Monthly Archives: January 2014

Improve business performance with easy access for all to the right management information … real time, on screen.

Unlock CashLaw firms that have recently installed KPI dashboard management systems vary in size and the nature of work/clients they handle, but examples include: JMW, Lanyon Bowdler, Slater Heelis, Curry Popeck, Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, Fentons, Taylor Walton, Shepherd & Wedderburn and Horwich Farrelly to name just a few.

There are a number of suppliers of similar – but different solutions -designed to meet similar objectives.  We can help you to explore the options and particular benefits of each in this critical area of management where many lawyers haven’t yet got a handle on what can he achieved – which can make it difficult to differentation the solutions, benefits and challenges.

Easy access to financial management information gives you the ability to proactively manage your practice and your people to improve the financial performance of your business quickly; also continue that improvement into the future.

The technology needed to automatically compile and display meaningful management information (fully integrated with your practice managment system) with “drill down” to detail and its implementation is probably not as expensive as you think.  In any event, the financial returns from better and more proactive management of time and finances, can readily justify investing in one of these solutions through any combination of the following potential returns you can get, if implemented effectively:

  • Record more billable time (relevant whether working on fixed fees to maximise profit)
  • Generate higher revenue
  • Prompt Earlier billing and payment
  • Improve cashflow
  • Reduce lockup – wip, unpaid bills and disbursements
  • Better manage time spent on business development and management
  • Manage write-offs more effectively
  • More direct connection with performance appraisals

Most significantly, this easy access to real-time information helps your fee earners manage themselves and their own peformance more effectively.   They can do this with “real time” information on the defined Key Performance Indicators that really matter to your people in each department, available on screen (constantly, if you want; or at one click of  button), with the ability to drill deep into that information on screen if needed.

What matters and what is defined as “good” performance varies from one team to another depending on the nature of the work and the particular challenges in each area – but then all of this rolls up again to KPI’s for each office and the practice; again all available real time to the people authorised to see it – displayed graphically to get a clear overview, with drill down to get to the detail that has traditonally swamped lawyers.

For more information on the various affordable options now available, contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk

Why would you not want a £3,000 Voucher to upgrade and speed up your Internet access?

Superfast Britain£457m is being invested with in a UK-wide initiative to transform use of “Superfast Broadband” to improve business across the UK.

In Manchester and Salford, law firms with fewer than 250 employees can get up to £3,000 now to upgrade Internet access to “superfast broadband” which opens up new opportunities to improve your business.  

Funding is only available for a limited time, so you should get moving on this now.

With access to faster broadband, you will have more and better options to:

  • Extend mobile and home working
  • Improve handling of telephone calls
  • Reduce  the costs of telephone bills
  • Use more online services with confidence
  • Ensure effective business continuity
  • Consider new options for communicating and collaborating with clients
  • Extend use of digital and social media
  • Improve access to centralised information across offices
  • Allow more flexible working
  • Enable easier web and video conferences
  • Improve management of IT systems

I’d like to see every legal practice at least explore this offer of government funding.  A move to faster broadband will open up new opportunities for most firms to improve ways of working and communicating.  With better broadband in place we can help you to do more to develop your business successfully; so that’s why we are keen to help you tap into this opportunity.

Contact Frank Manning at Inpractice UK to find out more. It’s a simple process. Some of our clients have done this successfully already, so don’t let your practice miss out!

PS – This offer is available to all SME’s – so why not mention it to your clients (with under 250 people, growing by at least 5% per annum, turnover less than £40m) who would benefit too.  I’m sure they’d appreciate your interest in the success of their business too.

Just what your management team need in 2014 – Grit, Guts and Persistence

Harvard Business Review, Culture of ExcellencePassing through Euston station recently, I picked up a copy of the Harvard Business Review’s OnPoint selection of excellent articles (long and short) entitled “How to Create a Culture of Excellence” … which I recommend to senior management in any legal practice.  I’ll be sending a few free copies to our clients as the messages conveyed in some of the early articles and elaborated upon in more detail later, hit the nail on the head.

Just 140 pages, but there’s a lot in here so it’s well worth taking time out to read and digest it properly – then share it with colleagues.

Enlightening articles highlight the problem of most law firms where most partners still don’t have enough experience yet (and often the desire) to tackle the management side of developing a successful business in what will continue to be a very challenging market.  Successful management requires … more!  More of what takes lawyers away from handling legal work; interaction, time, communication, resilience, persistence, tolerance … much of which is very hard work indeed.

A great, short piece to read on page 13 by Heidi Grant Halvorson on “The most effective strategies for success” provides feedback from a survey of 30,000 business people who ranked the qualities that successful business managers need.  

The Conclusions

  1. Have grit.  Over the long haul, persistence is key.
  2. Know exactly how far you have left to go. Monitor your progress.
  3. Get specific. Have a crystal clear idea of what success looks like.
  4. Seize the moment to act on your goals. Know in advance what you will do and when and where you will do it.
  5. Focus on what you will – not what you won’t – do.  Instead of focusing on bad habits, it’s more effective to replace them with better ones.
  6. Build your willpower muscle. (In our terminology – JFDI – Just F** Do It!, courtesy of Andrew Woolley a few years back – thankyou) If you don’t have enough will power, you can get more by using it. Making decisions takes too long.
  7. Focus on getting better, not being good (or the best – you don’t need to be).  Think about your goals as opportunities to improve rather than to prove yourself.  (In our books – Don’t be too hard on yourself!)
  8. Be a realistic optimist.  Visualise how to overcoming obstacles. (For us – open your imagination and think differently about what is possible.)
  9. Don’t tempt fate. No-one has will power all the time, so don’t push your luck.  (In our world, we would say – “involve your colleagues; share the burden and let them take some of the pain”)

Persistence is at the very top of the list – which comes as no surprise –  but how many firms set out a plan and stick to it regardless of the inevitable pains they encounter on the way?

Other chapters include – and there is much more:

  • Leadership that gets results
  • What really works
  • How great companies think differently
  • How to hang on to your high potentials
  • Creating and sustaining a winning culture
  • Cultivate a culture of confidence

All good stuff!

The journal may well still be in stock at your local WH Smith, but if not, you can buy the journal online for c. £16.50 here.  When it arrives take the afternoon off and find a quiet corner to absorb it.  Don’t let it sit in your in-tray for the next month as it can help you make a difference today.

Of course, to build in persistence, you need a plan you (and your colleagues) have confidence in and are prepared to stick too even when – inevitably – some things don’t go to plan in quite the way you hoped.  It happens and that’s precisely what stops many law firms seeing it through when it gets tough, which is what a lot of “management” is about.

Allan Carton


FREE DOWNLOAD: Clifford Chance – one of the law firms leading the way to improve value to clients through process

FREE Download – see belowClifford Chance

“… not just process [and value] mapping … a collaborative approach .. experts in tools and techniques of continuous improvement … help .. find ways of doing it better… starting point is the voice of the client … what they value … making sure it is delivered every time …”

This is an excellent account from a qualified lawyer handling high value legal work in a top end firm; talking about what “lean thinking” has done for a law firm where it has been put into practice for “high value” legal services at Clifford Chance.  The traditional perception in law firms is that “process improvement” is just for low value, volume work.  It clearly is not – as we have experienced in work that our consultants have done with law firms in these areas … in addition to the volume work.

“Continuous improvement is a combination of the well established process improvement methodologies of lean (which is about doing the right things) and six sigma (which is about doing those things right).

In this short 9/10 page paper, Oliver Campbell, Global Head of Business Transformation at Clifford Chance explains what they’ve been doing over the past few years to improve their productivity and performance. There’s no rocket science here, but a persistent, focused, structured, challenging approach to improving operations (and, critically, the value delivered to clients) that is alien to most lawyers.

Topics discussed candidly here include:

  • Case studies
  • A starting point
  • Opportunities for improvement
  • How to make change happen
  • The critical role of clients
  • Measures of success
  • Insights on culture
  • Plans for the future

DOWNLOAD your FREE copy of this enlightening review here >>

Inpractice UK has been working with mid-size law firms along these lines for more than 3 years now, enabling legal practices to develop a more sustainable business model in – what has become – a permanently more competitive market place where clients all want more value for less fees.

See our Inpractice UK team and what we do in this area here >>

Please contact Mark Greenhouse or Allan Carton to explore how we can potentially support you in tackling radical continuous improvement in your practice – whether you have 50 employees or 500.

We share Oliver Campbell’s conclusion that “ [Structured] Continuous improvement has been a long time coming to legal services but we fully believe it will become integral to how many private practice and in-house teams work over the next few years.

Marketing & Developing Business

One thing that is not taught in law school is the marketing skills you need to develop your own client base. To be successful you will need to find the marketing techniques that fit your personality.

Successful firms spend at least one day each week on marketing or developing business, because they put time into building their practices they reap the rewards.

The partners place critical importance on developing the client base, and to undertake some marketing tasks every day.

Below are some business development tips:

  • Person-to-person lunch meetings with referral sources, for example doctors, CPAs, CFPs, brokers, bankers and other business persons.
  • Business-focused events where service providers are a clear minority of the participants.
  • Active networking and long term affiliation with bar associations, as well as charitable board work.
  • Working with trade associations to draft legislation, attending industry conferences. The key is to check out the attendee list in advance, make a target list of the people you want to talk to and not hanging out with attorneys from your own firm.
  • Being available to consultants and other professionals who want to run something by you that isn’t billable.
  • Get involved in charitable organizations you are passionate about.  Your commitment there is the best advertising you can do
  • Being willing to answer free, quick questions on potential matters for referral and potential new clients.
  • Finding a professional organization relevant to your practice and being consistently active in that particular organization.
  • Networking with foreign law firms through several international organizations.
  • Providing education to clients to make them less dependent upon lawyers.

Business Process on the agenda at Addleshaw Goddard

Interesting to see that Addleshaws have taken up this challenge in Manchester, which demonstrates how – just a few, so far – law firms have begun to adapt how legal service is delivered to focus on process, aiming to ensure that clients value what they get.  An area where an understanding of “lean thinking” is needed to introduce radical improvements; all of which is needed in developing business in a law firm now.

Mark Greenhouse

FREE Skills Training Available for Greater Manchester Law Firms – but you need to book your places TODAY!

Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce Connections LogoMost law firms have traditionally tended not to invest as much as they should in developing personal and business skills, focusing primarily on training in “black letter” law; but times are changing.  The need to add new skills is being recognised, but it’s still not easy to get the budget to deliver it.

So here’s a great opportunity to add some new skills for 3 of your people (lawyers or supports staff) for free if you are operating within the Greater Manchester area.

This completely FREE 1 day and half day training is available from Manchester College, funded through the Legal Sector at Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

Number of delegates per practice is limited to a maximum of 3 people.

Areas included:

  • Professional Customer Service
  • Excel – Introduction / Intermediate
  • Time Management
  • Developing Assertiveness
  • Taking minutes

Call the Chamber on 0845 602 9469 NOW to book up to 3 people on any of these programmes!  Places will be given to the first firms that apply and there will be competition from other businesses.

You will need to be able to provide the following information quickly to let the Chamber confirm places:

  1.  Whether or not you are currently a member of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce – you don’t have to be.
  2. For your practice – a central contact name, telephone number and email for the company
  3. Then for each potential delegate:
    1. Their name
    2. Their Telephone number
    3. Their Email
    4. Their date of birth

If you want more information, you can also call Inpractice UK on 0161 929 8355.
Google+