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”?
My mobile is wonderful!
It is a phone, an MP3 player, a voice recorder, a calendar, a video player and recorder, a web browser, a camera, etc, etc. I have it on contract, but, if purchased over the counter, it costs about £400. Great value as I no longer need an MP3 player, a camcorder, a desktop web browser……..really?
In truth, I have an MP3 player and a camcorder and a desktop computer, as well as the mobile phone. The computer cost three times the price of the phone. The camcorder was a similar price and the camera cost about half as much as the phone. I even have a land-line at home which I pay for monthly.
Why? Well, think about it. For really good, clear pictures of your holiday, are you going to trust your mobile phone or will you buy a camera that is a specialist device? If you were going to leave your children with someone at home all day, would you want a qualified nanny or someone who was “probably OK”?
I have these extra, more expensive gadgets as well as the ubiquitous mobile phone because I am willing to pay for a level of experience (and service) that is higher than any old Tom Dick or Petra can offer, i.e. if I can see added value in the particular product or service.
It is the same with solicitors. Some clients may be happy with an adequate legal adviser. Will they pay top dollar for adequate? No. They will pay top dollar if they believe their problem is serious and needs resolution urgently by an expert in that field.
Does your potential client know why you are worth what you charge?
This may sound ridiculous, but do you know what you spend most of your working days doing? At one level, you might feel that this question grossly insults your intellect and your memory as well as your professionalism. So why do I ask?
Well, the obvious is not what I mean. For someone to want to buy your services, they need to know and understand what you do. I have had potential and actual clients like the look of me and then ask me to do things of which I have no experience at all, simply because I matched some preconceived notion they had of an accountant.
Let us assume you meet the Managing Director of a medium-sized corporate. You are a litigator. He says, “What do you do?” It is your big opportunity to open the door to billing heaven. You draw in a breath and say, “I’m a litigator”, or perhaps, to more enlightened souls, that you work in dispute resolution. The MD looks interested and then moves on to the weather. No problem, you think. If the MD ever needs a litigator, I’ll get a call. The MD will know I am the best litigator in town.
In fact the MD may be wondering what a litigator does that is relevant to his business, or whether appointing a litigator may signal that his business skills have failed. Or, whether his existing law firm already has a litigator, as all solicitors do the same thing kinda?
Well do you? According to comments from lots of recruiters, the answer is no!
Until his early retirement in the 1970s, my late father-in-law was a partner at a well-known establishment law firm catering for the rich and landed. His ill health prior to retirement was not due to his work, and he was in most material ways very comfortable. The family lived in an idyllic country house with a huge garden and sufficient parking for four cars. Beyond in the paddock were two horses. His children were privately educated. He did have unlimited liability for the firm’s debts, but that did not seem to bother him and in reality never proved to be an issue. Family holidays involved overseas travel, usually by ship.
How would his working life compare with that of today’s Partners?
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?
Posted in clementi review, Legal Services Act, Legal System, UK Law
Tagged Alternative Business Structures, barrister, clementi review, law firm, lawyer, legal service, Legal System, solicitor