Monthly Archives: January 2013

How many opportunities when you make a Will?

This article first appeared in the Jan ’13, Issue 4 of Modern Law Magazine.

Question: How important is the role of IT in the new legal services arena?

Answer:  Think through this common scenario … and then apply the same principles in other areas of your practice to evaluate the potential of IT to make you more competitive and improve your performance.

A client calls in to make a will.  They appoint 2 executors, who will be their most trusted friends or relations (and perhaps also someone from your practice).

Do you know if anyone at your practice knows these two executors?  Would you ask the testator if it would be helpful to send them some information about the responsibilities they are taking on? Do you have that available? 

If you don’t already know them, should you ask the client if it’s ok to add them to your system to send out that information and invite them to opt into further contact in future?  Can you invite them in for a chat to establish contact if they want to drop in (and send a timely reminder), to build up a better relationship with them so you understand their family’s legal needs? 

What about their children and parents – can we do something for them?  Will you stay in touch to offer that client and members of their family other services relevant to them, now we understand what they might need in the future?

To manage this requires simple but effective use of a user-friendly client relationship management (“CRM”) system to manage data and prompt activity, but this is just one area of how you operate that can be improved by effective use of IT. 

This is not just about technology but also about the mindset and vision of the people who develop and use IT systems.  Integrated, user-friendly and powerful solutions are readily available but require investment of intellect and time as well as money to produce more competitive business results; not just on relationships, but to deliver more for less and to operate more efficiently with more resilience and flexibility.

However, managing client relationships is critical.  If you do not have a structured approach supported by technology, you can rest assured that others will.  Those executors could well be your clients today … but gone tomorrow.

Allan Carton

Insights to inform your IT Strategy

Check out these questions please as I’m sure you’ll want to hear what others have to say in these areas to help inform your decisions on IT going forward.

We’re getting good responses and revealing insights back from good IT people in legal businesses in this short, candid (just 5 minutes to complete) snap survey of legal IT Directors and Managers, but we can only share them with you if you take part.

GO HERE TO COMPLETE THE SURVEY >>

Completing this questionnaire really will take no more than 5 minutes, although I know even that is hard to find; but you can then sit back and wait for us to come back with a report on the compiled results.

Your responses will be treated in absolute confidence and we will provide you with that report on our findings within 28 days.

Allan Carton

Pointers to Improve Performance. Law Soc, LSB and MoJ Research highlights outsourced IT and better client relationship management.

It’s worth checking out this recent substantial piece of research conducted jointly by the Law Society (E&W), Legal Services Board and Ministry of Justice with 2007 solicitors’ practices ranging from sole practitioners to large corporate practices, giving a representative snapshot of the legal profession.

Section 5 of the report on pages 51 to 55 summarises the authors’ key findings and conclusions.

However here are the key pointers I pulled from the report that resonate for me.   They are useful indicators to guide some of the work we’re doing with law firms; helping them to shift gear in developing a more sustainable business strategy and model going fowards, so I hope they help you plan your next moves too.

Two key areas worth exploring that can improve profitability:

  1. Outsourcing IT – where there’s a spectrum of options to choose from now
  2. Better management of existing client relationships – see below.

Some Key Findings:

  • 27% were niche firms – i.e. they conducted at least 90% of their work in just one work category with crime the most prevalent area of specialism followed in rank by Family/Matrimonial, Personal Injury and Property /Planning.
  • Mean turnover across the range was £4.2m but the median was £261,881, with 24% of respondents showing turnover of less than £100,000 and just 10% over £1m.
  • Measuring productivity as “turnover generated by each fee earner”, the statistically rationalised (see pages 22 and 23) mean was £102,933 and the median £82,091 – but with some fee earners earning more than £1m.
  • Firms undertaking commercial and personal injury work seem to have fared best to date.
  • Firms with 25% or more of their work in Property or Crime were more likely than others to report a drop in turnover by 10% or more.
  • Firms with 25% or more of their work in wills were significantly less likely than others to report an increase on turnover of more than 10%.

Through statistical modelling, the researchers concluded that better turnover per fee earner (used as the simplest measure of  productivity) is produced by firms where they handle more repeat clients.  75% or more repeat clients is equated to an 8% increase in productivity… (However … where 75% or more of clients were repeat clients, these firms were also more likely to report a decrease in turnover of 10% or more – so they haven’t got their approach to managing relationships, pricing and delivering value right!).

Firms involved in outsourcing their IT also perform better; associated with a 17% increase in productivity.  Fimrs actively using media advertising also fare well, being associated with a 10% increase in productivity. Membership of networks like Quality Solicitors was considered to have no relationship to improved productivity.  Firms with a workload that comprises over 50% Personal injury work are also more productive, but there are of course many issues associated with this going forward;

  • New firms are associated with a highly significantly lower productivity than other firms, equating to 31% less.
  • The most outsourced activities are: IT at 44% and Finance at 35%
  • 58% of firms reporting facing problems over the past 12 months, broken down as follows – obviously with some overlaps
    • 29% concerning compliance with regulations,
    • 23% on changes to legal aid,
    • 21% Finance availability (16%) and obtaining investment (10%),
    • 20% costs, including cost of staff (14%) and premises (7%),
    • 15% on competition from other solicitors and,
    • 10% on competition from non-solicitor organisations

Issues covered in the survey include:

  • What services are most commonly provided by solicitors’ firms and for whom?
  • How well have solicitors’ firms fared during the recession?
  • How productive are solicitors’ firms?
  • What are the problems faced by solicitors’ firms and by which type of firms?
  • How flexible are solicitors firms in changing the services that they provide?
  • How many and which type of solicitors’ firms are looking to seek external investment?
  • How many solicitors’ firms are undertaking legal aid work and how much?
  • How many current legal aid firms are planning to withdraw/have withdrawn from legal aid?

It’s a big document to download but a quick scan through the first 56 pages might be helpful … or just section 5 plus these notes.

Download this free report here [link to download is at the foot of this page] >>

I hope you find this resume useful.

Allan Carton

Test Drive 4 Key Initiatives for 2013 – CRM, KPI’s, Lean Thinking, IT

As we head into a second critical transitional year for the legal sector, there is a driving need to be pro-active in developing any legal practice to meet the demand from clients to “do more for less” and to also maintain and improve profits.  These are challenges we are helping law firms meet in a variety ways for firms at different stages of development and with varying priorities. 

They are aimed primarily at medium sized and larger practices, but items 2 and 4 (in particular) are as realistic and appropriate for smaller (up to 35 people) practices, although the approach to implementation is different. 

The 4 key solutions we are working on across the country that you might want to consider as part of your strategy include:

1.  On Screen KPI Dashboards and Automated Management Reporting – giving fee earners, heads of departments and the senior management team easy access to the key financial, marketing and matter information (Key Performance Indicators) needed to drive performance of the business.  It enables fee earners to manage their own performance, record more time, bill more quickly, get cash in more quickly, progress cases faster and can radically improve the impact of  appraisal and performance management initiatives.  This fills a significant gap in performance management and delivers a quick return on investment.  The solution can also be moved to support any new practice or case management system you move to in the future.

Contact us to ask for a free online demo

2.  Client Relationship Management (CRM) – where getting closer to clients and introducers is essential for survival and success going forwards.  A variet of different initiatives here, depending on where clients are starting from, ranging from market research, through workshops with partners to implementing new systems.  We talk direct to clients of our legal clients and introducers of business to identify new business opportunities and strategies. We implement CRM systems that create the structure and tools to be proactive in developing relationships, where the starting point is to get an agreed single shared view to work with. 

Contact us to discuss how we have used client feedback to develop new business strategies and generate new business for law firms.

3.  Introducing “Lean Thinking to reduce operating costs whilst also improving clients’ perceptions of value and reducing work in progress – where we have brought in specialists in this area from business sectors to work with law firms … and it’s working well.  Clients have achieved radical improvements in internal operations and cleint communications, learning to roll the initiatives started in one department across the rest of the practice.

Contact us to request a copy of our FREE introduction to lean in the legal sector, “Lean for Legal Staff – The 7 Hidden Wastes”

4.  Radical Improvements in IT –  Infrastructure, Integrated applications, Processes and User Adoption.  Initiatives range from selection of new PMS solutions to implementing Microsoft solutions that incorporate legal-customised SharePoint and CRM solutions integrated with Office and Lync on premise and also in an affordable, securely hosted environment, incorporating full business continuity as part of the solution. 

Contact us to arrange a free demo of a hosted solution to see what it feels like

You can’t do it all at once, so which of these initiatives would produce the best returns for your practice and what is the best approach to making it happen successfully?

To find out more, just call Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 to discuss how they might apply in the context of your particular business – or email acarton@inpractice.co.uk to set up a time for a preliminary telephone conversation. 

To take any of these forwards, please contact us to:

  1. Ask for a free online demo of the KPI dashboard and automated management reporting system.
  2. Discuss using client feedback to develop new business strategies and generate new business.
  3. Ask for a copy of “Lean for Legal Staff – The 7 Hidden Wastes.”
  4. Arrange a demo of a hosted Microsoft-based IT solution.

Allan Carton