THE BUSINESS OF LAW
Strategy: Target, Aim, Go
P10 Past, Present P44 Modern Law P53 Brand & Future
Leading visionaries share their approach to strategic planning
Strategy Communicate your culture
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FOCUS YOUR MIND…
We’re about to have a strategic meeting, about strategy.
Why are strategies so hard to get right? Is it actually a problem with the strategy or an issue with execution? Why is it that some firms continue to be butterflies rather than focus on what they do well, even when they’re clearly not getting a greater slice of the cake by being all things to all people. How often are customers asked ‘what do you want?’ as well as ‘how are we doing?’ Why can’t law firms be as critical of their own initiatives as they are about the initiatives of their peers? Do you have a diverse group of people working on your strategy and are you measuring the things you might not want to hear, as well as the data you’re pleased with? All these questions have been, in some part, answered by some of the people I’d ask to be my critical best friends if I ever ran a legal enterprise. I managed to stop time with three disruptors (disruptors in their own time and space).
My sincere thanks to Michael Napier CBE QC – one of the fathers of ‘New Law’, Ed Turner, Managing Partner at Taylor Vinters and Karl Chapman, Strategic Advisor to EY Riverview Law. It’s not only a privilege to hear and share their stories (which I urge you to read and share with your board) but also a pleasure, as they were all candid and clear in their messaging. Ultimately, strategy - or ‘plan’ (the jargon-free version, as preferred by Michael Napier) – is more commonsensical than some would have you believe. If you put the customer at the top and work down from there, you’re on the right track.
experience in the strategic planning process. I believe that requires a sidestep into the Diversity and Inclusion conversation that takes place in this month’s supplement, presented by Thomson Reuters. My interview with Jim Leason, Customer Proposition Lead, Legal Professionals Europe at Thomson Reuters, picks up on some of the levers that need to be pulled to enable everyone with the experience, skills and ideas to take part in the conversation.
My greatest thanks to our Editorial Board, as ever, who have also shaped their contributions around strategic concepts, challenges and opportunities for firms – and how to implement the vision.
As ever, if you have any feedback (good or bad – I practice what I preach), let me know.
So pull up a comfy chair and digest, greedily, or in parts, but please do digest in full. I’m really proud of this issue and the ideas we’re able to share.
Emma Waddingham Co-Editor, Modern Law Magazine. 01765 600909 firstname.lastname@example.org www.modernlawmagazine.com
Something that resonated with me, as I type this on International Women’s Day, is the need for a diverse range of voices, skills and
Editorial Contributors Adam Bullion, General Manager of Marketing, InfoTrack Colin Fowle, Managing Director, Blue Car Technologies Darren Gower, Marketing Director, Eclipse Legal Services David Seager, Development Director, SIFA Dr Matthew Terrell, Head of Marketing, Justis Jacqueline Harvey, Senior ATE Underwriter, AmTrust Law James Dobson, Marketing Director, SmartSearch Jane Malcolm, SRA Executive Director, External & Corporate Affairs Jason Connolly, Managing Director, JMC Legal Recruitment Jonathan Silverman, Jt Managing Director, Silverman Advisory Mark Holt, Managing Director, Frenkel Topping
ISSUE 41 ISSN 2050-5744
Melody Easton, Marketing Director, DocsCorp Norman Kenvyn, Founder & CEO of VFS Legal Paul Greening, Regulatory Policy Manager, Legal Services Board Professor Hugh Koch, Professor in Law and Psychology, Birmingham City University Richard Allen, Senior Consultant & Costs Lawyer, Burcher Jennings Rob Powell, Chief Executive Officer, The Legal Ombudsman Stephen Griffiths, Tax Director, Griffiths Allen Susan Fairbrass, Marketing & Client Relationships Manager, Geodesys Wayne Shinn, Business Development Executive, Unoccupied Direct Yvonne Hirons, CEO & Founder of Perfect Portal
Co-Editor | Emma Waddingham Co-Editor | Poppy Green Project Manager | Martin Smith Events Sales | Kate McKittrick
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KEY CONTRIBUTORS EDITORIAL BOARD
Dr Matthew Terrell Having a strategic plan for your own career progression is essential. Dr Matthew Terrell shares his thoughts on the secret to success in legal practice.
Michael Napier QC The Past: Michael Napier QC offers his helicopter view of the sector, where we have come from in terms of strategic planning and his hopes for the future of the sector.
Ed Turner The Present: Ed Turner, Taylor Vinters, shares his strategic advice, lessons learned and approach for law firms making a change today.
Karl Chapman The Future: Karl Chapman, EY Riverview Law, shares his advice for those looking to plan a strategic plan for legal brands of the future.
Gatekeeper & Catalyst Paul Greening, The Legal Services Board (LSB)
Getting Ready For New Standards & Regulations Jane Malcolm, Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)
Strategic Success Rob Powell, Legal Ombudsman (LeO)
Proactive & Collaborative Lawyering Yvonne Hirons, Perfect Portal
Professional Partnerships Dave Seager, SIFA.
Defining A Generation Adam Bullion, InfoTrack UK
Strategic Connections Susan Fairbrass, Geodesys
Partner Up Colin Fowle, Blue Car Technologies Limited
Strategy & Business Planning In Legal Services Norman Kenvyn, VFS Legal Funding
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
WIP Or Strategy – Which Will Secure A Funding Lifeline? Jonathan Silverman, Silverman Advisory
Lead The Way Professor Hugh Koch, Birmingham City University.
Best Interest Advice Mark Holt, Frenkel Topping
Focus The Mind Jason Connolly, JMC Legal Recruitment
Consult Wisely Richard Allen, Burcher Jennings
Don’t Be A Target James Dobson, Smartsearch
How to make your AI strategy more intelligent Melody Easton, DocsCorp
Strategic Partnerships Build Greater Rewards Wayne Shinn, Unoccupied Direct
Strategically Aligned Dr Matthew Terrell, Justis
Dispute resolution & strategic planning Jacqueline Harvey, AmTrust Law
Adding Value Stephen Griffiths, Griffiths Allen
Modern Law Awards 2019 Celebrating those defining the business of law
Digities, or miss out! James Lancaster, Yoti Ltd
Define, Position, Target Peter Carr, Propero Partners
Our Survey Says… Craig Matthews, Pracctice Ltd
Leadership: You Cannot Push String! Charles Christian, Founder of the Legal IT Insider
Case study – Eclipse Proclaim Legend Solicitors selects market-leading Proclaim Case Management Software solution to replace its current system.
Recruit With A Plan Ian Partington, Simply Law Jobs
10 Minutes With… Peter Hubbard, Anthony Collins
EDITORIAL BOARD CONTRIBUTORS
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â€œWith thousands of applicants applying for a handful of contracts, it is highly valuable, if not life-changing, to understand what qualities and attributes will make you stand out.â€?
Dr Matthew Terrell For many, success is often directly linked to a career at a big-name firm. Within the tech industry, the brands Apple, Samsung, Facebook and Google spring to mind. In the legal sector, the equivalent large multi-national firms exist whose training contracts are highly sought after by law school graduates around the world. Dr Matthew Terrell shares his thoughts on the secret to success in legal practice. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, over 80,000 students enrol to study law in the UK each year. With the yearly number of training positions in UK fluctuating between 5,000 - 6,000 and those sought-after firms only offering around 100 of these, competition for these desirable contracts is at an all-time high. With thousands of applicants applying for a handful of contracts, it is highly valuable, if not life-changing, to understand what qualities and attributes will make you stand out. Is there a set of attributes or qualities that firms value and are pivotal to success within the legal sector? The answer is yes.
Companies & competencies
Place yourself in the shoes of your new employer. You need to hire a selection of new candidates who are destined to become the company’s next generation of fee-earners and potential partners. Who then do you hire? Do you select the candidates at random, choose those from the best universities, or those who have a years’ worth of pro-bono work under their belt? Or do you choose those who share the same competencies and qualities of your current top fee-earners and partners? I know which option I would strongly consider first.
Depending on your chosen career path those skills and qualities may be very different. For example, an aspiring criminal Barrister and a trainee tax Attorney will possess different skills more or less transferable in other areas of law. However, academic research has shown that successful individuals do share characteristics and have uncovered those of value within the legal sector.
That’s why in recent years, law firms have developed competency models, which benchmarks and references the competencies of the already-successful lawyers within the firm as a means of understanding the required characteristics to be used for employment and promotion – essentially a list of qualities, attributes and achievements that is desired in candidates and employees. According to the work of Neil Hamilton published in the University of St. Thomas School of Law Journal: A competency model begins with the identification of the characteristics of a firm’s most effective and successful lawyers. Using these characteristics, the firm develops a framework of core competencies for associates to master. The benefit accrues to both the firm and the associate in the form of increased transparency as the firm clarifies what is needed for recognition, advancement, and compensation within the organization. Associates are given a roadmap for success. If this is news to you and you’re applying for training contracts you may want to brush up on your ethnomethodology knowledge and start observing the behaviours and habits of your successful future colleagues. A quick Google of ‘law firms competency framework’ provides a wealth of information for anyone who wishes to know more. However, this does provide a complication for those wishing to learn the secrets of success. Each firm will build a different competency model based on those currently succeeding at the firm. Without seeing inside the firm’s individual framework for competency, how do you know which skills to focus on?
According to Professors Warren Yates and Geoff Scott at the University of Technology in Australia, whose research suggests that professional success can be attributed to emotional intelligence. Their study identified that both social and personal emotional intelligence has a significant influence on successful early career performance. Furthermore, within the legal sector, a study conducted by Scott Westfahl, author of ‘You get what you measure: Lawyer Development frameworks & effective performance evaluations’, identified key characteristics associated with the successful progression of lawyers. For junior associates, analytical and written communication was the key differentiator between more and less successful individuals. For mid-level associates looking to progress, try keeping more senior lawyers informed about the development of a case, engage with your superiors appropriately on key case decisions, stay organised, efficient and resourceful and always deliver, even when under pressure. Similarly, case management, leadership, teamwork, written advocacy and a drive for excellence are of considerable importance according to the work of Lori Berman and Heather Bock of Georgetown University, whose research set out to answer the question: Who are these future leaders, and what qualities predict their advancement in a law firm environment? Their work also highlighted that the mindset and philosophy of high performing associates set them apart from their peers. For any graduate or legal professional looking to stand out, these are important and transferable skills, many of which can fit into your daily routine. Mindset, philosophic perspective and emotional intelligence are more complex hurdles
“Mindset, philosophic perspective and emotional intelligence are more complex hurdles for anyone in the race to the top but can still be learnt and researched if you wish to broaden your knowledge of these disciplines.” 8
“…A good trainee should have a relentless curiosity to find out about business operations and knows how to relate this to the practice of law.” for anyone in the race to the top but can still be learnt and researched if you wish to broaden your knowledge of these disciplines.
Bread & Butter While research can teach you a lot about what is valuable to a firm and what characteristics successful individuals have over their less successful peers, it is of equal value to find out from those in practice what is seen as important for success today - and what matters the most. According to Jose Truchado and Neil Mitchell of Loud Voice Digital, experts in training and executive coaching who frequently work with top-tier law firms, a good trainee should have a relentless curiosity to find out about business operations and knows how to relate this to the practice of law. Paul Goward, a Partner at Goward Property Law LLP, agrees that business acumen is a beneficial attribute, but importantly points out the need for good communication skills as well as the ability to form and maintain relationships: “These days a trainee is assumed to have the requisite technical knowledge (and the ability to develop it) – it’s a given. In terms of the qualities required for a trainee now – they need business acumen and good communication skills as well as the ability to form and maintain relationships. The development of a business depends on the relationship with clients.” With this in mind, and from what has been covered above, you will hopefully be thinking about the skills you can add into your repertoire, and the efforts you can make with others to help you stand out. But in doing so never forget the basics of your business, and in
many legal sectors this often revolves around the relationships with your clients. Building good relationships with clients, customer and colleagues, and generally being ‘likeable’ is often overlooked, but can push you quickly towards your next promotion. You can be organised, have high levels of emotional intelligence and a business acumen envied by the Bezos’ of the world. But almost all businesses need customers and preferably happy ones too. Invest time in building and maintaining relationships with clients, and importantly your colleagues too, will be the bread and butter of your success. As they say: it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
Love or loss While soft skills will help you maintain and develop relationships with clients and become the stand-out success story within your firm, there is one final ingredient that is essential to be successful in this industry – a love for the law. Michael Hekimain, Director of Represent Law highlighted this requirement, essential not only to success but also endurance: “What makes a trainee stand out is simply a love for the law. It’s a hard job and without that love, any trainee is going to find themselves ground down by the learning, hard work, application, dedication,
attention to detail and reliability required not just to stand out but to do the job as a professional in the long term”. Loving what you do is important in any industry, but the reality may be different. You can often love the sector you work in and have a passion to make a difference, help others and achieve your goals. But you may not love the long days, late night and hard negotiations. A reputable practitioner once shared with me that to secure the terms of an important contract following weeks of tedious negotiations, they invited their counterparts to their offices and purposefully kept the meeting going until 3:00 am. This was done to simply wear down the other lawyers in a bid to get them to agree to their terms and finalise the contract. It worked. I am almost certain that some of the people in that negotiation room loved their job, the others less so. What to do if your love for the law is fading? Firstly, grab a copy of last month’s Modern Law Supplement* from JMC Legal Recruitment, containing a confidence-building advice on careers and a must-read article on ‘choosing the right area of law’. Then take a close look at the Legal Technology sector. Your skills and experiences as a barrister, solicitor or law librarian will be welcomed into the world of
* (You can find digital back issues of Modern Law and the supplements on our new website: modernlawmagazine.com)
document automation, case management and legal research technology to name a few areas of this growing industry.
It’s all good news Let’s recap. Successful lawyers and legal professional exhibit competencies that are linked to success. Although some of these qualities will be easier to acquire than others. The good news is that much of what gives a person the legal ‘x-factor’ can be learnt. While the secret of success for everyone cannot be delivered in 1600-words, the journey to success is unforgettably a personal one. Invest in developing your skills and competencies and you will succeed.
Dr Matthew Terrell
is the Head of Marketing at Justis.
“The good news is that much of what gives a person the legal ‘x-factor’ can be learnt.”
MIKE NAPIER CBE QC Emma Waddingham, Editor, Modern Law, stole some time with a father of New Law and friend of the magazine, Michael Napier CBE QC. Michael’s heritage in the shaping of modern law could be viewed as ‘strategic’. He reflects on the legal sector past and how things might not be so different when it comes to planning. MLM: What does strategic thinking mean to you – and what did it mean to you as a leader in legal services at Irwin Mitchell, and also when helping to shape reform? MN: As far as I can recall, at the time we are talking, strategic thinking, wasn’t a term or a concept that was in our vocabulary. In the days when I was building, with others, Irwin Mitchell and Pannone Napier, we ‘just got on with it’. Like firms today, we were confronted then by challenging situations as long as you had curiosity, the courage, the fascination and the drive, you would produce a plan. Back then, sitting down with spreadsheets to plan and deliver strategy would have been too sophisticated. However, we developed a successful and growing brand in our way.
“Why don’t law firms appoint non-executive members to their board? It’s not fear, rather a level of selfsatisfaction that everything is working well, without outside intervention.”
Looking back, a bystander might say ‘that was very strategic of you Mike’ but that’s not how I viewed it at the time. In more recent years, the advent of IT, strategy meetings, targets and budgets, demanding that people sit down and make plan, is the modern way. As a matter of language, I prefer to use the word ‘plan’ rather ‘strategy’ or even ‘tactics’. But it’s all a matter of personal preference, I suppose.
MLM: Did you see yourself as an innovative and creative thinker at the time? MN: It was always in my psyche that I had a sense of urgency and desire for change. Equally important is the ability to work with other likeminded people. I believe that one of the secrets of success is the vision to spot an opportunity, and move, before others do.
Today, I’m sure Irwin Mitchell’s strategic planning and thinking is highly sophisticated, but back in the days we’re talking about, we relied on natural thought progressing, moving from one challenge to the next and addressing opportunities as they arose. Our overall sense of purpose was the need to change things for the better, for clients. After all, that is the purpose of being in the vocation of law. Especially within the areas of my practice, which laterally included the business law.
From my experience as a litigator, the necessity to plan is a very important ingredient in the litigation process. Civil Law, including Common Law, is constantly on the move and planning needs to take that into account. As the wellknown American consumer lawyer Ralph Nader, once said: “The law is not what the courts said yesterday, the law is what the courts will say tomorrow.” Which is a good message for young, aspiring litigators.
MLM: How did or do you measure strategic success?
“I believe that one of the secrets of success is the vision to spot an opportunity, and move, before others do.” 11
MN: It’s not always measurable. Nowadays, law firms have much more sophisticated technology to analyse and set targets (financial outcomes). You might aim to deliver project ‘x’ at a value of ‘y’, by a date of ‘z’. Whether you achieve that or not, can only be assessed down the line. Looking back (before the advent of modern technology) using the best systems of the time, we seemed to get it right. MLM: Has the focus of strategic thinking changed in legal services? Why do you think that is? Is any change due to the impact of the liberalisation of legal services or is it now more than that?
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MN: What may be called creative or innovative is often born out of necessity but the Legal Service Act (LSA) in 2007 provided an opportunity to do things differently. However, that was over a decade ago. My recent witnessing of what’s going on in the legal market was at the Modern Law Awards 2019, when I was able to see the types of firms that are now making their mark. My impression, particularly in the motor and PI area, that competition is fierce, in a market that has opened up new ideas and entrepreneurial skills in firms of all shapes and sizes. At the smaller end of the legal market, there are nimble, start-up firms, founded by young entrepreneurs, looking to make their mark. They have very good publicity skills although I sometimes wonder whether their experience matches the publicity. There is evidence of firms starting with exciting ideas and then quickly disappear. I think it is good for the legal services market for people to try, even if they fail - so long as clients and people are protected. It was once very rare for a law firm to go out of business – it used to be a steady profession with jobs for life for all. However, the realisation that the law is a business as well as a profession, means that the management of law firms must be alert to the same rules as other businesses. In my opinion, the most important change stemming from the LSA is that lawyers can now share their profits with non-lawyers – that has been a game-changer. MLM: How important is it to look outside of the legal industry for strategic inspiration?
“Our overall sense of purpose was the need to change things for the better, for clients.”
MN: Law firms have been slow to being nonexecutive directors (NEDs) onto their boards. NEDs, whether from inside or outside of the legal profession, can be an excellent way to bring a fresh pair of eyes on to the business plan and strategic thinking. It would be interesting to see a survey of how many law firms have taken NEDs onto their boards. I hope that this is a developing trend. Senior lawyers that have moved into retirement can also inspire and take a non-executive role as they can have significantly helpful roles to play on the board of other firms. Experienced lawyers and non-lawyers can offer vast insight and value, as well as business acumen, to firms that don’t have that experience. For firms looking to take the next step forwards, this is something to consider.
“Back then, sitting down with spreadsheets to plan and deliver strategy would have been too sophisticated. However, we developed a successful and growing brand in our way.”
Why don’t law firms appoint non-executive members to their board? It’s not fear, rather a level of self-satisfaction that everything is working well, without outside intervention. Firms need the courage to say, ‘maybe we can learn from others’ – as other commercial enterprises do. I hope the tide is turning.
Michael Napier CBE QC is a solicitor (non-practising) and a consultant to clients across the globe, including Harbour Litigation Funding Ltd. (where he also sits as Chairman Emeritus). Editor: I highly recommend you visit michaelnapier.com to reflect on the significance of his achievements for the legal industry, in terms of practice, legislation and business.
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ED TURNER INTERVIEW Taylor Vinters is finally seeing the fruits of its success after a strategic repositioning 10 years ago, moving away from its former success as a multi-service, regional firm and emerging as a focused, boutique organisation. Emma Waddingham, Editor, Modern Law magazine spoke to Ed Turner, Managing Partner at the firm to see what triggered the move, explore the challenges and understand Taylor Vintersâ€™ identity strategy. 15
MLM: Having completely reformed the focus and identity of Taylor Vinters, tell us how your strategic focus has changed over the past 10 years – and then more recently. ET: Starting with where we are now; our strategy is to focus on what we’re passionate about. If we do that, then we’ll be more valuable to our clients. If we’re more valuable to our clients then we have the scope to capture more value for what we do – and somewhere down the line, gain commercial success. We now have a level of maturity and have the confidence to focus on the first few steps of that proposition without leading on the (financial) outcome. Over the last 10 years, we’ve learnt not to focus on the financial outcome – where the danger is that you make decisions that compromise the strategic result you’re after. If you focus on the strategic outcomes, with some sensible hygiene, the financial outcome will follow. Our strategy is identity-led. It says, ‘we are group of people who are really excited about working with innovators and entrepreneurs, those challenging the status quo in whatever they’re doing’. In a nutshell, we know that we’re emotionally aligned and best-equipped to deal with this type of client. Once you we understood that, we built our business around it. We realigned everything we did. A decade ago, we were a reasonably respected regional law firm, offering a range of different services to lots of different clients – crucially, in lots of different parts of the market. We now focus on what we’re really good at and drive our market position upwards.
“A decade ago, we were a reasonably respected regional law firm, offering a range of different services to lots of different clients – crucially, in lots of different parts of the market. We now focus on what we’re really good at and drive our market position upwards.”
again. If it’s a good story then the right people start to get interested. Yes, that story will have some kernels of truth but you need to keep telling it, and then be authentic to it, in all the decisions you make. It’s taken us 10 years to feel like Taylor Vinters is truly the organisation we described. It is the consistency of that story and the decisions behind it that has got us there. Our ambition is to be the leading firm for innovative and entrepreneurially minded people and businesses, operating globally. We’re not that yet but over the past 12 months, we’ve forged a clear sense of what that would feel like. We’re also much better at focusing on strategic outcomes rather than the financials (so much) although of course the success of any business will ultimately be judged by commercial success. A telling sign is that, in the last year, we’ve suddenly seen a complete step-change in our financial performance. That has not come from thrashing our lawyers to work harder. We made ourselves more valuable and distinguished our value proposition from the larger firms with whom we can compete because we are so focused and our proposition so clear. MLM: Where do you start when you look to define your strategy and what you can achieve as a business? ET: It’s really as much about what you’re not going to do than what you can - which is a very hard concept for most law firms to get on board with. It’s taken us 10 years to get our heads around it! Why? Understanding what you don’t want to do has implications for the business, for your people, and clients. Once you’ve made a decision, there will inevitably be those who aren’t going to be comfortable. They won’t share your enthusiasm for what you want to focus on and will carry on with other things. At that point you have to have a grown-up conversation and say: ‘we’re not the right platform for you anymore’.
We’ve geared towards ‘disruptor’ clients – however, they’re the kind of client we could find in any sector, all over the world. We’ve honed our client base down to markets in which we perform well and know best, namely technology, life sciences and the rural economy. Where the horizontal lines of our innovator / disruptor clients cross with the vertical lines of our specific markets, is where our business is strongest. In the last 12 months, I’m pleased to say we’ve gained great momentum and there’s now acceptance of, and confidence in, our ability to own this space.
In order for us to empathise with our clients, we need to be aligned with them – believe in the same things as them and they need to feel comfortable with us. That comes from the authenticity and consistency of the story and the people who come to us that believe in that too. If we don’t all believe in our purpose then we are not authentic to the story we’ve been sharing, and clients won’t feel it.
MLM: How do you build an identity-led strategy? How do you get that focus to resonate? ET: To build your identity, you start with the story - and you tell it over and over, and over
MLM: What happens when people within the business aren’t authentic to the identity strategy?
making decisions aligned with that and also including plenty of false starts, mistakes and bad moves. Persistence and belief are essential and that only comes with an authentic sense of purpose. For us, changing our strategy is a once in a management lifetime move.
ET: The decisions about what you offer, the pricing and which job you’ll take are important but equally, so are the people you have in the business. Are they the right fit for your firm or for a different organisation? That’s a hard question to ask. The characteristics of your people should enrich your identity. If they’re not right for you then there are lots of other firms in which they will thrive. It’s a mutually respectful thing to say ‘we’re not right for you, we’ll stifle you and will make you unhappy’. In 2017, we started to (finally) get recognition of our new identity in the legal market – a market that’s slow to accept change. At this point, we were being recognised as a ‘tech firm’, which may be an oversimplification but it’s progress – and a move in the right direction. However, we were having issues with staff turnover – it was at market rate. We wanted to be better than that so needed to find out why people left us. We discovered that, when we get it right, it’s really right but that we weren’t consistent across the business, or over time. We had to work on changing that, to achieve consistency. For a member of the business, once they have felt what it is like when it is right – when the identity aligns perfectly with the clear purpose of the organisation - it feels really wrong when it’s not. As part of that process, our people told us they didn’t always feel sure about what our culture meant for them. They called for some guiding principles so that, whatever situation they faced, they knew could play their part in achieving the consistency that they craved. Creating these guidelines helps to ensure we’re all aligned, consistently, to our culture.
MLM: What triggered the shift of focus for Taylor Vinters?
“We were always most happy when we pushed against the prevailing direction or annoyed our competitors. We thought, well, if that’s what excites us, how can we do that more?”
ET: I’ll address the negatives first: I sat on the board of Taylor Vinters for five years before I was Managing Partner and continued to participate in a conversation that focused, too much, on what a small group of people in the organisation could earn – the PEP conversation. Those aspirations could only be achieved by re-slicing the cake but that cake wasn’t getting any bigger. The only way we could increase our revenue – the top line was by doing more. At the same time, our bottom line – our costs base – was increasing, all the time. All the plans and ideas we had felt abstract and isolated. None of them had any consistency or sense that the organisation would change. We really faced a problem: ours costs base and revenue were closing in on each other. Positively, however, there were exciting attributes that still engaged a number of us (including the future leaders of the business), to make us think the firm could be more, that it could be different and interesting. We never wanted to toe the line and yet we seemed to be doing it. We were always most happy when we pushed against the prevailing direction or annoyed our competitors. We thought, well, if that’s what excites us, how can we do that more?
MLM: How often can you undertake such a strategic shift?
We wanted to work in partnership with clients, not in a traditional, reverential way. I prefer to make things happen rather than be parasitical. We wanted to be part of something with clients, a catalyst. These ideas suggested it was worthwhile trying to survive.
ET: Jim Collins, the author of ‘Good to Great’ outlines a useful principle here - the ‘flywheel effect’. The idea is that, within any business, if you believe that where you’re going is right, you have to turn the crank wheel year-after-year, even though the tough times. Eventually, the flywheel will start to move and the momentum it creates is multiplied, 10 times over. Suddenly, everything becomes easier. Our flywheel is now spinning we have that momentum. But that’s after 10 years of telling the same story and
As a management team, created a strategy and ran on a manifesto, as opposed to ‘elect us and then we’ll come up with the ideas’. Instead we said: ‘we’ve listened to you, here’s what we think might work now vote for us’. Matt Meyer (CEO) and I were being groomed as potential future leaders but looked at each other and said, we have complementing skills, experience and constituencies, Let’s work together, not in conflict, to support an agenda - and that’s how we started.
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We branded our strategy Significant Times and keep refreshing it. Significant Times, in its second manifestation, was called Significant Times + (we won’t win any awards for creativity there) and now its Significant Times 201. What’s important, in my view, is that we haven’t changed the name as that would suggest a change of direction. Yes, the priorities have changed but it’s always been about distance travelled in the same direction. It is always an evolution, taking us a little further towards our ambition. MLM: How do you measure success – especially in terms of intangible elements such as identity and culture? ET: Measuring success is really hard but it’s important. You need reference points to know whether to adjust things or progress them and in order to give credibility to your story. However, you need to treat KPIs – financial and nonfinancial – with a healthy disrespect. The adage about ‘measuring something to effect it’ is true, but it tends to be binary. Lawyers, as a breed, are achievement driven. So if you give them a KPI, they’ll naturally respond and drive towards that sense of achievement. If you focus too much on KPIs, it bends everything else out of shape; they can be too effective sometimes with unintended collateral consequences. It’s wise to have a balanced scorecard to measure success. Also consider the ‘how do you feel?’ conversations – those conversations are important (but perhaps not conversations lawyers like having).
“Understanding what you don’t want to do has implications for the business, for your people, and clients. Once you’ve made a decision, there will inevitably be those who aren’t going to be comfortable.”
when it is. Sometimes that’s an important slap in the face. Yes, measurements are great but always have an enquiring mind to look behind the data to understand what’s going on, and why. What I’ve learned about data is that, data’s at it’s most valuable when it shows you when you’re getting it wrong. Listen to the story behind this data and it can be more valuable to you than the datasets that tell you ‘everything’s fine’. I say that, because I know I’ve not listened at times and – even worse, not reacted because I didn’t want to listen. I’m sure we’ve all been there. The important thing for a leader is to break any conversational deadlock around a problem and take responsibility for what went wrong. Then you can work on putting it right and learn. I recently visited a law firm as part of a collaboration project we are involved in. I emailed the Managing Partner afterwards to say I felt privileged to be part of that organisation for a couple of days, because it had a lovely feel about it. What made me think of this now? Because I respected what they had; not because they had what we wanted for our firm, but because they had exactly what they wanted. This hits at the heart of identity and purpose. It’s also what makes measuring strategic success particularly challenging, beyond the conventional financial metrics.
We’re really lucky at Taylor Vinters to have a strong HR team that’s able to facilitate conversations which tell us when it’s not working, just as well as
is the Managing Partner at Taylor Vinters.
Editor: I highly recommend that you take a look at Taylor Vinters’ Significant Times 2020: significant-times.com to understand the identity, focus, passion and priorities for the firm for the next three years, and beyond.
KARL CHAPMAN Emma Waddingham, Modern Law, caught up with Karl Chapman, ex CEO of Riverview Law and now Strategic Adviser to EY Riverview Law, to talk about strategic planning for the future, and why it’s not actually any different to that the past – you just need to put your customers at the heart of everything you do. MLM: What does strategic thinking mean to you – and is it the same since the EY Riverview Law acquisition? KC: Strategy means different things to different people. Context is really important are you a start up,an existing successful or struggling firm? Strategy is also impacted by customers, technology, competition and a range of other factors.
“Strategy is very situational but in ANY circumstance, it has to start with the customer.”
MLM: Has the strategy changed now you are EY Riverview? Yes and no! Yes in the sense that, clearly, as part of EY, we’re now painting on a totally different canvas. It’s a global canvas, with global resources, a global brand, with a global infrastructure. You can deploy a completely different strategy when you have these assets to hand. Riverview Law was a start-up in 2012 so the approach was different. Then, we had to carve a niche in the legal market - in what was a very conservative market - and so had to deploy different tactics to those that the team can know use. For example, a strategy to gain mindshare and attention from decision-makers, is very different when you’re Riverview Law than if
“Customer conversations helped us refine our strategy. They helped us understand what we should not do; it’s very easy to get distracted and do things that are outside of your core focus.” 20
you’re EY. EY is a proven global brand with phenomenal resources and assurance. At Riverview Law we had to create an image and assurance for the brand. We always started our strategy from the customer. What services will our customers buy? How can we organise ourselves to deliver those services profitably? What trends are going to change their buying behavior and/or our service deliver capability? EY brought us on board because we had complimentary assets. We had a managed service operating model and a global technology platform. They have over 2000 lawyers worldwide and a LPO off-shore capability. Together we can provide a complete end-to-end solution to customers. The strategy now is all focused on accelerating our plans now that combined we are a much bigger global business. It’s totally different. Strategy is very situational but in ANY circumstance, it has to start with the customer. MLM: At any point, did you identify as a strategic and creative thinker? KC: I don’t see myself as a strategic thinker. A lot of this is common sense and teamwork. If you think about it logically, an approach that says we’re going to start from the customer
and work down is just obvious, i.e: what are the challenges facing customers; what are their current choices in terms of addressing those challenges; where are the gaps in the market in terms of doing existing things much better, or; can we create something new because we’re bringing in a new delivery model? Does that sound like strategic thinking or does that sound like common sense?
team that often identifies the incremental innovations that create global innovation – and your point of difference.
Unsurprisingly, you need diversity in thinking, approach, people, because it’s very, very rare that one individual can have that great insight that completely changes everything. It’s actually the constant checking and testing of ideas with colleagues and customers that make ideas better and workable. You learn so much by talking with customers and listening well. The best-laid plans get really tested when you go into battle. We evolved the Riverview Law strategy dramatically after we launched because customers told us what they really wanted rather than what we thought they wanted!
KC: No. You can measure anything if you think about it carefully enough. Although there can be a tendency to over-measure so balance is required. I think one of the key things is to learn to fail quickly. The reality of any strategy and innovation is that they don’t all work. The greatest thing is to fail quickly, to understand why you failed and take that on board – to learn the lesson. That’s very hard of course as we’re all human beings, and we like to think that our ideas are just brilliant! Perhaps that’s why some people stick with something for too long. We’re all guilty of that.
MLM: Tell us more about those conversations with customers. KC: The best ideas we’re had have come from conversations with groups of customers. When you speak to customers listen carefully and ask lots of questions, you start to understand what their challenges really are and where they come from – and therefore where the opportunities lie. Riverview Law only came into existence because our customers in our other business asked us to do legal work. If we hadn’t listened to them, we’d never have picked up the signal.
MLM: When it comes to measuring the success of your strategic operations, are there elements that are difficult things to measure?
“On every occasion, part of the reason we persisted with innovations that didn’t work is because we interpreted the data in a way that satisfied our reconceptions.”
MLM: At what point after a new innovation is launched do you measure that and check it’s working for customers? KC: I’d like to say that we are as robust in this as we should be but on occasions we aren’t. Clearly, whenever you embark on creating a new product line and create solutions for customers – evolving your strategy – you need to identify the measures of success at the front end.
The key thing is a) to analyse the quantitative and qualitative the data but b) to avoid picking the data that makes you look as though you’re doing well. You have to look at the data in a very open way and be able to say ‘something isn’t right here’. We’ve learned from those mistakes over the last 30 years – boy have we made some mistakes! On every occasion, part of the reason we persisted with innovations that didn’t work is because we interpreted the data in a way that satisfied our preconceptions.
Customer conversations helped us refine our strategy. They helped us understand what we should not do; it’s very easy to get distracted and do things that are outside of your core focus. We learnt not to be a butterfly but keep focused on what we do well. The other key group (connected to customers) is our service delivery team. It deals with customers at the sharp end and is the
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MLM: With that in mind, are you the best person to make that judgment call in the business?
been in working with smaller businesses. All of the former businesses were start-ups and relatively small (in comparison to EY). The largest of which had had 2,500 employees but EY has 100x this number! What you don’t realise until you’re inside it is what an absolute machine EY is. Are there challenges? Of course there are! However, the biggest surprise for me is that when an organisation of this size decides to go in a particular direction and everything is lined up, don’t try and stop it. It’s going there. Riverview Law was small so we could move quickly and that had its advantages, but what we didn’t have were all the resources that EY has. It’s the best thing that we could have done with Riverview Law. For our people (and that was important), the career opportunities are mind-boggling. Our customers now have vast additional assets and resources available to them.
KC: No. It goes back to what I was saying earlier; you cannot have strategy/innovation in the hands of one person, it has to sit within a team it has to be part of the DNA of the leadership, the service delivery teams. Again, that’s why it’s important to have a diverse team. It’s also good to have an environment that allows ideas to be tested, so that people are comfortable (but not complacent) enough to express their view; that they won’t get beaten down by leaders or dominant personalities for doing so. There’s nothing worse than this. We’ve all suffered it too! MLM: It’s clear, even from our conversation; that all roads lead back to the customer. Is your customer base changing?
We were very disruptive at Riverview Law. EY has scale, and brand assurance. Combine the two and you have ‘safe disruption’. Suddenly that’s quite attractive for customers.
KC: Yes. Our customer is not just ‘legal’. We aren’t simply looking at ‘legal operations’ but ‘business operations’ and end-to-end solutions. On a contract, for example, you can’t have a digitised customer engagement experience and then hand over to an analogue legal process for different stages of the contract. You can’t stop the flow in and around legal. So our customer is not just the legal function. Pleasingly we’re also seeing a change in what the customer wants, especially the increasing desire for data – actionable data that tell stories. MLM: Is there anything different or challenging about working as part of EY a global entity? KC: Of course, but in a good way. We thought we knew what we were walking into but, good grief, we had no idea! Until you get inside an organisation like EY you don’t realise the sheer strength, capability and resources that exist; it’s quite incredible. All my experience has
“We were very disruptive at Riverview Law. EY has scale, and brand assurance. Combine the two and you have ‘safe disruption’. Suddenly that’s quite attractive for customers.” 23
We realised at Riverview Law, that we had a glass lid for our customers because of our size – we could only get contracts of a particular level. Just by EY acquiring us, the lid came off. Combining their safe, scale brand assurance with our service capability, technology and people has been very interesting. Safe disruption is now working well for both parties. I’m so pleased we did it - we’re having fun!
Karl Chapman is Strategic Advisor to EY Riverview Law
Editor: Karl very kindly shared EY Riverview Law’s latest video, which is definitely worth a watch to get a flavour of what the brand is doing. The video, ‘Can the corporate legal function become a business enabler?’ can be found here: rv-l.com/2GdKXQM.
GATEKEEPER AND CATALYST
Paul Greening, from the Legal Services Board, explains the oversight regulator’s role in a changing legal services market.
he Legal Services Board (LSB) as the oversight regulator for legal professionals in England and has a vision to help deliver legal services that everyone can access and trust. Since the LSB was established nearly ten years ago the legal services market has evolved significantly. New business structures for legal businesses have been developed and there are many alternative ways of delivering legal services including online. Another welcome development has been that a number of regulatory restrictions that could impede innovation have been removed. The LSB’s unique role means that it acts as both a catalyst for change as well as a gatekeeper for those changes and this article explains how we approach these two complimentary roles. The LSB as a gatekeeper The LSB oversees nine front-line regulators of legal services. These regulators must seek our approval to alter their regulatory arrangements. Since 2010, we have received over 130 applications. These have covered the full gambit of regulatory policies, including client care, education and training, insurance, disciplinary procedures and price transparency, to name but a few. The Legal Services Act presumes that since the regulators will have already assessed in full these rule changes we will approve such applications unless we have a good reason to refuse them. The reason we are most likely to refuse a change is that doing so would be prejudicial to the statutory objectives. Those objectives that most frequently come into consideration are those related to consumer and public interests; promoting competition; improving access to justice; and encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.
In making our decisions on rule changes, we ensure applications are comprehensive and that the regulators have considered all important issues and concerns, particularly those that have been raised in consultations. We must have sufficient information and evidence to be able to assess the likely impact of the proposed change, or the refusal criteria could be engaged. Our decision-making can involve balancing competing interests and concerns about how a change will impact on the regulatory objectives. One recent example is our approval of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) application in 2018 to overhaul its Handbook. This included groundbreaking changes which the SRA said would open up the market and therefore increase access. But the changes were also not without risk for some consumers. In making our decision we had to balance all the potential impacts, both good and potentially negative. We considered these matters and mitigations very carefully and extended the initial period of assessment to do so. In the end we approved the changes, but we were very clear that we wanted the SRA to monitor the impacts, and we will ensure that this happens. If it can be identified that the risks are materialising, we will ensure that the SRA responds accordingly. The LSB as a catalyst Sitting alongside, and complementing our gatekeeper role, is our desire to be a catalyst for change. We achieve this through our policy and advocacy work, supported by the research we do. The LSB has a range of published policy positions on issues that matter to legal services, such as education and training, price transparency, diversity and the standard of proof in disciplinary cases. One example is the report we published
which identified best practice in the approach to regulatory enforcement. This included a call for the universal adoption across all legal services regulators of the civil standard of proof for disciplinary cases. Following publication of this report and follow up work, we received and approved applications from the BSB and the Master of the Faculties to make rule change applications that brought in the civil standard of proof. A key focus for the LSB is to promote the interests of consumers. In this regard we supported the Competition and Markets Authority’s 2016 market study into legal services, contributing our own research and evidence base. Since the CMA published its report, which concluded that consumers need more information to help them navigate the legal services market so they can make informed decisions and choices, we have sought to hold the regulators to account by ensuring they make progress in implementing the CMA’s recommendations. During 2018 this resulted in three rule change applications being submitted to the LSB to bring in new transparency requirements. And finally… I hope that this high level explanation of how the LSB approaches and engages with developments in the sector is useful for those considering strategic and business planning in a changing legal services sector. For further information, our website includes all rule change applications and associated material. In addition, we will shortly be publishing our 2019/20 business plan.
Regulatory Policy Manager, The Legal Services Board.
GETTING READY FOR NEW STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS It’s four years ago since the SRA started on the journey of reviewing its current Handbook. At 600 pages, the SRA knew it was too long, too complex and too prescriptive, while also pushing up firms’ costs. Fast forward following engagement with 10,000s of people from the profession and beyond - the Legal Services Board has now approved the reforms. Jane Malcolm, from the SRA, explains.
ur current Handbook is set to be replaced by the new SRA Standards and Regulations.
Focus on high standards, getting rid of unnecessary rules The primary purpose is to make sure there is a sharp focus on high professional standards, while making it as easy for solicitors to offer legal services. We want the public to trust and have confidence in the profession. That means maintaining high standards and appropriate protections for users of legal services, while making sure people can access its expertise and services as easily as possible. Our new Standards and Regulations are around 130 pages longer - shorter, sharper and easier to navigate. This should make it easier to understand our expectations and avoid wasting solicitors’ time on trying to understand and then comply with complex rules. We have stripped out rules which we think are overly prescriptive and don’t benefit the public. This will give solicitors and law firms greater flexibility - we are putting more trust in your professional judgement as to how you meet the standards we set. Two separate codes We also now have two codes: one for solicitors and one for firms. A quarter of solicitors work in-house, but it was clear that too many were not engaging with the current code because they thought it was an issue for firms. Having a separate solicitor and firm code should help tackle that problem and make it clearer and easier to understand what we expect of solicitors, and what we expect from firms.
Keeping client money safe We have revamped our Account Rules in a similar spirit. The need for change was clear. With our old Account Rules, around half of firms who held client money were deemed to be in breach and needed to submit a qualified accountants report. Yet in nearly all cases these were technical breaches that had not put clients at genuine risk. So we focused on what matters: keeping client money safe, not how to run an accounts department. We have managed to reduce our Accounts Rules from more than 40 pages to less than ten. Again we have put more trust in a solicitors’ professional judgement, while keeping those rules that really make a difference in terms of keeping client money safe. For instance, the need to return client money as soon as solicitors has no need to keep it. Tackling money laundering Our Accounts Rules also still includes the requirement that law firms should never use client accounts as a banking facility. This rule protects clients but also makes sure firms are not leaving the door open for criminals to use solicitors’ credibility to launder money. The Account Rules are just one part of the picture. In particular, the Government’s 2017 regulations clearly set out what firms must do to make sure they tackle money laundering. That includes doing proper client due diligence and having a risk assessment in place. Some firms are complying, but too many are still not. This is not only about firms meeting their obligations and maintaining trust in the profession, but by stopping money launderers solicitors can help disrupt terrorists, drug dealers and people traffickers.
We will take strong action against firms who break our rules or who are not complying with the money laundering Regulations. Bedding in to the new approach Overall our changes, with a core focus on high standards, should make your life easier - giving you more flexibility on how you run your business and taking away anything that is a burden and not necessary to protect the public. And many of the core rules - including the ethical principles we expect all solicitors to adhere to - remain largely unchanged. Yet we recognise change can be daunting. So we are committed to providing extra support around the new codes. This will include things like guidance, case studies and checklists. It will focus on the grey areas where decision may not be clear cut. We will be publishing this support ahead of the implementation of the new Standards and Regulations. We have already published our proposed enforcement strategy and “topic guides” which demonstrate the approach we will take with certain potential misconduct. When will the new Standards and Regulations come in? Our Board needs to agree an implementation date. We will ensure everyone - including the profession - is prepared for the change, and opportunities it brings. Rest assured we will make sure we give you all sufficient time to prepare for the change.
is the Executive Director, External and Corporate Affairs at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
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Faster and Smarter
Rob Powell, The Legal Ombudsman, shares his experience and advice in strategic planning – from scheduling the process to ensuring it’s fit for purpose, and the market.
ne of the most important aspects of my role as Chief Executive of the Legal Ombudsman is working with our Board, the Office for Legal Complaints, to develop our plans to deliver the Board’s strategic objectives. We are now approaching the final year of our current three-year strategy that has focused on modernising our business, and putting in-place the right processes and infrastructure to provide consistently high quality service. From my experience in a number of organisations and sectors, there are a few key learning points I would like to share. Give yourself plenty of time by starting early. The quality of your plans improves the more time you give to thinking through key strategic questions and develop a robust understanding of your organisation’s strategic capabilities. It’s also vital to include time to think strategically about your future direction. Get the strategic ‘core’ right. The work of Richard Rumelt, which I highly recommend, says a good strategy is made up of three things: firstly, a clear diagnosis of the issues facing
you and the things you need to get right; secondly, a guiding policy which sets out how you will deal with the challenges you face; and finally, a coherent action plan that will allow you to implement the guiding policy. As with many of these things, it sounds obvious, but it’s essential to do it well. Understand your operating environment. We draw on a range of sources to inform our understanding of the sector: both future demand for our service, and factors that might impact us in the short to longer term. Who are your stakeholders? Our board, the LSB and MoJ are key stakeholders and we work hard to ensure they understand our progress, our challenges and how the business plan takes us forward. Prioritise your work. There is always a point in the planning process where you must balance what you want to achieve, against your financial and people resources. An understanding of the sector and what you need to achieve will help to sort out ‘essential’ activities from the ‘nice to haves’. Ownership of the plan. Strategic planning is an important part of my
role but ownership also lays with our board, which holds us to account, senior managers who are responsible for delivering plans and our staff who need to understand our overall plans, and how their work fits into it. Test and refine your plans. Before finalising your plans, test your assumptions against different scenarios, and assure yourself the plans are deliverable. Consider what mechanisms will work for your organisation. There is no right way to develop your long-term direction and plans, and lots of ways to do it. Hopefully some of these tips will resonate and help you.
is Chief Executive Officer at The Legal Ombudsman.
PROACTIVE AND COLLABORATIVE LAWYERING
t is fair to say that the legal industry is only just starting to understand the need to operate as a business rather than relying on reputation alone. As such, the profession has been slower than other industries to take advantage of technology that aids growth. More recently, law firms have seen a wave in disruptive legal technology and are starting to invest heavily to increase efficiency, reduce costs and mitigate risk.
Those firms who are seeing success are utilising innovative products that speed up the overall transaction by using automation in workflows, all to benefit the firm and their clients. For example, research outlines the importance of transparency throughout the process and clients being able to self-serve updates and monitor case progress through an online platform. Perfect Portal offers an innovative digital solution for law firms to increase business growth by maximising every opportunity and increases efficiency throughout the transaction.
Ultimately, the firms who will thrive in the future are the ones who employ the right technology, take advantage of every opportunity and proactively act on client needs by moving into an online approach that provides their clients with a better experience. The conveyancing industry has been slowing down over the years, so it is more important than ever before for firms to be more proactive and function as a business to be successful in today’s competitive market.
more online services, faster completions by using automation in workflows and providing clients’ access to self-serving platforms. In turn, enabling the clients to receive regular updates and monitor case progress at any time to provide transparency on timelines and fees. This is a prime opportunity for firms to evaluate their business and implement strategies that will help them remain relevant and grow in the evolutionary technology forward era.
The legal industry is far behind and slower than other industries when it comes to taking advantage of technology to grow the business. Over the last few years, the industry has seen a wave in disruptive legal technology and many law firms have started to invest heavily in tools to increase efficiency, reduce costs and mitigate risk. The firms who will thrive in the future are the ones who are proactive and collaborative in their approach to technology, moving from traditional ways of providing legal services. The future of legal innovation will include
is CEO & Founder of Perfect Portal.
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Defining a Generation
Partnering professionals need to be part of a solicitor’s strategic plan
How millennials are reshaping the conveyancing sector
On 7 February 2019, the SRA published the final new Handbook and Codes, citing an implementation date of ‘summer’ 2019. The target date is July but even if it is August, firms of solicitors now have five or six months to prepare a strategy to align their firm to the new ‘Principles’ based regulatory approach. This, combined with the new compulsory ‘Transparency’ rules surely invites some centralised thinking and strategy at management level.
There’s a wave of change happening within the conveyancing sector. From regulatory changes and technological advancements to a new generation of home movers and conveyancers, things are looking different in the industry. In a recent article from Valerie Holmes reflecting on the conveyancing sector, she made a point that really resonated with me: the industry is heading toward a skills shortage, specifically a shortage of conveyancers. On the cusp of a major shift for the industry attributed primarily to a new age workforce and the habits of the clients they are servicing, firms must employ the right tools to appeal to a new generation of conveyancer.
The regulator is keen that solicitors interact innovatively with other professionals to provide a more complete and holistic client approach. I would go as far as to suggest that in 2019, if you are not engaged with other professionals to ensure you offer a joined up approach to providing client solutions, then you will lose out to your peers and your profitability and client retention will suffer. Remember ‘acting in the client’s best interests’ is a core principle now and includes how you determine ongoing referral.
By 2020, millennials will form 50% of the global workforce, numbers also reflected by the modern home mover. The Financial Times reported first-time buyers made up 51% of the market in 2018, and the average first-time buyer is now 31. A generation synonymous with taking technology and rapid advancement in their stride will be influential in evolving both the consumer and business sides. So, how do firms address this new era?
Invite the financial planning and accountancy professionals you have carefully selected to work with and refer clients to, to be involved in your strategic planning. Both professions, by definition of the ongoing advisory nature of financial and tax planning, should have a better handle on strategy for ongoing client relationships. This is not a criticism of a solicitor’s business model per say but let’s face it, it is not easy for a family lawyer to contact a client - for whom the firm has recently handled a divorce - to offer to do so again!
It begins with millennials expectations in employment. As digital natives, millennials are early adopters of new technologies and implement these daily to make menial tasks more efficient. They’ve come to expect solutions facilitated by technology and carried those expectations into their work lives. The focus from firms must be on providing products and solutions that meet these expectations, for both millennial employees and customers.
Financial Planners in particular, due to huge changes in legislation and the way they are regulated, have transformed their businesses. The days of chasing the next new client are long gone and it is all about building relationships with the existing clients and providing a long lasting and meaningful ongoing service around a mutually agreed reviewable financial plan.
In a procedure heavy industry like conveyancing, great technology can mitigate many frustrations that arise from inefficient processes and make the industry more attractive to a new generation of conveyancers. A recent report from the SRA has recognised that artificial intelligence will not replace staff in firms, but instead free up solicitors’ time to focus on the more enjoyable aspects of their role; guiding people through the biggest, and often most stressful, purchase of their lives.
When you have identified the financial advisory partners for your firm (those that have the correct experience and qualifications to complement your services), do not be afraid to invite them to assist you in strategically positioning that relationship with your clients. They will certainly be able to assist you to describe how working with them differentiates your approach to other solicitors and, I suspect, support the ongoing marketing of your new enlightened attitude to your clients.
The enjoyment of using said technologies doesn’t end with the solicitor. The benefits can also be experienced by the end user, the home mover. Providing access to complete compulsory home-moving forms via an online portal will exponentially improve the client experience. When everything else they do is accessible online, they don’t want to wait to action elements of their home moving process by post. And that is just one example. There are many areas of conveyancing that can be improved by the introduction of technology.
This is so crucial when consumers, the SRA insists, increasingly want to compare and contrast providers of legal services before selecting one. Make sure you use the new ‘Transparency and Fixed Price’ rules as an opportunity to truly show your approach to clients’ affairs in the best possible light.
Millennials are already the majority of first-time buyers and soon to be the majority of our workforce. They will utilise technology to their advantage to better communicate and build relationships with their customers. There will always be a place for human-to-human service; it’s about harnessing technology to better facilitate more time to achieve it. Providing this generation with the right tools to generate positive user and customer experiences will ensure the skill of conveyancing is not a lost art and overall align the home moving process with the digital age.
“When you have identified the financial advisory partners for your firm…do not be afraid to invite them to assist you in strategically positioning that relationship with your clients.” 29
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is the Managing Director at Blue Car Technologies Limited.
is the Marketing Manager at Geodesys - part of the Anglian Water Group.
Partner up Just as a law firm uses an established accountant to do its accounts, law firms must also understand the benefits that can be gained by partnering with specialist IT and technology companies from a strategic planning perspective.
The benefits of fostering long-term business partnerships Finding that perfect fit where both businesses benefit from a symbiotic relationship requires hard work and care, especially at the initial stages of the relationship. Nevertheless, there is value in nurturing these connections, as long-term business partnerships are only able to stand the test of time if they are built on a good foundation. In a competitive industry such as conveyancing, where we have been operating for over 20 years, relationships are key. We have identified a few ways to help business connections flourish.
Crucial to any law firm’s strategy is implementing new technological practices both uniformly and effectively. It is increasingly important for lawyers to be ‘tech-literate’ so that they can adapt to utilise the benefits of ever-changing technologies. It is evident that technology has strengthened its grip on the legal industry. In one study 63 % of paralegals admitted that technology had replaced some of their manual tasks and a staggering 93% of them describe their reliance on technology as ‘essential’. Just as law firms keep their own clients up to date with the latest developments in the law and the business world, so too can technology companies keep law firms up to date with the latest technological developments.
In our experience, honest and constant communication is vital from the onset of any relationships you form. Both business partners need to express their expectations of working together, as well as being upfront about their goals and the way in which they work best. While there may be some growing pains in the beginning, offering open feedback and remaining adaptable to changing needs will ensure that both parties play off each other’s strengths. Together they will have a competitive advantage over other players in the market.
Another factor that can hold back a law firm’s strategy is the use of old and out of date technology. Many law firms have old legacy systems that become increasingly cumbersome and expensive to use and maintain. The resources needed to maintain these systems in-house can prove a costly financial burden (diverting important resources from elsewhere) and there is always the risk that members of staff could leave and take important system knowledge with them. A far better option is to work in conjunction with a specialist technology company who understand the legal sector as well as the bespoke requirements. Such a company would have the resources to build and maintain a new bespoke system complete with the latest technologies.
Trust and expertise are also important to a healthy strategic partnership. For instance, in our industry, conveyancers are under a lot of pressure to constantly improve the service they offer to customers, whether that is in terms of price transparency or the speed at which it operates. With that in mind, conveyancers will look to partner with providers that have a good understanding of their client base and offer a high-quality service – ranging from fast turnaround times to the provision of additional support services that enable firms to work more efficiently. Being able to trust in the quality of the provider’s service will not only improve their offering to the customer, it will also free up some of their time to focus on their primary role of conveyancing.
Individual law firms also have a financial incentive to invest in these new technologies because their rivals already are. The investment in the so-called ‘legal tech’ area of technology has boomed in recent years; last year it topped $1 billion1. Again, using a specialist technology partner who has access to the latest technologies and highly skilled professionals would help the law firm stay current and competitive.
While the process of finding and growing a relationship with a business partner will require some resource investment, we have seen the incredible value these collaborations bring to conveyancers. If you are in the process of looking for a supplier to enhance your service, keep in mind the importance of honest communication, make sure your partner has a record of trustworthiness and focus on the experience and expertise they can bring to the table.
“A far better option is to work in conjunction with a specialist technology company who understand the legal sector as well as the bespoke requirements.”
“While the process of finding and growing a relationship with a business partner will require some resource investment, we have seen the incredible value these collaborations bring to conveyancers.” 1
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is the founder & CEO at VFS Legal.
is the Joint Managing Director at Silverman Advisory.
Strategy and WIP or Strategy – business planning which will secure a in legal services funding lifeline? What are the greatest challenges to business success in terms of strategy flaws (or a firm’s approach to strategy)?
What today’s lenders are really looking for Not that many years ago, solicitors were regarded as a safe bet by lenders who saw them as part of a solid, comfortable profession. Cautious by nature, they were borrowers whom could always be relied upon to honour commitments presenting a low risk proposition. Subsequently, more often than not, overdrafts were extended and term loans granted without much fuss.
Many law firms are approaching the end of their financial year, and this is often a time when business development and management teams start to think ahead and draw up strategies for attracting more work, bigger and better clients or to improve their profile in an important practice area.
How times have changed. Following some well-publicised spectacular law firm failures and a number of firms quietly merging so as to avoid being swapped by debt, lenders’ appetite for unsecured lending to lawyers has been fast on the wane.
Creating a solid strategy is more important than ever as law firms are under increasing pressures - for example, challenges from accountants rapidly expanding their alternative legal offering and technological advancements such as smart contracts. And that’s even before we mention the ‘B’ word and how the UK’s exit from the European Union will impact law firms and business more generally. Advancements and changes to the market means lawyers have to look at their strategies more closely than ever and ensure they are future-proof.
Consequently lawyers, just like any other borrowers, need to demonstrate fiscal competence and a clear ability to both service and repay borrowings whether sought as working capital or to bridge VAT or partners’ tax bills. Simply presenting a lender a printout with a high level of work in progress is unlikely to lead to an approval to advance funds. The fear is that if you’re done that much for clients yet haven’t billed any of it, it’s simply not viable collateral; after all, how much would you pay for a half-baked loaf?
Strategic planning is a good business practice and creates a blueprint for the firm’s year ahead. However, why I have seen carefully planned strategies fail time and time again is down to a simple reason – poor cashflow. This means it is difficult, if not impossible, to implement these plans. Growth strategies usually include expenditure such as investing more in profile raising exercises, e.g. PR, digital marketing or sponsoring and hosting events. Therefore, prudent financial management should be the cornerstone of any strategy – but often this gets overlooked.
The reality in many cases is that the booked WIP as generated by the firm’s time recording system is unlikely ever to convert precisely into chargeable fees and banks know that. Similarly, the figure shown for practice debtors tends to be looked at with an equal degree of cynicism once uncollected debts reach 90 days. To succeed in securing funds a practice should evidence robust figures identifying a proven record of managing WIP and debtors, plus a record of converting bills into cash between seven to 30 days.
Due to the very nature of how law firms operate, a changeable cashflow is imperative. Firms are usually waiting for around four months to get paid and this delay can hamper planning and investment in the future.
Even this alone is unlikely on its own to be enough today. It’s likely you’ll need a credible plan for the future, detailing a clear strategy directing a route to improved efficiency, enhanced profitability, and stronger turnover.
We are, however, seeing more law firms utilising financial instruments such as a Costs Advance Facility to help smooth their cashflow, and even out any seasonal peaks and troughs caused by periods such as the Christmas slowdown. Using a funding solution that can release the cash tied up in cases where there is an admission of liability or judgement - including multi-defendant cases - is an extremely costeffective method of releasing cash.
Combine this with showing strong and sound management skills; in today’s market no lender in the land is going to advance money without a high degree of confidence in the borrower, mere professional status combined with historic success are no longer sufficient. All borrowers are expected to demonstrate commercial competence, articulating a strong vision for the future whilst showing they know what it takes to run a successful business.
A smooth cashflow gives firms the financial muscle they need to implement a strong strategy for the year ahead.
Why should law firms expect to be treated any differently?
“Using a funding solution that can release the cash tied up in cases where there is an admission of liability or judgement - including multi-defendant cases - is an extremely costeffective method of releasing cash.”
“…In today’s market no lender in the land is going to advance money without a high degree of confidence in the borrower, mere professional status combined with historic success are no longer sufficient.” 33
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is the Managing Director at Frenkel Topping.
is a Professor in Law and Psychology at Birmingham City University
Best Interest Advice
Lead the way How can legal services managers be resilient and strategic?
When an individual is involved in an accident and experiences a personal injury or life-changing consequences, it is vital that they get the right advice to secure their financial future, both in the immediate aftermath and the long term, as Mark Holt explains.
Many lawyers experience stress at work and think that their employer could do more in relation to addressing their mental health, and raise the profile of the wellbeing agenda. Increasing resilience in your organisation at personal, managerial and organisational levels is key to achieving this.
In personal injury law, matters are often complex, involve a number of different parties and must take into account the specific circumstances of each individual, which will be different in every case.
At whatever level of the law firm or legal services, a ‘strategic’ manager has at least five main roles to encourage resilience in their colleagues. He/she, by comments, directions and plans, provides a working environment or culture that stimulates lawyers to perform consistently at their peak. In so doing, he/she must behave and act in a way that develops strong positive attitudes towards him as a manager. He/she must provide – and this isn’t difficult – exposure to challenging and varied events at work, which individuals can rise to, cope with and grow, providing experiences that can increase their ability and confidence. This type of positive resilient culture can, over time, prevent adverse events at work in the first place.
There is always one common theme: all involved parties should take decisions collaboratively and always based on the best interests of the claimant. Our long experience shows that collaboration and open communication are key to delivering the best possible outcome. Only independent financial advisers who have a proven pedigree within this specialist industry are properly equipped to handle all aspects of the case and support the legal team, protecting the lawyer through giving the right advice based on years of learning, and upholding the claimant’s interests for the best possible outcome. IFAs will offer a range of value-added services to support and protect the claimant’s legal team:
The fifth role is to provide training and development opportunities for individuals to strengthen their personal resilience and understand their contribution to organisational resilience.
Schedule of losses backed by expert advice A specialist IFA will work with lawyers and their clients to calculate the earning potential as well as the financial losses for people who have suffered a serious accident or life changing event, providing expert advice on whether a lump sum settlement or a schedule of payments is most suited to the claimant’s needs – or a blend of both approaches. This blended approach could meet both immediate care and accommodation needs, while also shoring up the individual’s financial future. l
Resilience at managerial, personal and organisational levels are all part of a Wellbeing and Performance Agenda that all legal services should explicitly have – a ‘shared responsibility for this contributes to the future success of the organisation’1. Adopting this ‘psychological responsibility’ as a manager, requires the ability to reflect on experience and have support from one or more colleagues around them to undertake this reflective learning.
Expert witness reports to protect the lawyer The IFA should also provide empirical, evidence-backed reports to help secure maximum damages and devise a financial plan that maximises the claim, also acting as an expert witness as required. l
Senior managers, like all employees, need the ability to feel calm and practice positive thinking about their own performance and preparation for the day ahead. If the manager inspires, then staff become inspired – the power of encouragement, inspiration and positive thinking has no boundaries. Supporting resilience and wellbeing in the workplace is key to organisational success.
l A Digital integration through a joint-venture approach to technology Systems integration between the legal and advisory parties involved, cuts administration, delivering a seamless process and allowing complete visibility of all transactions. At Frenkel Topping, we have invested heavily in consolidating operating systems and implementing a single cloud-based specialist customer relationship management (CRM) system to the benefit of all parties.
In your next meeting, after reading this, consider what actual communication skills you use routinely to illustrate your resilience at work. The ‘micro-skills’ of happy and positive facial expressions, clear and inspiring statements, reinforcing and agreeing with others’ comments, understanding uncertainty and providing supportive follow-up statements are part of the micro-skills of effective resilient communication which encourage organisational success and wellbeing in legal services.
True whole of market offer Professional IFAs will not only offer the best solution based on a whole of market approach, but will continue the relationship in the long-term, supporting the claimant and their deputy where appropriate throughout the fund management lifetime to advise on and secure the individual’s long-term financial investment. l
‘If I could only take one record (or resilience step) to my desert island…’ - send all your colleagues a positive and grateful email today! Watch your organisation grow.
“If the manager inspires, then staff become inspired – the power of encouragement, inspiration and positive thinking has no boundaries.” 1
“This level of transparency is increasingly sought by legal teams to streamline communication, remove delays and help bring the process to conclusion.”
Derek Mowbray, mas.org.uk
At HK Associates we provide a comprehensive and independent psychological and orthopaedic reporting service throughout the UK as well as access to a psychological treatment service. Services are provided within the context of personal injury, employment injury, stress and chronic absence management, clinical negligence, Neuropsychology and chronic pain. Adults and children are seen within four to six weeks of instruction at any of our 158 clinics across the UK and the report provided withintwo weeks. The ‘Find an Expert’ facility on our website allows three experts to be located immediately.
GROUND FLOOR, FESTIVAL HOUSE, JESSOP AVENUE, CHELTENHAM GL50 3SH Phone: 01242 263715 email: enquiries @hughkochassociates.co.uk Web: www.hughkochassociates.co.uk
Intelligent Legal Research Cases from 1163 | Legislation from 1235
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is a Senior Consultant and
is Managing Director of JMC Legal Recruitment.
Costs Lawyer at Burcher Jennings.
Focus the mind
How can you add value to your legal practice using external strategic advisors or experienced ‘leaders’ in law?
Love them or loathe them, a business plan should be embraced by every business, whether you employ 30 or just two employees. There are endless books, websites and resources that describe what makes the ‘perfect’ business plan - if such a thing actually exists.
Over the years I have witnessed several firms employing external consultants with the aim of revolutionising their business or simply becoming more efficient. I wish I could say this has always resulted in resounding success!
II remember when I first started JMC Legal Recruitment, I must admit I remember feeling totally overwhelmed when first sitting down in front of my computer, with the flashing cursor in MS Word staring at me, inviting me to start typing. I hit a blank.
All too frequently there is poor engagement and suspicion from the workforce, or a consultant with insufficient handson experience in the legal sector to understand the results of their research, yet use this to inform beneficial actions.
After some hard work I put together a business plan which I felt encompassed the first 12 and 24 months, filled with details about funding, growth, potential risks, market analysis and research. However, after the first six months the company had already out-achieved what I had projected at the end of 24 months. Was this success down to the planning in those early days or was it not, considering we had gone above and beyond even my expectations?
One such firm in mind undoubtedly paid a king’s ransom for a consultant who suggested it was more cost effective to lose an administrative support team; transferring their role of dealing with post settlement costs administration in personal injury actions to the fee earners. This had a dramatic and negative effect on realisation rates and chargeable time, since the fee earners were spending far more time than their support team colleagues, with every minute spent eating into their valuable fee earning time. Suffice it to say this was something I reversed very quickly for this firm, since it was far more economic for this function to be performed by trained support staff; allowing fee earners to fee earn! Realisation rates and chargeable time were quickly restored!
However, the business plan did allow me time away from the office and the madness of day-to-day business to consider, think and digest aspects of the business that I would not normally have thought of in the thrust of everyday work. I now (as a matter of course) write a business plan once a year, outlining several factors. I then take time out of the office once a quarter to review where the business is compared to that plan. I do not personally feel a business plan should be a document that you so rigidly stick to that it can hinder you, and potentially close off your mind to other business opportunities that may present themselves over time.
I speak with some experience since my day job is providing consultancy and training to law firms, based on over 35 years experience as a lawyer and law firm partner. One of the exercises I carry out when training is to get fee earners to rate their colleagues for the skill that is the subject of my training. There is usually a consensus about who is the best, yet this best practice is seldom celebrated and, more importantly, seldom shared. Law firms are often poor at identifying both good and bad practice as everyone is too busy and consequently operating within their silos.
Once completed, I then leave mine in the drawer and refer to it every few weeks. A good business plan not only helps entrepreneurs to focus on the specific steps necessary for their business ideas to succeed, it should also help them to achieve their short-term and long-term objectives.
Targeting bad practice and using the example of good practice that may already exist within your firm is a simple and effective approach to resolve many problems. It is certainly a great springboard from which to introduce new practices, implemented through sound collaboration with an external consultant. This approach has served me well when successfully implementing firm-wide, cultural shifts in practice, such as LEXCEL accreditation and law firm pricing. Leading by example demonstrates tangible benefits, which is great for change.
I think planning is key for any business to grow, but also considers (and I say considering and not over-thinking or even worse, worrying) the worst-case scenario. Involving key members of staff in business planning is key, I believe, and collaborative breeds innovation.
“All too frequently there is poor engagement and suspicion from the workforce, or a consultant with insufficient hands-on experience in the legal sector to understand the results of their research, yet use this to inform beneficial actions.”
“A good business plan not only helps entrepreneurs to focus on the specific steps necessary for their business ideas to succeed, it should also help them to achieve their shortterm and long-term objectives.” 37
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is the Marketing Director at DocsCorp.
is the Marketing Director at
How to make your AI strategy more intelligent
Don’t be a target Money laundering is on the rise, and while it is difficult to put a number on the amount of money that is laundered through the UK every year, recent estimates from the FSA puts the figure at around £60billion. One of the key targets for those looking to clean their dirty cash are law firms, but the number of Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) the NCA received from lawyers fell by 10% last year. This caused Donald Toon, Director of Economic and Cybercrime at the National Crime Agency (NCA), to question whether lawyers were taking their obligations seriously enough.
Melody Easton explains why OCR is the three-letter password every firm needs to unlock the full potential of AI. If Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t part of your technology strategy, there’s no question it soon will be. In the 2018 ILTA Tech Survey 100% of the largest law firms (700 employees or more) said they were pursuing AI and Machine Learning (ML) projects. A third of these firms said they already had one or more AI/ML tools in production.
So what is your law firm doing to prevent money laundering? Under the Money Laundering Regulations, regulated law firms must undertake customer due diligence - not only to verify the identity of their clients, but also the beneficial owners and the nature of business transactions including the source of the funds. This is because where a PEP or sanctioned individual is looking to make a financial transaction, they will do it through an intermediary business or contact, so it is imperative to identify the true beneficiary of the transaction to ensure the funds are legitimate.
Certainly, larger firms have more bandwidth to explore and invest in AI. The ROI from AI is often more obvious because of the firm’s huge data reserves. The more information AI can mine, the more intelligent it can become. Yet, even large firms with large technology budgets may struggle to unlock the full potential of AI because they neglect its foundation: data searchability. For AI to reach its full potential, all the content in your document and practice management systems must be searchable. But our research shows that up to 30% of a content repository may be invisible to search.
If your firm is not undertaking proper checks, you will be a target. So what can you do? Well, it is no secret that undertaking money laundering checks is a time consuming and expensive process. Not to mention the fact that fake documents are now so sophisticated, that even if you do meet clients faceto-face and they produce identification such as passports, driving licences (etc.), you still cannot be 100% sure they are who they say they are.
This information black hole is made up of scanned documents and other image-based files in a firm’s system that go dark because they don’t have the text layer needed for search technology.
The only way you can be certain that your checks are compliant is by using an electronic money laundering checking system, like SmartSearch.
In order to capture the information in these files, firms need to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. OCR technology recognizes text in an image-based file and converts it to a text-searchable PDF.
Our award winning system allows law firms to do a ‘SmartSearch’ - a way of doing all their anti-money laundering checks in one place. A ‘SmartSearch’ check negates the need for manual checks, therefore saving time and money. By doing a SmartSearch, law firms have the peace of mind that, not only are they complying to AML regulations, but that they are doing it in the most accurate and efficient way.
OCR and AI should work hand-in hand. OCR technology to convert image files into text-searchable PDFs and AI tools to build the information into intelligent systems. Don’t let non-searchable data be a stumbling block for AI. OCR technology can give your strategy the legs it needs to go the distance.
While electronic verification is not obligatory, yet, the 5th Money Laundering Directive stipulates that electronic checks should be done where possible, so it is only a matter of time before electronic checks become compulsory. What are you waiting for? It’s time to start SmartSearching.
“For AI to reach its full potential, all the content in your document and practice management systems must be searchable. But our research shows that up to 30% of a content repository may be invisible to search.”
“If your firm is not undertaking proper checks, you will be a target.” 39
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Dr Matthew Terrell
is the Business Development Executive at Unoccupied Direct.
is Head of Marketing at Justis.
Strategic partnerships build greater rewards
How can you work strategically with other businesses to enhance your offering? Working with external organisations can enhance your offering and keep your customers happy for many years to come. After all, your customers should be at the centre of almost every strategic decision that concerns your core offering.
It can be difficult as a solicitor to provide such a broad range of services as required by clients, and turning to other businesses for help with certain processes can bring greater efficiency to managing tasks that don’t require a solicitor’s time.
However, will working with other businesses enhance your current offer, and what steps should you take to ensure it’s a successful long-term relationship? These are just a few of many questions to consider before rushing into any new ventures.
As such, we work strategically with law firms and private client solicitors, as well as organisations such as STEP, SFE, professional conferences and various regional law societies, to make sure solicitors can be sure their clients’ estates get the protection that they need during difficult times.
In practice, working with other business can extend from collaboration with other firms, working with start-ups, and even vendors – as buying a new service should be approached with as much detailed consideration to understand its impact on your core offering.
We value great relationships with everyone we work with, to really build trust and establish long-lasting relationships with our clients, so that solicitors know that they can turn to us in difficult situations, and that direct clients feel they can come to us for peace of mind regarding what can often be the largest part of an estate.
My initial advice is to not rush. You are in this for the longterm and need to ensure that this new venture is a good fit. Take time to consider the logistics, impact on customers and return on investment. Secondly, allocate a person to lead this change. Ensure they have the time to do this so that other projects are not compromised. This person will act as an anchor, keeping the project grounded, moving in the right direction and on a suitable time scale.
We’ve gone out of the norm of insurance companies to actually tailor our product to our clientele, such as no inspection requirements and only asking for four key pieces of information about the property to be insured. We don’t ask 20 questions to provide a quote!
Importantly, don’t be afraid to let go of a bad idea or proposal. If you find at any stage that the collaboration isn’t getting the internal traction needed, or the figures simply don’t add up, acknowledge it is not the right time and move on.
Our credit account for solicitors is currently utilised by many leading firms, enabling solicitors to quickly and easily put their probate clients’ properties onto cover using one provider. Plus, you can generate a quote yourself, thanks to our quotation process being so uncomplicated, and obtain insurance on behalf of your clients within minutes.
If after careful consideration everything looks good on paper, then move towards developing a business case with the external business or vendor. Working with them is an important part of the process. Set up a trial period with parameters that safeguarded your customers, so that you can gather data over a few weeks or months to fully understand if this will truly enhance your core offering.
We’re a close-knit team who are experienced in speaking with people who have just lost a parent and are sorting out insurance for a newly-unoccupied home, elderly people moving into care, or solicitors with a lot on their plate. We consistently receive outstanding feedback from those we work with regarding our specialist executives.
Lastly, take this data to your customers. They will be the ultimate test and voice of reason as to whether the core offering has been enhanced.
We also offer complete transparency – our documents are available to download in full on our website, so you can read through all of our covers and what we do and don’t cover in depth, before you take out a policy with us. Plus, we’re fully FCA compliant, delivering our financial services to the highest standard.
For any new venture, collaboration or when purchasing a new service approached each methodologically. Take time to consider safeguarding your current clients and gather enough data to ensure that the final decision is right for the company, you and your customers.
I’m always happy to meet with solicitors to better explain our product and services, and build a strong working relationship that can benefit your business going forward.
“My initial advice is to not rush. You are in this for the long-term and need to ensure that this new venture is a good fit.” 41
is the Senior ATE Underwriter at AmTrust Law
is the Tax Director at Griffiths Allen.
Dispute resolution and strategic planning
Adding value How can you add value to your legal practice using external strategic advisors?
What outside entities should / can complement a dispute resolution department’s strategic planning process?
The term ‘not to miss a trick’ generally refers to a person who always knows what’s happening and takes advantage of a situation or someone who never fails to take advantage of a situation.
Legal expenses insurers and intermediaries may be one good example. Dispute resolution is a complex area. Although each claim is unique on its facts, there are aspects common to dealing with all of them and practitioners can benefit from having clear consistent and systematic strategies on these. Working with legal expenses insurers and intermediaries who are involved in the same process can complement and aid a practitioner’s planning and enhance their offering to a client.
Are you missing a trick to add value to your legal practice by not appointing an external SDLT advisor? The Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) landscape is changing rapidly but we have noticed that some practices are not keeping up with the changes, preferring instead to carve SDLT guidance out of their customer care letter, yet still completing and filing the SDLT return as part of their conveyancing service. If the transaction is not straightforward, this leaves the client frantically ringing around the profession, including competitors, trying to find an answer to their quandary. This leaves them stressed and generally unsatisfied with the conveyancing services even when the rest of the work undertaken is of a very high standard.
In a recent article, we discussed the potential benefit to be had by liaising with the legal expenses and funding industries on the provision of information on costs and available options, but the scope for collaborative working extends further. Practitioners will be advising on the merits of the claim, its ‘highs’ and its ‘lows’ and on case commercials. How much is the claim worth? Is the opponent good for it? What will it cost to run, and will that be proportionate? What is the extent of the adverse costs risk should the claim fail? These points are all central to any application for after the event legal expenses cover. In developing good working relationships between disciplines, there should be scope for streamlining and reducing or eliminating the need for duplication of effort on the part of the practitioner.
It is generally understood that word of mouth recommendations account for the majority of returning clients. We won’t dwell on the consequential negative reviews left about conveyancing firms online when the perception by the client is that things have not gone smoothly, even though in reality they have. With further SDLT changes expected in the future for nonUK resident purchasers, and the shortening of the SDLT filing and payment period to 14 days with effect from 1 March 2019, could this be the perfect time to ask yourself five simple questions:
A first step may be in developing an increased understanding of which cases would be suitable for cover, what information and ‘numbers’ insurers need to see, a good time to submit an application, and the likely time scale for a decision. Timing is generally dependant on the information provided and so clarity on what is needed is very important (and can be factored into the practitioner’s process). What is required will often be less than may be envisaged, with an emphasis being on main issues in summary, a reasoned legal view, and specific information on case commercials.
1. Should we now embrace the SDLT regime rather than trying to avoid it? 2. Is this the perfect time to add valuable SDLT guidance to our conveyancing service? 3. Would offering this valuable SDLT guidance set us apart from our competitors?
As a case continues, familiarity with general policy terms and reporting provisions and the ability to pick up the phone to a case manager should also assist the practitioner and save time. Similarly, prior knowledge of potential options if security becomes an issue, and of how the claims process would work, either at the conclusion of a matter or on an interim basis, should also add to a practitioner’s armoury when dealing with a threatened application or an upcoming hearing.
4. Are our clients going to be much happier in the knowledge that our service is exceptional? 5. Will this exceptional service increase repeat business, referrals and turnover? If the answer to these five questions is a resounding ‘yes’ then it’s time to appoint a strategic advisor to assist the conveyancing team with general SDLT compliance and advisory services. This appointment is sure to empower the conveyancing team, reduce litigation risk, keep PI premiums to a manageable level, result in more repeat business and referrals and reduce the number of those dreaded negative online reviews.
Communication is key, and where practitioners and insurers are able to tag or dovetail their requirements and processes there should be scope for increased efficiency all round.
“Working with legal expenses insurers and intermediaries who are involved in the same process can complement and aid a practitioner’s planning and enhance their offering to a client.”
“Are you missing a trick to add value to your legal practice by not appointing an external SDLT advisor?” 43
Winners of the Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Awards 2019
Emma Waddingham, Editor, opened the awards ceremony
Comedian Rod Woodward, our host for the evening
The Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Awards 2019 Emma Waddingham, Editor, Modern Law, reports on the Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Awards 2019, which celebrate visionaries, disrupters and those excelling in the business of law. The Eclipse Proclaim Modern Law Awards 2019 took place on the 31st January at the rather fantastic Victoria warehouse in Manchester. The soldout event hosted legal professionals, academics, affiliated professionals and journalists in a spectacular fairground – complete with dodgems, candyfloss fairground games and entertainers. It was a night unlike no other!
Chambers; Chris Bull, Executive Director, Kingsmead Square, Shawnna Hoffman, Global Cognitive Legal Co-Leader, IBM; Karl Chapman, Strategic Advisor, EY Riverview Law; Jane Keir, Partner, Kingsley Napley LLP; Simon Davis, Vice President, The Law Society; Tracey Calvert, Director, Oakalls Consultancy; John Hyde, Reporter, The Law Society Gazette; Cordella Bart Stewart, Stewart & Co Solicitors; Malcolm Mackay, Chairman, United Employment Lawyers; Carol Aldridge, Head of Knowledge Management, Burges Salmon; Sharon Blackman, Director & Deputy General Counsel (non-US) EMEA, Head of FXLM Legal, Citi; Professor Thom Brooks, Dean of Durham Law School, Chair in Law & Government; Abby Ewen, IT Director, BLM LLP; Gerry Riskin, Founder, Edge International; Clare Wardle, General Counsel & Company Secretary, Coca-Cola European Partners; Matt Meyer, Chief Executive Officer, Taylor Vinters; Katharine Newton, Barrister, Old Square Chambers; Adrian Jewitt, Associate Director of Marketing & Business Development, Leigh Day; Sally Penni, Barrister, LawKenworthys Chambers / Founder of Women in the Law UK, VC Association of Women Barristers; Nik Ellis, Managing Director, Laird Assessors. We are truly grateful for their dedication, time and expertise in the judging process.
We are eternally grateful to our continued headline sponsor, Eclipse Proclaim, supporters of our awards for excellence in legal services and the business of law. These were our sixth annual awards and the caliber of the entertainment, our award submissions and winners is increasingly impressive. A round of applause also goes to Conscious for hosting the lively and glamourous champagne reception that kick-started the evening and made us forget about the snow! The judging panel, led by our first female Chair Judge Laura Fisher of gunnercooke, and Vice-Chair Judge Michael Napier CBE QC, were staggered by the initiatives, leaders and visionaries that entered this year. Thank you to all those who took the time to submit an application, not only is it an honour to celebrate those who are bold enough to be different and take risks in the market, it’s essential.
After a three-course dinner, guests were treated to the first class and impeccably timed comedic japes of our host, Rod Woodward. Rod went above and beyond, providing clever and fresh comedy for our guests and announced the awards throughout the night.
In an age where it’s increasingly on trend to be apathetic, critical or pump fake news into the market, awards like these are essential to inject positivity, inspire and celebrate those who ensure UK legal services stay relevant and of value. Each and every one of our shortlisted firms and individuals and those named highly commended and winners on the night truly deserve their place in the spotlight.
The main attraction (aside from the dodgems) – the awards - opened with ABS of the Year. Our greatest congratulations to Cleveland & Co Associates Limited on winning this criteria, dominated by impressive ABS leaders. The Law Firm of the Year award quickly followed. Anthony Collins Solicitors collected its well-deserved award. We caught up with Peter Hubbard after the event to see what makes him tick in our regular feature, 10 Mins with… (Page 62.)
Our greatest thanks to our eminent Judging Panel: Chair Judge Laura Fisher; Vice-Chair Judge Michael Napier CBE QC; Janvi Patel Chairwoman / Founder, Halebury; Miranda Brawn, Founder & CEO, The Miranda Brawn Diversity Leadership Foundation; Tony Fisher, Senior Partner, Fisher Jones Greenwood; Dr Leslie Thomas QC, Barrister Joint Head of Garden Court
The winners of the Best Use of Technology Award, Weightmans LLP
Brie Stevens-Hoare QC, from Hardwicke, Barrister of the Year
“It’s just fantastic. We work really hard for our clients and aim to make a difference in our market so it’s just fantastic to have this kind of recognition.” – Croftons Solicitors.
Boutique Law Firm of the Year (1-10 employees) was awarded to TMP Solicitors LLP while Croftons Solicitors LLP picked up Boutique Law Firm of the Year (11+ employees). This is a growth aware in terms of submissions at the Modern Law Awards – quite possibly a reflection of boutique success and growth in the market. In-house Legal Team of the year went to the ever-impressive National Grid. Congratulations to 1 Crown Office Row for collecting the coveted Chambers of the Year award, with Hardwick and Wilberforce Chambers named as highly commended.
Congratulations to Rebecca Carr and Lottie Hume from Duncan Lewis Solicitors who were respectfully named as winner and highly commended in the Paralegal of the Year award and to Lily-Rose Scargill, Lewis Silkin LLP who was also highly commended in this category. Catherine Hartland, Newbold Solicitors collected Managing Partner of the Year award while Shimon Goldwater from Asserson, pipped other new talent to the post to receive our Rising Star of the Year award. Lawyer of the Year award went to Julie Davis at LCF Residential, and Brie Stevens-Hoare QC from Hardwick, was named Barrister of the Year. We’re looking forward to following the continued success of their careers and hope to speak to many in future issues of Modern Law.
Our Client Care Initiative of the Year Award submissions were all supported by effective big data analysis this year, giving rise to captivating and evidence-based submissions. Congratulations to this year’s client care initiative winner, Instalaw Solicitors!
Outstanding & Lifetime Achievement
The Modern Law Awards could not pass without taking the time to celebrate and mark the impact of two significant individuals and their work for and in the legal sector. The following two ‘judges’ choice’ awards were announced on the night.
Supporting the industry – the leaders
The Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to Karon Monaghan QC, Matrix Chambers for her work acting for the plumber and heating engineer Gary Smith in the Supreme Court.
There are also a number of experts and consultants that deserve to be celebrated so I’m delighted to announce that Trevor Gilbert & Associates won Supporting the Industry (1-25 employees), and CILEx Law School collected the award for Supporting the Industry (26+ employees).
While the businesses housing our individual talented award-winners should also be praised for cultivating talent and nominating their stars for these awards, the night also recognised those responsible for training initiatives – namely winners High Court Enforcement Group Limited and the highly commended Ramsdens Solicitors LLP.
Michael Napier CBE QC then hushed the celebratory crowd to call a great man, influence and ‘grandfather’ of the modern legal industry to the stage for the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was the Judging Panel’s great pleasure and privilege to present the award to Rodger Pannone. Rodger was on of the four founding members of APIL, President of the Law Society of England & Wales in 1993/1994, and senior partner of Pannone LLP for many years until his retirement, although he is now a consultant. Rodger was chairman of the College of Law, Manchester University, Forensic Science Services and Renovo Plc and is currently on the board of Co-operative Legal Services. He has been a member of the Supreme Court Rule Committee and the solicitor member of the Lord Chancellor’s Committee on Civil Justice. He has received a number of awards, including honorary doctorates from Manchester University and the College of Law and is the deputy lieutenant of Greater Manchester. We encourage the next generation of lawyer to take stock of the impact of his life’s work and achievements and be inspired. Our thanks to Michael Napier for presenting the award and draft a fitting speech to his peer and friend Rodger, who was able to join us on the night to receive his accolade.
The sector’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, education and monitoring have been propelled into the spotlight this year (turn to this issue’s Diversity & Inclusion supplement from Thomson Reuters for an industry update and advice). A number of inspiring projects came to our attention at these awards, specifically the Diversity & Inclusion award winner, Shearman & Sterling LLP.
The awards closed and the dance floor and dodgems were opened – with both full to the brim all night, with the most competitive taking to the dodgems on more than one occasion. We look forward to seeing you all in 2020, and if you missed out this time, look out for nomination and ticket details later this year!
Shieldpay Ltd led the winner’s path for Innovation of the Year; Best Use of Technology was awarded to Weightmans LLP, and; Ignition Law collected Business Growth Award. Excello Law will no doubt make the most of its news as winners of Marketing & Communication Strategy of the Year. The focus on combatting fraud has been ramped up this year, with the introduction of tighter regulation and compliance checks. SmartCredit Ltd T/As SmartSearch are getting it right and won our Combatting Fraud Award, closely followed by Shieldpay Ltd, which gained highly commended status.
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WINNERS ABS of the Year
Innovation of the Year
(Sponsored by Eclipse Proclaim) Highly Commended: ESP Law Winner: Cleveland & Co Associates Limited
(Sponsored by The Cashroom) Highly Commended: Co-op Legal Services & Luminance Winner: Shieldpay Ltd
Law Firm of the Year
Marketing & Communication Strategy of the Year
(Sponsored by SmartSearch) Highly Commended: Newbold Solicitors Winner: Anthony Collins Solicitors
(Sponsored by Revolution Four) Highly Commended: FBC Manby Bowdler LLP & SFE (Solicitors for the Elderly) Winner: Excello Law
Boutique Law Firm of the Year (1-10 Employees)
Client Care Initiative of the Year
(Sponsored by OnMedical) Highly Commended: FD Law trading as Hayes Connor Solicitors & Kemp IT Law Winner: TMP Solicitors LLP
(Sponsored by Moneypenny) Highly Commended: The Specialist Law Group Limited Winner: Instalaw Solicitors
Outstanding Commitment to Training
Boutique Law Firm of the Year (11+ Employees)
(Sponsored by City Legal Translations) Highly Commended: Ramsdens Solicitors LLP Winner: High Court Enforcement Group Limited
(Sponsored by VFS Legal Limited) Highly Commended: Fox & Partners Solicitors LLP Winner: Croftons Solicitors LLP
Best Use of Technology (Sponsored by Claim Technology) Highly Commended: Luminance Winner: Weightmans LLP
Managing Partner of the Year
(Sponsored by Wilson Legal Solution) Highly Commended: Neil Wilson - Chadwick Lawrence Winner: Catherine Hartland - Newbold Solicitors
Business Growth Award
(Sponsored by Silverman Advisory) Highly Commended: Farewill & Newbold Solicitors Winner: Ignition Law
Lawyer of the Year
(Sponsored by Perfect Portal) Highly Commended: Ann-Marie Bowman - Rothera Sharp Solicitors & Lucy Lewis - Lewis Silkin LLP Winner: Julie Davis - LCF Residential
Combatting Fraud Award
(Sponsored by DAS Law) Highly Commended: Shieldpay Ltd Winner: SmartCredit Ltd T/As SmartSearch
Chambers of the Year
(Sponsored by Justis) Highly Commended: Hardwicke & Wilberforce Chambers Winner: 1 Crown Office Row
Diversity & Inclusion Award (Sponsored by Carpenters) Highly Commended: Wedlake Bell LLP Winner: Shearman & Sterling LLP
Barrister of the Year
(Sponsored by Thorneycroft Solicitors) Highly Commended: Phillippa Kaufmann QC - Matrix Chambers Winner: Brie Stevens - Hoare QC - Hardwicke
Supporting the Industry 1-25 Employees (Sponsored by SafeMove) Highly Commended: DMR Collation Ltd & inCase Winner: Trevor Gilbert & Associates
In-House Team of the Year
(Sponsored by InfoTrack) Highly Commended: Co-op Legal Services Winner: National Grid
Supporting the Industry 26+ Employees (Sponsored by The Coal Authority) Highly Commended: Mobile Doctors Limited Winner: CILEx Law School
Paralegal of the Year
(Sponsored by JMC Legal Highly Commended: Lily-Rose Scargill - Lewis Silkin LLP & Lottie Hume - Duncan Lewis Solicitors Winner: Rebecca Carr - Duncan Lewis Solicitors
Outstanding Achievement Award (Sponsored by CostMaster) Winner: Karon Monaghan QC
Rising Star of the Year
Lifetime Achievement Award
(Sponsored by Frenkel Topping) Highly Commended: Morag Ofili - Mishcon de Reya LLP Winner: Shimon Goldwater - Asserson
(Sponsored by TLA Medicolegal Ltd) Winner: Rodger Pannone
If you are at the LegalEx show, please visit us at stand 520. We are also delighted to be providing a dedicated demo suite, away from the hustle and bustle of the hall!
Karon Monaghan QC, winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award
Chair Judge Laura Fisher, Vice-Chair Judge Michael Napier QC & Fiona Morrison, TLA Medical Legal, present Robert Pannone with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
The team from Anthony Collins, Law Firm of the Year
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DIGITISE, OR MISS OUT! In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, it doesn’t make sense that we are still required to sign physical documents or show paper ID documents. Customers will increasingly expect this as the norm so James Lancaster, Yoti, explains how you can get on board.
rinting, signing and photocopying paper documents is time consuming and a hassle for both businesses and consumers. When you consider the cost of paper, printers and printing, postage (the cost of a first class stamp is about to go up to 70p) and the time it takes an employee to physically send and process a document, you can see how each and every contract could easily cost a business over £5. There’s also the environmental consideration of a business printing hundreds, sometimes thousands of documents. That’s not to mention the potential security risks - physical documents can easily be lost, stolen, forged or damaged.
But times are changing… Companies are increasingly realising the benefits of switching to more digital practices to save time and money, improve security and modernise to meet consumers’ demands for quick and convenient services. When it comes to signing documents, it’s the most obvious use case for digitising practices. If you’re starting a new job for instance, the company may get you to sign your contract online via an e-signature. Or if you’re moving to a new property and need to sign a rental agreement, real estate agents are increasingly using e-signatures. E-signing platforms make it faster, simpler and more convenient for
everyone involved in the signing process, creating a better experience for both your customers and employees. E-signature technology could help save your business time and money, as well as give you additional security and peace of mind.
secure place so, if required, they can easily be retrieved and reviewed. An email is also sent to the signer and each signee with an attached copy of the signed contract.
It’s simple and secure
Signing paper documents can be a headache for both your business and your customers. It can take days, or in some cases weeks, to send and receive physical documents, slowing down important business processes.
Some e-signature platforms offer the flexibility of choosing your level of authentication, from one click email to full biometric authentication. This gives you 100% confidence about who has signed the document and eliminates the risk of forged signatures. They also reduce the pressure of safely storing, managing and destroying documents - which could easily be lost, stolen or damaged. E-signatures are simple to use on multiple devices and compatible with all popular browsers and operating systems. This makes it very convenient for the signer and signee to access and sign documents any time, anywhere. Signees have the flexibility to sign documents on their preferred device - be it phone, tablet or computer, and employees can work remotely and still be able to process agreements quickly and efficiently.
E-signing platforms speed up the signing process as documents can be processed in minutes instead of days; letting you complete business transactions and close deals quickly. Bulk features let you send a document to 1,000 recipients at one time, or add multiple signees to a single document. You can even get near real-time status updates as well as add follow up notifications; making sure the signing process runs as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. From saving time and money, enhancing security, reducing your paper consumption and even closing deals faster, there’s no doubt that e-signing platforms could bring real benefits to your business and customers.
It’s legally binding E-signatures are legally binding, admissible in court, and EIDAS compliant. An audit trail is also kept for every document and archived in one
“Companies are increasingly realising the benefits of switching to more digital practices to save time and money, improve security and modernise to meet consumers’ demands for quick and convenient services.”
is a Sales Executive at Yoti Ltd.
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Define, position, target
“Branding, then, should be considered the backbone of your firm’s marketing strategy, instead of relying on a reputation that is so easily overlooked.”
Peter Carr, Propero Partners, highlights the importance defining a strategic and differentiating brand for law firms, in a digital age.
reason for being and how you are different) should be leveraged to clarify the value proposition of your whole firm. It serves as the always-on machine that creates value and puts forward solutions to clients’ problems before they even think to pick up the phone.
he modern law firm is more than a sequence of surnames. The prestige of the partnership that was once strong enough to retain business is now under pressure. Ease and variety of choice enables your clients to judge you on variables other than price and the value or history of the relationship. This is causing strategic decision makers to ask themselves the difficult question: ‘how do I market my similar firm?’.
Ease of discovery and access to expertise and experience drives clients to make a quick decision about a law firm. Clients don’t buy services, they buy the promise of a result. It’s what they’re looking for in content that’s accessible, written in plain English, and free from jargon. Content is the vehicle that gets the firm you want to be seen as out into the world; it enables you to build stronger relationships with clients, and attract a much wider audience than word of mouth.
This is where tapping into brand—its aesthetic, identity, values, and emotional resonance—provides opportunity. Brand is how clients recognise and differentiate you among competitors; by using it to manufacture fragile intangible assets like trust and respect, you’re creating and reinforcing loyal relationships with these clients.
Culture, along with content, should be treated as another spokesperson for your firm, whose job it is to deliver a consistent message of your firm’s purpose and what it stands for. The rise of technology has helped to hang the good, the bad and the ugly out to dry, and now culture commands a bigger premium than ever before. Not only does it have the power to attract and repel clients, it also has the same effect on future rainmakers. As firms find themselves under the
But establishing this bond takes work. It’s more than slapping your logo on documents. You need a comprehensive approach across multiple mediums, channels and platforms—a synchronisation of the core messages that your firm communicates through its content and culture. Content (in the same way that brand communicates your
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“If value propositions across the legal sector are the same, then a reputation for being ‘good at what you do’ is meaningless.” One: It is increasingly difficult to manage what is said about a firm in the age of social media and peer-to-peer review websites. Anyone can criticise your firm, or its individual lawyers, without necessarily being fair or even truthful. By having valuable and informative content, and by communicating victories to your audience, bad press can be negated. Two: If value propositions across the legal sector are the same, then a reputation for being ‘good at what you do’ is meaningless. A one-size-fits-all law firm doing routine work at a similar price will struggle to separate itself from another, which means it could easily fall into obscurity. Your brand can be used to distinguish your firm as a thought leader or by communicating its particular niche—anything to show that your firm is better, more knowledgable and seen as the go-to provider of legal advice. Three: There is so much choice that reputation goes by the wayside when a prospect is deciding which firm to give their instruction. If one firm is cheaper, or another has more effective marketing, then the decision is made without previous knowledge of your firm and reputation matters little. Instead, use your branded content to actively seek out new clients, rather than waiting for them to passively find you, as you could be waiting a long time. Branding, then, should be considered the backbone of your firm’s marketing strategy, instead of relying on a reputation that is so easily overlooked. And while it can be difficult to brand a law firm well, if your attempt is consistent with your values, signals your firm’s unique qualities and services, and doesn’t just fall back on safe ideas, then you are much more likely to be remembered.
“It’s no longer just a case of competing for their clients’ time, attention and money, but also for the time, attention and money of their best talent–choice is abundant and they aren’t afraid to shop around.”
Your brand is married to your reputation, and your reputation supports your business development. It’s a relationship in which one is no longer capable of acting without the other. In a digital market where there is a glut of choice, peer-to-peer reviews can have a serious impact, and when many firms are essentially doing the same thing, the need to define your firm’s brand is more important than ever.
microscope, it’s no longer just a case of competing for their clients’ time, attention and money, but also for the time, attention and money of their best talent–choice is abundant and they aren’t afraid to shop around. Without a brand through which trust can be built, the task of forging loyal relationships with clients and talent that are not easily broken is made much more difficult. Loyalty in a digital marketplace is, at best, fleeting – so anything your firm can do to show itself as a standout leader should be leveraged.
We have identified three top challenges to law firms on the success of their strategic implementation, and the ways in which law firms can overcome them:
Lead Content Writer at Propero Partners.
OUR SURVEY SAYS… …It’s time for junior lawyers to embrace lawtech, writes Craig Matthews.
recent survey by the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has found that almost half of junior lawyers are oblivious as to the benefits of lawtech - or completely unaware of its existence. As someone heavily involved in the sector – and therefore aware of how critical it is to success - this set alarm bells ringing.
“Ultimately, those lawyers who embrace lawtech will achieve a better and more manageable work / life balance and those firms that embrace technology will grow and succeed.”
These junior lawyers may someday become partners and may even go on to run their own practices. At that point in their careers, when strategic thinking will become a key element of what they do, technology will play an ever increasing role not only in helping them understand what is possible but also how they go about achieving it. At that point anything less than a full understanding of lawtech may have serious consequences. The good news is that it’s not too late.
alongside the great strides made in technology generally.
When I left school, many years ago now, I opted out of IT as part of my further studies. It was a move I was soon to regret: the first role I landed was with a law firm, where the department head tasked me with helping to set up a new case management system. His view was that as I was the youngest there, I was bound to understand it all.
With ever increasing compliance and regulation to deal with, a lack of understanding of lawtech is simply not an option. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we work and therefore needs to be understood from graduate level upwards, so that lawyers can benefit from increased productivity, enhanced and accurately billed hours, and happier clients. It’s true to say that it is an increasing trend for clients to
I threw myself into the challenge, which turned out to be a good move, as it eventually led to my career in legal technology. Now, I spend a good deal of my time exploring new tech opportunities both for our own business and more pertinently for our client law firms. Whilst law may have deep routes, with centuries old cases still being quoted, the tech that is available for law firms evolves
“With ever increasing compliance and regulation to deal with, a lack of understanding of lawtech is simply not an option.”
The JLD research also highlighted that this lack of understanding may come from an absence of education and training. While 61% of respondents claimed to have received ‘little or no information/training on lawtech’ whilst on the Legal Practice Course (LPC), just 2% said they were given all the information and training they needed from their law school.
expect more from their lawyers in terms of customer care and ready access to information, and not just the provision of core legal services. Almost all strategies, from business development to business continuity, from marketing to customer retention, will be heavily reliant on technology. From short-term to long-term aims, technology will be at the heart - and may even be the driving force behind our goals. A failure to understand and embrace technology is not an option. Ultimately, those lawyers who embrace lawtech will achieve a better and more manageable work / life balance and those firms that embrace technology will grow and succeed. Surely that’s a good thing?
is the CEO of Pracctice Ltd and Vice-Chair of the LSSA.
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you cannot push string! Our resident Tech columnist Charles Christian writes…
he best advice I ever heard from a law firm partner on how to ensure a major tech project – or indeed any significant business change project – had the greatest chance of being a success, was to ensure it was actively supported, advocated, endorsed and championed by the most senior partners in the practice. As the partner in question (at the time he was the senior partner of the US law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett) so memorably put it: “You can’t push string!” His point was that so many law firm innovation projects (whether people, process and/or technology oriented) were doomed from the outset because the people driving them were too junior to have sufficient clout within the practice to ensure they really did happen. Anyone who has ever tried to get partners to attend technology training courses will be only too well aware the reality of law firm politics and the exigencies of legal work means there is a gaping chasm between what should happen and what actually happens. The corollary of this ‘can’t push string’ impasse is you can pull string very easily – and the higher up the law firm management power structure you go, the greater leverage on the string and also the greater the likelihood of success. Or, to put it another way: if the managing partner says ‘yes, we’re moving over to Cloud technology and open-plan offices’ then it is far more likely to happen than if the Head of IT makes exactly the same suggestion.
“If you want a tech pilot project to work, go for the ‘low hanging fruit’ departments… where you are likely to achieve clear and immediate benefits rather than something more nebulous such as corporate/ commercial work.”
But, needless to say, there are nuances to this proposition. For example, I’m not saying the only initiatives that work are those personally proposed by the senior or managing partners. Far from it, not least as such people are seldom IT experts nor have the specialist expertise to make such
is the Founder of the Legal IT Insider newsletter and talks about tech and geek stuff on Twitter at @ChristianUncut
proposals. (In fact that is not what they are paid to do.) But they can (or at least should) understand the business benefits of a sound innovation or tech project proposal and if you win their endorsement and backing AND they are willing to fight your corner in subsequent management meetings, then you are on your way. Similarly, it may not even be necessary to try to win over the whole firm. Many innovation projects start off with a relatively limited pilot in just one department or work group but once other departments see the benefits, then they too want to follow suit. But, just as there are nuances, so there are nuances within nuances. If you want a tech pilot project to work, go for the ‘low hanging fruit’ departments (such as claims management teams performing heavily transactional work) where you are likely to achieve clear and immediate benefits rather than something more nebulous such as corporate/commercial work. AND do ensure the department you work with is headed by someone willing to champion your project, and be its advocate at a practice management level. Finally, any support for tech and innovation projects must come senior members of the practice who are genuinely committed to making it work – as distinct from just jumping on the latest hype bandwagon. There was the managing partner of one (now defunct) London law firm who gained a lot of publicity arguing lawyers should be computer literate – until he turned up at an industry conference to talk on this topic but brought his secretary along with him to operate his PowerPoint presentation. Just as you cannot push string, so any discussion of leadership also requires an awareness of the old saying that a fish rots from the head down.
Proclaim encompasses Practice, Case and Matter Management software, and is endorsed by the Law Society.
25,000 people can’t be wrong
Contact us for a demonstration
01274 704 100 www.eclipselegal.co.uk
Legend Solicitors selects market-leading Proclaim Case Management Software solution to replace its current system London law firm, Legend Solicitors, is implementing the Proclaim Case Management Software solution from Eclipse Legal Systems, the Law Society Endorsed legal software provider. Legend Solicitors boasts an experienced team of solicitors that specialises in immigration, conveyancing and personal injury. Operating from its East Ham office, the firm offers a professional, friendly and reliable client service, and has earnt a reputation of expertise within the local community. After an extensive selection process, a range of in-depth demonstrations and a number of meetings, Legend Solicitors saw Eclipse’s Proclaim Case Management system as the best on the market. Initially, the firm decided to implement another system based upon costs, but quickly realised that it was not fit for purpose and following this, selected the
Proclaim software solution to cover its conveyancing, immigration and personal injury work areas. Once implemented, Proclaim will provide all departments with a centralised and consistent desktop application, whilst enabling the firm to streamline its processes and significantly reduce administrative overheads. As a result, fee earners’ time will be freed up to focus on exceptional client service. Additionally, thanks to Proclaim’s flexibility, Legend Solicitors will be able to seamlessly integrate the financial accounting and practice management system in a staged roll-out. To further drive efficiencies within the personal injury department, Legend Solicitors has opted to implement Eclipse’s full A2A (Application-to-Application) software integration with the MoJ Claims Portal, which will provide the team with a
seamless method of submitting claims and eliminating duplicate data entry. Aravind Sreevalsalan, director of Legend Solicitors, explains: “Eclipse is the clear market-leader when it comes to legal software and its Proclaim system stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of functionality and adaptability. “Overall, Proclaim will help us to streamline our case progression, and reduce the time we spend processing cases, therefore helping us to maintain our enviable reputation with our clients.”
For further information, please contact
Marketing Director at Eclipse Legal Systems, part of Capita plc, via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01274 704100. Alternatively, visit www.eclipselegal.co.uk
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RECRUIT WITH A PLAN Ian Partington explains why legal recruiters must think strategically about recruitment.
t a big-picture level, I have learned over many years of recruiting just how essential it is to recruit the right talent for my business...and I’ve seen just how costly the consequences of hiring a candidate without the quality skills required can be. A strong recruitment process at your firm is the difference between a business that floats by month-to-month, and one that succeeds. It helps you hire employees quickly and efficiently, and ahead of your competition. Executed properly, and the process of finding quality candidates will grow your network, open up a wide range of opportunities, and make your firm successful. So if you’re searching for tips on how to enhance the strategy you currently have, I’m confident the below will help take your recruitment process to the next level: 1. Review your employee marketing budget I believe that anyone joining Simply Law Jobs should share the same visions, values and direction that we have here. By setting outright expectations in our marketing efforts, we attract those with the same beliefs and understanding. Recruiting efforts will be rewarded through a strong employer brand, so putting the steps in place for this is essential - it might be costly, but it’s less than hiring and replacing the wrong person. 2. Find fresh, innovative ways to tackle recruiting If you are struggling to hire quality individuals for your firm, it could be that your hiring recruitment process
requires an update. Discuss with your leadership team the benefits of an upgrade. Use data to back-up your thoughts. To give an example, we recently released our annual jobseeker report, which includes a benchmark for the average salaries being offered by firms across the country for Solicitor roles. A number of our customers quickly realised that the salary they had previously offered was X amount less than the average - they lost out to competition who were offering those figures. We also found that: l 34%
of users surveyed on our site in 2018 were searching for a new job because they wanted a new challenge;
of users surveyed on our site in 2018 said that salary was the most important factor when looking for a new job;
of users surveyed on our site in 2018 told us they search for a new job online daily.
The information above has been essential for our customers.
high rate? Then the hiring process will no doubt be expensive for your organisation. You will have spent a lot of money, time and resources when advertising for each position, interviewing and training each individual. It’s estimated that the cost is equivalent to 20% of the salary of the new employee who turns down the job. By actioning the previous points in this article, and running background checks on the potential candidate, you can reduce turnover rate drastically. Overall, by increasing the efficiency of your strategy, you can save thousands of pounds - choose not to change what you’re currently doing, and the alternative could prove costly. Legal recruitment is a candidatedriven market today, and fierce competition could see you missing out on top talent. Update your current recruitment processes to benefit your business strategy going forward.
3. Invest in tools and technologies Ever heard of smart sourcing? Automated job boards and recruitment processes, talent databases and smart social media tactics? Companies spend ample amounts of cash on sourcing and attracting top candidates. Using more automated technology can cut costs, giving you a leg up on the competition. 4. Lower your immediate employee turnover Are new employees resigning at a
is the CEO of Simply Law Jobs.
10 MINS WITH
PETER HUBBARD Q
Did you expect the legal services sector to change so drastically when you started working in it?
I don’t think I gave the future of legal services a second thought when I came into the law. The first time I realised there was going to be significant change was in 1995, when a friend asked me why I did not have a computer on my desk! I think many of us in the 2000s thought the changes were going to be more disruptive than they have been to date, but I think we are only just starting to see what the future of legal services could be like.
“I am continually encouraged by the number of people I know who choose to serve others as their primary purpose in life.”
Who inspires you and why?
I am privileged to know many people who choose to live and work in economically deprived communities across the country, investing in their neighbourhoods and making a difference to the lives of people around them. I am continually encouraged by the number of people I know who choose to serve others as their primary purpose in life
What has been the most valuable piece of advice given to you to date?
Yes. “In the professional services environment, people are motivated in their work by one of three reasons: (1) to gain a level of independence over their working week; (2) to become technically the best at something, or; (3) to work for a wider purpose that is greater than themselves. Which one works for you?”
What has been the key positive or negative impact of the liberalisation of legal services?
The key positive is the fact that there are, and should be, greater consumer choice and transparency in the provision of legal services. Those law firms that provide poor customer service, or do not represent good value for money, will no longer be able to stay in business in the long term. So, overall, standards will go up, lawyers will be entrusted to provide more solutions to legal issues, and people will have a better experience of the legal profession. The key negative for me is the increasing profile of large legal brands that influence customer choice, when I do not think strong brands alone are yet able to guarantee better customer service or better value for money. Much of the client experience is reliant on individual teams and advisors so, for me, personal recommendations are still the best assurance of quality legal advice. Most regular purchasers of legal services know this but not enough people outside the law realise it; they continue to have variable experiences when they have a need for legal advice.
If you were not in your current position, what would you be doing?
When I was younger I wanted to be a fireman – something to do with rescuing people. If I were still in the law, I would be a corporate lawyer working with charities, housing associations and local authorities to deliver better outcomes for disadvantaged communities across the country.
“I think we are only just starting to see what the future of legal services could be like.” 62
Senior Partner, Anthony Collins Solicitors – winners of ‘Firm of the Year’ at the Modern Law Awards 2019.
CON29M Official Coal Mining Search The professional opinion on coal mining risk. Official, accurate, compliant.
For residential and commercial property transactions, licensed by the Law Society using official Coal Authority data. Compliant - answers all the official 11 residential and 14 commercial questions requested in the Law Society Guidance Notes (2018) plus an alert if the property falls within the Cheshire Brine Compensation District. Accurate and clear - replicating the Groundsure Avista quality standard of detail, design, layout and navigation â€“ all the important information you need with clear next steps and recommendations. Insurance - for that extra peace of mind for you and your clients it includes an unbeatable ÂŁ100k Coal Search Report Insurance Policy which is the most comprehensive cover available of any official CON29M report. For more information visit www.groundsure.com/con29m or contact your search provider.
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Eclipse’s Proclaim system is the solution of choice for 25,000 legal professionals in over 1,000 organisations. Proclaim encompasses Practice, Case and Matter Management, and is endorsed by the Law Society. From new start-ups to industry heavyweights, Proclaim is the system of choice for forward-thinking law firms. • Fully integrated Practice Management Software solution • End-to-end case and matter management workflow processes • Ready-to-go workflows for specific practice areas • SAR-compliant legal accounting • Fast to implement, easy to use
Contact us for a demonstration
01274 704 100 Email: email@example.com