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!
BigWig Legal Network
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.
Posted in Alternative Business Structures, clementi review, Law Firm Partner, Legal Services Act, Legal System, solicitor, UK Law
Tagged Alternative Business Structures, clementi review, corporate legal services, law firm, legal practice management, solicitor
It is no secret that over the last few years most firms have faced a reduced level of partner profit (or no profit at all), often resulting in decisions to reduce team sizes. Others have found themselves faced with short working hours or pay reductions.
As tax rates rise post-election, along with VAT rates, it is likely that this cycle is not yet at an end.
Given that many firms adopt a time-honoured policy of permanent staff on fixed hours, this decrease in staff is inevitable. The UK Economy may have just enjoyed one of the longest periods of sustained economic growth, but this has been the exception, not the rule. I hope that firms will start to see the benefit of a core permanent team cooperating with a circle of trained flexible staff who help with spikes in workflow. When times are good, using outsourced/contract/consultant staff enables the firm to take advantage of the increasing number of skilled people who prefer flexible working. This actually brings stability to the workplace as fewer permanent staff are put at risk when the market contracts. It also benefits the partners as their profits are protected.
But the result of this contraction is that many solicitors and partners find themselves looking at alternative posts at other firms. The question is, when an offer comes in from another firm, do you jump? Often the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”. Faced with even shorter working at your existing firm, or potentially no position at all, how could the answer be “No”?
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.