanding the needs of law firms and legal departments.  The unique programme includes:

+  Six modules specifically tailored to allow students to meet the challenges of today’s legal services market.

+  Intensive Teaching Days that are interactive and practical, delivered by experts in leadership, strategy, finance, marketing, client service and managing people;

Extensive Reading Lists and Case Studies (see notes on the website);

+  Practical assignments that enable students to target specific issues in their firms or departments so as to implement real improvements; and,

+  The opportunity to share best practice with other managing partners and practice managers across the UK

For 2012, Modules and Teaching Days cover: Induction Day (26 June); Strategic Planning and Alignment (27 June); Clients & Markets (12 Sept);  Using Financial Analysis to Build Profitability (7 Nov); Motivating and Managing Teams (16 Jan); Leadership and Managing Change (13 March); and,Developing and Implementing Strategy (TBA)

Direct Business & Personal Benefits, according to last year’s students have been: achieving clarity of strategic direction and buy-in across the firm and department; targeted market expansion of client services and enhanced people management;  enhanced financial performance; improvements in team dynamics and quality of performance; greater confidence in leadership and management abilities; better personal coping strategies as a result of improved communication and trust; and, sharing of best practice with other leaders in the legal services market place.

Tangible Outputs to apply in practice include: detailed formal analysis of market trends relevant to your particular business; client service audits to identify key clients and performance improvements; financial management review; high performing team criteria and performance measures; agreed common values and a strategic plan with critical success factors and key performance indicators.

What they say about it – for example, Philip D’Arcy, Joint Managing Partner, Blandy & Blandy LLP  who attended the programme last time around is just one of their enthusiastic supporters, commenting  “I found the course to be of real value in providing a good overview of relevant management theory and combining this with very practical considerations and real life examples of applying the theories in practice.  I would recommend this course for anyone involved in the management of a law firm.  The combination of a deeper understanding of management theory with the practical application of the theory is of real value and has certainly helped me in my management and leadership role.” 

For more background go to the MMU site here  or contact Deborah Walker on 0161 247 2420 / 07917 370341 or deborah.walker@mmu.ac.uk for further information and place availability.

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