Category Archives: clementi review

Innovation: Do you initiate or are you dragged?

Marketers would have us believe that ever year every new product is an “innovation”. Consequently, it is an overused word, but when I talk about it I am referring to the changes in the way products and services are delivered to customers to better meet their actual needs.

In this sense of the word, every market has a degree of innovation present at all times. However, what marks some markets out is the rate of innovation. This rate is often driven by external forces rather than internal. Hoover did not start making bag-less cleaners after 70 years of a tried and trusted formula for fun, but because an inventor new to the cleaner industry, James Dyson, threatened their supremacy.

However, the greatest changes usually occur because of government intervention, a change in law or a government initiative. The success of the AT&T breakup initiated by the US Govt is controversial, but it created a very competitive market, at least initially. Ferrari (and the rest of the car industry) is very reluctantly currently working on clean technologies because of pending EU regulations, rather than some deep-seated environmental belief. The sale by the US Govt of old media airwaves will facilitate an explosion in wireless communications although it was heavily opposed by the old media.

It is inevitable that industries which have invested heavily in the status quo will not look to innovate unless pushed to do so.

So how is innovation in the legal market?

There has been change in the market in terms of attitudes and the introduction of some technology, but at the moment the rate of innovation is generally low. In a profession that places weight on precedent there seems little reason for change. However, legal precedent has little to do with law firms. The law does not belong to the firms and arguably is not the product of the firms either.

Should a new external force come into play in the legal market, innovation will result. The intended Legal Services Board deregulation, inspired by the Clementi Report, looks like that external force.

Are you ready for the resulting innovation?

BigWig will explore the likely challenges this will create and look at the potential solutions.

Liam Wall
Founder
BigWig Legal Network
www.bigwignetwork.co.uk

What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, which will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.

Find out more at our monthly meetings.

An alternative take on “Tesco Law”

While not a new phrase for someone like me to bandy around, I wonder what you think Clementi meant by it?

Well, some suggest he meant the work of existing law firms being commoditised and sold off the shelf at Tesco, as Tesco do with banking, insurance and mobile phone services.

But what if he simply meant no change to the service itself, but a lot of change to the availability of the service?

Time-wise, Tesco open from early till late, certainly 7 days a week. Some stores open 24 hours at certain times of the year. When I worked for two large, successful, entrepreneurial, corporate companies, as Head of Finance, I was on the job from early till late, 7 days a week and on certain deals nearly 24 hours at a stretch. Now, with my corporate days behind me, my life revolves around clients during usual business hours and around usual pre-school and post-school hours with my family. In both situations, f I were looking for legal advice, 9pm in the evening would be ideal.

And with regard to location, in most conurbations in the UK, you are probably never more than 15 to 20 minutes away from a Tesco store, many of which have parking and a bus service.

So maybe Clementi was not talking about the devaluing of legal advice into some low-level commodity, but simply about making the existing provision available at a time and place to suit the customer. And even if he wasn’t, why not think about it?!


Liam Wall
Founder
BigWig Legal Network
www.bigwignetwork.co.uk

What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, which will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.

Find out more at our monthly meetings.

Who needs a Strategy?

“Strategy”, or the “S word”, is often overused and misunderstood, probably because many organisations refer to plans as strategies when they are just plans.

A proper approach to developing a strategy involves defining where you currently are, examining anticipated developments in your market and your practice, defining your destination and, while on the journey, assessing and aligning the policies, processes and resources necessary to achieve that new vision or position.

This approach is responsive to the future, aiming to take action ahead of time to protect and grow business success. It roots current action in that view of the future and brings with it a degree of change.

If your practice uses a strategic process to define business objectives, you will know. The practice will have told you how the future looks, what your part is and why operational changes are being made or are in the pipeline. In an uncertain world, a practice with a strategy is like an airplane with a pilot and co-pilot at the helm. They constantly assess new data and, within the mission of getting from A to B, make new decisions as required. This contrasts with the autopilot setting of a practice without a strategy.

Note: If the strategy was well-considered in the first place, the need for constant change is minimal, as there ought not to be many large surprises. Using the plane analogy, the pilots do their checking for every flight, but most flights go according to plan without the need for an emergency landing!

Without the forward-looking element of the strategy, a well-run organisation can make small incremental changes based on experience. In a slowly developing market this will appear effective.

But what happens when the legal market changes quickly?

If your practice involves strategic thinking, you will have been able to weather the credit crunch well. This was a sudden change, but was heralded months before the full effects were felt. With quick and decisive action based on an updated strategy, the full effects would have been minimised and opportunities spotted to ensure growth. If this is not a description of your practice, or the one you work for, we might conclude strategic thinking is not alive and well.

Another change on the horizon since 2006 has been the deregulation of the legal market proposed by the Clementi Review, the first reforms of which should be implemented in the summer of 2011, according to the Legal Services Board.

If you do not yet have a strategy for dealing with what would be a fundamental shift in the shape of the legal market, now is the moment!


Liam Wall
Founder
BigWig Legal Network
www.bigwignetwork.co.uk

What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, which will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.

Find out more at our Last Wednesday meetings.

Lord Bl**dy Sugar!

Like many of you I have enjoyed BBC’s The Apprentice complete with the attitude and the unremitting swearing of the main man. I would love to know what Lord Sugar does respect as it is clearly not most of the contestants most of the time. However, I must say that I am happy to let him have his quirks given his level of commercial success and I wish everyone I knew was as honest. Given this is a legal network why do I mention him?

One of the first and largest computer companies in the world was, as you will know, IBM. Given their position in the computer market today the phrase “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” will be irrelevant to most but the larger organisations now but once upon a time this was the case. Indeed when I started work in the mid-1980’s they had a dominant position in the hardware market include the personal computer market (PC).

At that time Alan Sugar Trading or Amstrad for short was making cheap radio’s, record player and other small electrical devices. However Amstrad was about to diversify and take on IBM with a PC. Think about it, a cheap radio manufacturer taking on a worldwide business. I had one of the first to compare to IBM PC and it must be said it had a poorer screen resolution and a less substantial keyboard. The other thing it lacked was about £1000 being half the price of the IBM.

The rest is history as the consumer and business market voted with their feet and bought the Amstrad.

The point of this history lesson is simple. Consumers and businesses want value for money which Law Sugar delivered which according to the critics of the day was very much a win for David over Goliath. Lord Sugar, as far as I know is not interested in the law but if he owned an Alternative Business Structure law firm, would he be preserving the traditions and current working practices?

Sir Alan may not be looking at the Legal Market but there are entrepreneurs out there waiting for the opportunity. Are you ready?


Liam Wall
Founder
BigWig Legal Network
www.bigwignetwork.co.uk

What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, which will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.

Find out more at our Last Wednesday meetings.

Decision Speed Captain Kirk?

When it comes to evolution, I am no expert, but I am familiar with the simple summary of “Survival of the Fittest”. A key part of survival for an animal is making decisions in response to new opportunities or threats. These decisions must be made in real time and can be imperfect.

Within a commercial organisation, hundreds of major and minor decisions are made every day in just the same way. The outward-facing decisions are made by the Board. Sometimes these decisions are made quickly as events occur rapidly. In the past weeks, the Board at BP and at BA have been making outward-facing decisions. The ability of these organisations to react quickly is crucial to their success and survival. From the outside, they may seem to be the largest and sturdiest starships in their galaxies, but even they are vulnerable to poor or slow decision-making. Indeed, anyone who ever watched Star Trek will not remember Kirk taking long to make life-and-death decisions!

In the world after the Clementi Review and the Legal Services Board deregulation, the question is, how quick will law firm decision-making need to become? Partnerships are not noted for making rapid or radical decisions. This is an observation rather than a criticism. At the moment, law firms evolve at a rate determined by the comfort zone of partners who are all owners and solicitors.

Post the Alternative Business Structure, this rate of change may be determined by Directors appointed by shareholders. Given that Directors are unlikely to be solicitors and will do their job by determining policy rather than following it, they will have little vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

If the Partnership Model is to prosper in this new world, decision-making speed may need to move at the pace determined by non-solicitors!

Liam Wall
Founder
BigWig Legal Network

www.bigwignetwork.co.uk

What is BigWig Legal Network?
The deregulation of UK legal structures will have a huge impact on how Law is practised and new legal services are offered. BigWig Legal Network is the UK’s first membership development organisation for fee earners in legal practices, priced for membership affordability, which will offer what legal professionals desire most of all: Accurate, dependable new insights and techniques for developing the legal services of the future.

Find out more at our Last Wednesday meetings.

Solicitors can be quite likeable, actually

Since I started the BigWigNetwork Twitter account, I’ve been finding interesting legal people and firms to follow. I’m delighted that some of these are now following BigWig too. Whenever I can, I spend some time browsing their sites, looking for ideas and approaches that chime with my hopes for BigWig and for the UK legal profession.

Of course, the simple fact that they’re using social media already indicates awareness that online affordances can support, enhance and in some cases transform business for solicitors. Other initiatives, not specifically related to being online, also suggest that people are realising that even lawyers need to do business differently in the 21st century.

Most of us didn’t need the Clementi report to tell us that legal clients are becoming more sophisticated, more demanding and more able to compare costs for legal services from several different providers. However, it is very difficult to change the assumptions and customs of any established profession and particularly of one whose lifeblood is “precedent”. One thing that helps is to study the example of pathfinders who are already succeeding through doing things differently. Continue reading

Change is Inevitable, Embrace it and Profit

The Clementi Review of 2004 was simply a set of recommendations which did not have the force of law, so many people did not notice it or paid it little attention. The prescient amongst us suspected it meant that legal firms would have to change—whether for the better or the worse depended on one’s point of view. Even though the implementation of the underlying regulations of The Legal Services Act of 2007 was delayed until 2010/11, and may be delayed again, changes are most definitely afoot. What are the implications of the introduction of “Tesco Law” to the UK? Can legal practices afford to ignore it? Continue reading