Tag Archives: value

GC Insight: Lawyers need to push more to understand the business

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh, GC at Serco

David Eveleigh GC at Serco with a frank assessment of where lawyers – in-house and private practice – need to improve and develop.  More focused on process; better understanding and focus on what needs to be delivered for the business.  His interesting take on lawyer “pull” and not enough “push” to get to know the business feels about right.

Good insight too on how to remunerate to motivate to develop people and culture with the right priorities going forwards.

Making effective changes and innovations here should start by listening to clients … afresh – aiming to innovate and add value to the customer journey.

Read the full interview here >>

Tackle the Problem: Help fee earners get focused effectively on their own financial performance

Unlock CashThis is a big problem for many law firms, but here is one of our  solutions to enable you to address it effectively; capable of producing big returns for your practice.

Focused on results from the initiatives we introduce in law firms that include technology, client relationships, development of people and process improvement, we are very aware of the obstacles to performance improvement that result from fee earners not fully understanding the impact of their own day-to-day financial management of cases and clients.

Very significant benefits can be achieved if all fee earners understand the financial implications of their day-to-day actions.  However, this is an area often overlooked in developing the business and personal skills of lawyers … and support staff in contact with clients.  Appropriate communication with clients is a critical part of any improvements, so it’s not just about the numbers.

Fee earners have the potential to make the greatest impact on the financial performance of any law firm. If they aren’t aware of the financial implications of how they interact with clients and are not comfortable with having financial discussions with clients, how can law firm management teams expect them to demonstrate the right behaviours?

The Solution:  Inpractice UK has partnered with the co-authors of the Law Society toolkit on financial stability in law firms, Armstrong Watson, to help fee earners improve their understanding of financial management.  The key aim is to help them get fully in tune with what and why senior management want them to evaluate their own performance (and that of their teams where appropriate) and introduce very specific steps to help achieve better results; often the beginning of a continuous improvement process.  There will be some quick wins immediately but much more to gain by carrying plans agreed here through, longer term.

As the SRA CPD regime is changing, we are finding that more law firms are getting a better grip on training; being pro-active to identify gaps in competence – then planning a blend of the most cost-effective training to develop people with knowledge and skills better aligned to improve the performance of the practice.

In this area, there are very significant benefits to be achieved by arranging training that is very specific to your practice in small workshop sessions in-house.  Fee earners can then be introduced to very specific opportunities to improve (and the potential direct financial benefits that can be achieved) in the context of your practice and their work.

Armstrong Watson currently provide this in-house training to partner and fee earner teams within law firms to:

  1. Make them more financially aware,
  2. Increase productivity and recovery rates,
  3. Reduce lock up to free up cash.

If you think your people could benefit from these interactive workshops please contact Andy Poole at Armstrong Watson on 07828 857830 to discuss how this could be designed to work most effectively for you – no obligation.  Quote our partner reference: INP10.

If you want to speak to us first for more background, please complete this contact request form or call us on 0161 929 8355.

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

INNOVATE like Pinsent Masons. ENGAGE and DEVELOP your people to PRODUCE RESULTS.

business organizationInnovation and new value-added service propositions seem to be the order of the day but where do you start or re-launch new initiatives to generate the best possible returns?

Having been named Innovative Law Firm of the Year 2015, Pinsent Masons launched a microsite showcasing some of the stories and products that won them the award – see the links to their site and some solutions that can help you get there at the end of this article.  All well worth checking out.

What Pinsent Masons are doing is  certainly “innovative” for the legal sector, so full marks for doing it and for spreading the word to challenge others.   Some lawyers in other firms will rightly be frustrated that they are not “doing something” to match this, as clients will increasingly choose the law firms that tangibly offer more value.  Others will of course be dismissive.

Before you stir things up too much at your practice because you want immediate action  on some of this, make sure you start by getting the groundwork right.  To produce successful results, you need to get – and keep – people on board because this can’t happen overnight. Pinsent Masons have been at this for a long time already.

Ask yourself and your senior management team:

  1. Do we know what our clients want that will add value to your services?  Have we asked? Have we started again from a clean sheet in exploring options?  How can we make it more tangible?
  2. Are we equipped to engage our people effectively in developing and delivering something new and maybe quite different from what they do now?  Are people being coached constantly as we go along to develop and harness their thinking?
  3. How does the way we work together need to change to prioritise and manage these new projects and services effectively?  How do we make that happen?

Key challenges to tackle at the outset then are to engage people to deliver in line with the strategy, develop their skills to match and support them in constantly improving performance and developing those propositions.  These are critical stumbling blocks for too many law firms that start with good intentions on innovation.

We have a number of innovative solutions that can help you bring your people on the journey with you, equipping them to make the transition needed for them to be comfortable and capable of dealing with some clients and delivering some legal services differently.

We can help, working with our business partners on:

  • Independent client listening to develop new service propositions
  • Engaging people, supporting collaboration, project and “real time” performance management – adopting Simitive to structure your approach – focused on outcomes, sharing accountability, making more productive use of time.
  • Learning and developing essential new skills for all employees, ensuring that it is effective, affordable and flexible enough to enable you to let you invest in them.

The Pinsent Masons “Bringing Innovation to Life” website is here >>

To find out more about how we at Inpractice UK can help you to develop, implement and deliver innovative services that add tangible value for your clients, contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 or at solutions@inpractice.co.uk

Extend your services – create more opportunities to generate more revenue from clients and new prospects

From the feedback we receive in listening to FD’s, MD’s and CEO’s it would appear that many law firms are missing a trick by not broadening their business discussions with their corporate clients to engage them more strategically; where there is very often an opportunity to deliver a wider variety of joined up services to generate additional revenue, warrant regular contact and to protect the relationship from increasingly pro-active competitors.

Company secretarial services are just one such area, which we discuss here; but others include corporate finance for commercial clients and financial services for private individuals.  In all these situations, these additional options can – for the right firms and lawyers, who often need help to adapt their view of “relationships” – create new opportunities to establish a more secure source of more business from existing clients and prospects.

On company secretarial services … No professional services firm needs to be told about the merits of a retained client relationship, even more so when competition amongst firms remains as strong as ever; and we have all heard about the costs of winning new business which can be as much as five times greater than the cost of developing an existing client through good account management. With this in mind, it is puzzling that relatively few commercial law firms don’t offer company secretarial services to clients on an ongoing basis – when they are very often part of corporate transactions, a requirement of corporate re-organisations and relevant to commercial litigation.

Typically, firms will address the immediate company secretarial work required to complete a transaction or address a dispute, only to miss an opportunity to manage such work on an ongoing basis for the client. Clearly, it doesn’t make sense to handle such work using fee earners who could command higher hourly rates on other work.

However, there is a strong case to be made to offer fixed fee annual compliance services to clients, even if these are limited to the regulatory filings required by Companies House and their counterparts overseas. There is potential for law firms to outsource company secretarial services, making a direct profit from that work, whilst strengthening their hold on the client’s business at the same time.  This is a good conversation to have – particularly with FD’s who also have demanding administrative company secretarial responsibilities that few enjoy.

An example of the provider of this kind of specialist service capable of developing the right kind of relationship with lawyers and their clients – with no fear of them poaching any legal work – is London Corporate, who work with professional services firms to provide an outsourced or in-house managed company secretarial service on a ‘white label’ basis. These services are supported by business development and pro-active account management on behalf of the instructing lawyers, to engage with clients on a regular basis to perform filings and to manage director and shareholder registers.

This ongoing contact allows lawyers to maintain a foothold within a client’s organisation; also placing the firm in the best possible position to open up new fee generating opportunities when they arise.

The introduction of an outsourced company secretarial service can also be combined with fee earner training on corporate compliance, so they understand the opportunities to offer company secretarial services when they come into contact with the right people at your client as part of their business development and account management activity. This approach also recognises that existing portfolios of company secretarial work may be small or non-existent now.

However, developing a working relationship with partners like London Corporate is a low-risk opportunity to grow new business with confidence in the quality of service. London Corporate are affiliated to the Warwick Legal Network for the provision of pan-European company secretarial compliance where required.

Contact Allan Carton on 0161 929 8355 if you are interested in generating more business from existing clients or if you want to develop new service propositions for either existing clients and potential new prospects.

Ignore USP’s…..Focus on the Tie-Breaker Question!

Create something just a little differentThere hardly seems to be a day that goes by that doesn’t see a law firm partner assert that “we need to focus on our USPs” [Unique Selling Points for those of you who have been spared the finer details] and then sit back in a self-assured manner as if he/she has just made the point of the century.

This is particularly true when a firm is pitching for work from a major or decent sized client and includes formal tender processes as well as less formal opportunities to pitch for work.

So, USP’s; what are they … NOT?  Well let’s start with the assumption that the key part is the ‘U’ – ‘unique’ – a unique selling point.  How many law firms have a unique selling point?  What is your firm’s unique selling point?  Tricky isn’t it? – especially if we take out all of the old contenders such as,

  • Partner led
  • Less expensive than the magic circle
  • Friendly
  • Better IT than anyone else
  • … etc

None of which are remotely unique and all of which are used by people inside law firms (partners and internal business development teams alike) to convince themselves that they have found that USP.

The point is that you don’t have a USP and you aren’t going to get one any time soon – so time to move on and try to figure out what you can do to win that pitch.

This brings us to the tie-breaker – often referred to in pitches by law firms as the “Added Value.”  If you aren’t careful, your added value can go the same way as the USP; a list of fairly dull add-ons that, at best, are no different from anyone else.  At worst, the client doesn’t even want them anyway.

As you read the rest of this article – think of the firm acting for a pub/restaurant chain who offered to ‘sponsor’ the taxi trips home for late night staff – what a justifier…what a tie breaker!!

In the USA – from where I am writing this blog – the tie-breaker is sometimes referred to as ‘the justifier’.  This is a useful term as it gives a good clue to what you need to achieve.  You need to add something to your pitch which not only gives you the tie-breaking edge over your competitors.  It should also allow the buyer – not the organisation, but the individual or small team within the organisation who is responsible for the buying decision (often referred to by law firms as the one “with the gift of instructions”) – to justify the buying decision by demonstrating to his/her own people (usually the boss) that he/she has not only made the right decision but has also won something of value for the organisation from their current or future lawyers.

So what sorts of things are we talking about? 

Well of course it will be different for each prospective client – the point is that we are trying to get away from a pre-defined list; not create a new one.   There are however means by which you can get the prospective client to do the work for you.  For example, engagement during the pitch process is vital. Ask the client questions like “What keeps you awake at night?”; “What are the worst things about Monday mornings?”; “What are their top 3 priorities?” etc (if you have time in the process it may even be worth creating an electronic questionnaire/survey using a tool such as Survey Monkey).

Then try to find solutions and offer them as part of your added value, tie-breaker, or justifier.  Remember – they don’t need to be ‘legal’ solutions – they can be anything.

Darren Francis

Set a new baseline with your clients – we find that they now want to do it too.

Business Strategy - putting pieces together, Law firmsIf you are unsure about how your clients might react, this follow up from some of the management at businesses we interviewed on client listening sessions says a lot about their perception of the value of the exercise to them ... it’s not unusual for the clients (MD’s, FD’s and CEO’s) to approach us or our law firm client afterwards to arrange to do something similar for them for their customers.  Provided our law firm client agrees, we’re delighted to do that.  It’s good for us, but also a great way to embed a client relationship as it will be remembered as a shared project, helping to add value to your client’s business.

Why do this now?  Work together to find the best solution.

The economy is moving well, the property market has already picked up – so business owners can afford to be more optimistic about the future and begin to lay out their plans for the next period, so there are big opportunities now to grow with your clients.

…. but the business environment is never going to be the same as it was pre-recession … and the legal market has changed.  Fixed fees are the norm for many areas of work, technology has opened new opportunities both for you and your clients.  They  want better value for money and expectations of what constitutes “good service” have moved on.

So what are you doing differently now to add more value to your service?  How do you go about setting the new baseline for your relationships going forwards?  How you work together should be something different from before, enabling you to tap into new opportunities just as much as your clients.  How do you make sure you push the boundaries to help your clients care about using your services?

You can create more opportunities to listen harder to your clients, introducers and business partners.  At least some of the time, you should do it differently, using objective, independent business people like us to prompt a different perspective –  because it works.