Tag Archives: Change

10 Principles of Strategic Leadership

10 principles of effective management

Courtesy of Gilberto Carvalhais Ferreira

Many leaders in law firms have never tackled the first hurdle (No. 1), feeling unable to share the load with others, so they never have enough time.  To share the load to get over this, objectives need to be clearly defined and gaps in skills need to be filled.  Invest time in managing performance against agreed objectives and tasks, mentoring others to develop their business and personal skills.  Don’t try to do it all yourself. There just aren’t enough hours in the day … and the rest works for me too!


Three Boxes: a Clear Strategy to lead effective innovation in your legal practice.

Well worth watching.  Simple and rational – but I hadn’t looked at this clearly before.

At a time when the most successful lawyers will be those that become more pro-active in developing innovative ways of delivering legal services that give clients and business partners more value from using legal services … here is an interesting way to structure your thinking.  It should help you create more thinking time about new services, while also getting on with running the current business.

With this clarity, there is a better chance of making it happen!

To Innovate, You Have to Manage the Past, Present, and Future

Share this – Make it easier for your lawyers to rate their performance and get agreement on how to improve it.

Natwest Benchmarks 2015 Snapshot - Profit per Equity Partner, PEPDownload this free series of slides which condenses the key financial benchmarks identified in NatWest’s 2015 survey of law firms.   Then share them with your fee earners to set achievable expectations and develop a better understanding of the potential improvements that lawyers can influence directly to put more money in their pockets.  The challenge then is to explore and agree how best to do that.

The opening slides introduce the key components that you and your people can pro-actively work on within your practice to improve profitability.

The remainder pull out the comparative numbers for firms of different sizes and levels of performance that enable you to compare your performance with others, highlighting medians that can help fix some measures in the minds of your people.

NatWest Law Firm Financial Benchmark report 2015Good information here to work with that includes:

  • Fees per Fee Earner
  • Fees per Equity Partner
  • Profit as a % of Fees
  • Profit per Equity Partner (PEP)
  • Gearing
  • Fee Earners as a % of total headcount
  • Recorded chargeable hours per fee earner
  • Recovered rate per hour
  • Business Model options
  • Lock-up –  Work in Progress, Debtors and combined (days)
  • Partner capital as % of fees
  • Bank Borrowings as a % of real partner capital
  • Client account balances as a % of fees.

There is a good chance that you will find that your lawyers need more help to understand how the way they work and manage client relationships impacts directly on financial performance – and what they should change to make a difference.  This is an area where we provide powerful training and ongoing support to help you improve the financial performance of your practice.

TO FIND OUT MORE about how we and our business partners can help you to engage your people in more effective financial management of their work, call Allan Carton in confidence to explore what might work best in your particular circumstances. Tel: 07779 653105 or email acarton@inpractice.co.uk

Conveyancers’ New Year Resolution – Get closer, dig deeper with new prospects and clients to win more business … and enjoy the job more.

Silhouette person jumping over 2015 on the hill at sunsetEvery conveyancing practice that wants to grow their client base by providing more service to existing clients, their family, friends and work colleagues should help their conveyancers take a step back; help them to think and talk between themselves about what they could do to make it easier to help their clients to recommend them. 

This would help … so read on to find out about just some of the opportunities that are currently being lost (there are more that we discuss and address during this workshop).  Something to share with your team to help kick 2016 off in the right direction?

Key conclusions from our review of the results of the most recent research by the Property Academy and TM Group of 4,500 consumers and comparing them against the previous year (which we reported here):

Finding:  Confirming our research over many years, only 13% of the clients chose conveyancers that offered the cheapest price; down from 18% the previous year.

Our Advice: Conveyancers should be investing time now to learn how to sell their service much more effectively on value, not price.  Our mystery shopping of conveyancers confirms that very few firms are getting this right with most of the questions being asked revolving around “how much?”

Finding:  It also no surprise that clients who chose the service primarily for a lower price were significantly less likely to recommend their conveyancers enthusiastically to others.

Our Advice:  The key lesson here is that if you want to keep clients for life and build your business around new business from their friends, family and work colleagues, it is dangerous to cut your prices and service.  If you have little margin to ensure they get a service they really value, the chances are that a good number will not be happy and won’t come back.

Finding:  21% of people chose their conveyancer through a recommendation from a friend; up by a third since the previous year.  However, more than double that number (42%) would be willing to recommend their conveyancers, so opportunities are still being lost here.

Our Advice:  Conveyancers should focus on understanding and delivering what each client values in the service and relationship; then make it easy for existing clients to recommend them.  That involves routine ongoing research and review of what clients want and get; both formal and informal. Always ask clients if they would recommend.  You don’t want any “smiling assassins”, so talk to your clients and show willing to adapt.

Findings:  Choosing from an estate agent recommendation is still the most frequent route, but the 38% of clients who made their choice this way was down by 8% from the previous year.

Our Advice:  Perhaps clients are becoming more cautious, which gives conveyancers more opportunity to win new business directly by selling services better – on value.  However, there are clearly significant benefits in working with estate agents.

Property Academy Research - How did you choose your conveyancer, 2013, 2014







Findings:  Older clients and owners of higher value properties are more likely to recommend their conveyancers to others.

Our Advice:  Again confirms all our research and experience in practice over the years.  It hasn’t changed but lawyers have failed to be pro-active in developing the opportunities.  If you are going to invest time in developing relationships, focus on them as you are likely to get the best return on your investment.  Few firms segment private clients by age and property values, but should do.  These are also the most likely people to benefit (directly and for their families) in other higher value private client legal services.  Have you done this and initiated relationship-developing initiatives focused on their particular needs?

Findings:  On how and how often to communicate with clients during the transaction …

Property Academy Research - How to contact, 2014

Property Academy Research - How often to contact, 2014












Our Advice:  When it comes to deciding what a client will see as giving them the value they want, you simply must ask them.  Different people want different things; confirmed in the critical questions about communication (where many firms unintentionally get it very wrong); how and how often clients feel they want to be contacted by their conveyancer?

There is more enlightening information in this Home Moving Trends 2014 report; well worth downloading here to share across your practice.

If you are interested in developing your conveyancing services and your people to make the most of the opportunities available now, call me on 0161 929 8355 for a free, confidential discussion to explore some options; or complete this form and I will contact you.

Is engaging your people high on your agenda for 2016? If it is, now is a good time to explore new options that can help you leapfrog competitors.

Employee EngagementIt should be!  Engaging people in what you want to achieve – when there is a lot of change and re-focusing of priorities needed – is a critical area of management where most law firms should be focusing right now …. but where is the best place to start afresh or re-engage? 

Let us help you explore how you can use some tools to make this happen (to keep the momentum going), with confidence.

Senior management in most law firms struggle to engage and develop people and to implement new business development initiatives on target.  Nobody feels they have enough time, but a lot of precious management time and energy is easily wasted through lack of consistent focus on what everyone is trying to achieve.  

The Challenges and the Opportunities for UK Legal practices – READ MORE HERE >>

It could be so very different, with Simitive to help structure and manage engagement, projects and development of people.

People – from the CEO or Managing partner to the office junior – work more effectively if they are helped to understand what they can do to make the best use of their skills and experience – and fill gaps as they become apparent; not having to wait for the next formal appraisal.

Many senior managers are too busy because they feel only they can do all of the jobs they do; eating up every second of the day. That does not make for a sustainable business. Management need to find a way to develop others around them to share the load, contributing more, with sound support to ensure results now and fill the gaps in skills and experience along the way.

Arrange a FREE Demonstration of Simitive for you and your team.

Simitive – developed and implemented successfully in other professional services sectors – provides a framework to support better and more effective, routine engagement of people in all aspects of the work they do;  fee earning, management, projects, personal and business development, mentoring etc.  Transparency and alignment of objectives and tasks enables managers to constantly review progress and provide input when needed, quickly adapting the plan by agreement as things progress.  Internal communication, collaboration and innovation all benefit too.

The Simitive solution comprises 3 key components to add structure to management of your practice:

  • Simitive ObjectivesSimitive Goals & Projects provide interactive, real-time management and monitoring of organisation, team and individual goals, objectives and projects. The system ensures that all organisational, team and individual goals and projects are clearly defined, agreed, visible and up to date, with a clear line of sight upwards and downwards through the whole organisation. Clients using Simitive Goals & Projects report a 20% saving in administration time, a 20% saving in wasted effort and a significant increase in the level of employee engagement on the desired outcomes of the organisation.Simitive Review
  • Simitive Review creates an on-going ‘living review’ that aligns with an individual’s goals and allows a more sophisticated, ongoing and adaptive way to communicate. Users of Simitive Review typically see completion rates increase to over 90%. At the same time the quality of conversations increases with over 85% or reviewees and reviewers reporting significant improvements in the quality and value of their appraisals.
  • Simitive LearningSimitive Learning Management helps law firms manage the SRA’s new competency requirements (that are replacing CPD), providing a real-time learning management platform that engages every individual directly in identifying, agreeing and completing learning and development activities.  It enables you to work together with your people to define what learning activity is required, when, and by whom.  It also chases your staff pro-actively to advise of training required.  Simitive’s Learning Management System (LMS) supports SRA-style behavioural, competency and skills frameworks, providing the platform for talent management and succession planning.

To arrange a demonstration contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at acarton@inpractice.co.uk

30% of new business opportunities lost even before the (telephone) conversation begins

Here we highlight the implications – particularly for Conveyancers – of some revealing and enlightening results from recent independent research conducted (not by us) on behalf of Cloud telephony providers, Concert Networks; a telephony company with a significant presence in the legal sector.

The research involved c. 140 “mystery shopping” telephone calls to a selection of 11 law firms at various times of day, reporting on how they responded.  You will find a link to an infographic summarising the overall results and some benchmarks on the Concert Networks website.

The findings and our evaluation below demonstrate that there is a lot of potential to adapt internal operations to make much better use of the telephone to:

  1. Convert more business, as sales opportunities are being wasted
  2. Give clients and prospects a better experience to help them value legal services more; and,
  3. Improve on client service.

The Lost Opportunities 

Let’s focus on conveyancing enquiries for starters.  In responding to the 50 calls that were made to enquire about conveyancing services of firms:

28% of callers (14) never managed to make contact with the law firm at all, instead being kept away by answerphones (mostly, but not all before 9 am), some being told to call back after 9am and engaged tones during office hours. The engaged tones suggest a serious problem with either staffing levels or availability of telephone lines and internal processes to handle the volume.  Whatever the reasons, these firms will be routinely losing substantial new business opportunities.

On a further 2 occasions, any caller would just have given up as they were kept on hold for so long.  We would expect them to hang up … and then call someone else; so again, the opportunity would be lost.

So that adds up to 30% of all these enquiries being lost even before the conversation can begin.  That leaves a big hole in returns on any marketing budget, which is substantially intended to prompt calls like these.

16% of people (8) who did answer calls did not deal with the enquiry at the time, but agreed to “come back later” on the telephone – during which time, we would expect any caller to call another solicitor as soon as they put the phone down – so more marketing budget wasted!

[Note:  A key point in selling conveyancing services is to recognise that consumers really only know two questions to ask, although they may be concerned about much more that you can help them with:  a) How much will  it cost?  and b) How long will it take?

While they have one of these burning questions in their mind – with “how much will it cost” the most obvious to ask (and easiest for conveyancers to answer), they will call someone else if they fail at their first attempt.  If your people did the right job in choosing to answer the “how long” question effectively, the enquirer probably wouldn’t make that other call to another conveyancer.]

Does it matter that lawyers don’t answer the phone before 9am?

I don’t believe all law firms need to be open to the public from 8am or stay open until early evening.  Some should.  However, mobile and online communications can open up more flexible access to lawyers too.  Just like doctors – people increasingly expect to be able to contact a lawyer in a meaningful way outside their own working time; so more consideration should be given to how best to satisfy the changing needs of clients outside standard 9 to 5 office hours.

Looking at the results of this research, the chances of getting a meaningful response before 9:00 am are currently very slim.  Of the 22 calls made before 9am:

  • Only 3 dealt with the enquiry there and then.  Not only did these conveyancers seize the opportunity to convert these enquiries into business; they are also likely to be the ones that pick up the business from callers that had no joy speaking to other firms.  Maybe yours?
  • 8 received an ansaphone message, so callers didn’t get any response – with 5 of these calls made after 8:45am.
  • 7 agreed that they or someone else would call back later – too late we say, as discussed above.
  • 2 were told to call back after 9am when the office opened.
  • 2 agreed to send “quotes” by email.  I’m afraid these are lost opportunities too.  Although the conveyancers may have responded eventually, they lost the chance to let the caller experience what it feels like to be a valued client during that call.  Critical we say to selling conveyancing services on “value”, not just “price.”

Maybe these statistics are a bonus for the firms that see an opportunity they can tap into; to attract more business and provide more of what (some) clients want by extending their opening hours.  Maybe they can do that by providing employees with more flexible working hours that might work better for some of them too.

Bear in mind too though that telephony is developing too to give more options.  For example, more innovative use of telephony systems might enable calls to be handled more flexibly, without the need for a physical presence behind the front desk.  Could that work for you?

We can help you review and develop your telephony operations – not just the systems you buy, but how they are implemented, aiming to give your business maximum competitive advantage.   Redesigning how teams operate, developing opportunities to improve how people work through integration with other applications and improvement of communications with clients are all probably part of the initiatives that flow from there.

Thankyou to Concert Networks for sharing these research findings with us.  The infographic summarising other aspects of their findings can be found here.

For more information, contact Allan Carton or Frank Manning on 0161 929 8355.

Is there a place for more e-learning as part of a “blended” approach to training and development – engaging more people?

Blended LearningThinking about how law firms can introduce more effective and comprehensive training, not just for lawyers, but for management and support staff too; we have been tracking options to use a blend of traditional face-to-face training supported by more affordable and manageable e-learning.  

If we can find effective ways to develop more skills in law firms and increase the uptake, we should be making it happen now as there is still a significant gap that needs to be filled. Particularly for support staff; but also to develop and embed more personal skills at all levels.

How is e-learning developing? 

There are reservations in the legal sector about the effectiveness of e-learning to be weighed up against the benefits;  more affordable, more accessible anytime, anywhere, with manageable options to plan and track progress.

I don’t envisage e-learning being the only solution for any practice, but there are many benefits in an e-platform (Learning Management System) to plan and track learning in all it’s guises – and there is potential to be more innovative and make more use of what are now more effective and engaging e-learning options too.

The experience that can now be delivered through e-learning, which can include challenging simulations, is moving fast, with improvements in relevant technologies.  The success of Lynda.com discussed below is just one significant indicator.  It is therefore well worth exploring some of the new developments in e-learning that might make it more attractive and effective for you in more situations as part of the blend of training available to your people.

Learning Technology’s Summer Forum – Top 3

Ask any three people at June’s Learning Technologies Summer Forum what the hottest topics in eLearning were and you would probably get three different answers.  Yet there are some definite ‘buzzwords’ that get repeated out there as the ‘must haves’.

The ‘Top 3’ things people were talking about there:


The use of ‘game thinking’ and ‘game mechanics’ in e-learning and simulations was unquestionably one of the hottest topics. Whether it’s a game used in an assessment at the end of some e-learning, a mini-game through the e-learning, or a standalone game, 40% of the top 1,000 firms now claim to use games for staff learning. Reflecting this, e-learning providers have seen a 35% increase in requests for ‘gamification’ in the past year.

The beauty of gamification is that learners can learn while having fun, learn from getting it wrong, see how they compare to others, check progress and improve.

The trick is simply to get the user immersed in the game (or simulation) from the start. But beware, there are tricks to getting it right with gamification. If you don’t, you may leave the learner wishing they just had the information on an A5 sheet!  It works best when combining skills in designing fun games with experience in learning design.  As a taster, you can discover some of the principles behind learning games from Dan Mascall here.

Video Learning

If gamification is high on the priorities for some commercial business, others cite one of the hottest trends in this areas as the end of dull and daunting ‘point and click e-learning’.  In tthe past, this has often taken months for the various teams to get together, with panels of people ‘sucking the life out the content’ before it’s published. Instead, people now realise they could quickly and cheaply listen to experts by pulling bite-size videos together, creating discussion boards and sharing links.

It takes only a few hours for an expert to publish a video on a subject. Once published and readily available, it has a higher chance of staff listening to it – possibly even in their own time, on their own mobile.

Learning & Development could find themselves with a growing role in collating videos and other packages for their Learning Management System (LMS).  It’s interesting that Lynda.com – often quoted as the market leader for producing bite-size, expert videos – was bought  up recently by LinkedIn for a staggering $1.6bn; perhaps the most dramatic sign of the times. This trend has important implications for Learning Management Systems too.

Integration of published videos as trackable SCORM objects in any LMS is increasingly a key differentiator between learning providers now.

Adaptive Learning

The training industry and the learning platforms available are behind other sectors in terms of customising and personalising user experience, where things are beginning to move faster.

Take Amazon – they predict what you might like based on what they know about you. Training can operate in this way too. You could tailor training to what the user needs to know depending on their job role, competency and development needs.

You would now want your LMS to include diagnostic assessment and performance support tools, that can create personal learning paths.  That should be on their development roadmap if they don’t already deliver it today.  If not, you would probably want to start looking around at alternatives.

Imagine a process that leads staff to study the gaps in their learning most relevant to their current role and future prospects; and equally importantly, relieves them from having to sit through irrelevant learning on areas they already know and understand well?

I am interested in your thoughts on training and the role that e-learning and simulations can play in law firms going forwards.  Would you want to try these options further for your practice in the future as part of a blended mix of training options?