Category Archives: Legal Services Act

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.

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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.

Scotland the Brave……Not

It seems the Scottish Law Society has withdrawn the proposed move to Alternative Business Structures which would have permitted significant external ownership of Scottish firms. Ian Smart, President of Law Society of Scotland, commented that a revised compromise would be tabled later in May. This followed a significant back lash from Scottish solicitors who feared, among other things, grave abuse of the regulations by criminal gangs. You can read a description of some of the issues raised in Mike Wade’s TimesOnline article and from the horse’s mouth in this news release from The Law Society of Scotland.

The proposed changes, which are in the pipeline for the rest of the UK in 2011/2012, are designed to provide greater access to legal advice. There is no suggestion that getting hold of one of the 100,000 plus solicitors in the UK is difficult. However, with hourly fee rates at traditional firms that start at around six times the national average pay rate for even basic advice, it is the price that is the challenge. Many small businesses and individuals that need advice simply prefer to take the risk. 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