Is there an alternative to expensive software upgrades?

windows_xp_logoIn April 2014, Microsoft announced the end of life of Windows XP, Office 2003 and Small Business Server 2003. Many law firms are now faced with the prospect of costly upgrade bills for replacing equipment and updating software licenses.

Technology moves quickly and a benefit of running a small law firm is that it is no longer necessary to host an expensive server in your office. The burden of having to support, maintain and backup an ever ageing infrastructure simply isn’t cost effective any more.

An alternative approach that many firms are choosing is to do away with such legacy overheads and plan a route to the Cloud, which is much more straight forward and economically viable longer term.

Moving to the Cloud need not be expensive. Up-front high capital costs have almost been superseded by low cost subscriptions. Software licenses and services can all be included in a simple fixed monthly payment.

With a huge investment in physical and digital security, LawCloud data centres are arguably far more secure than hosting you own office server. LawCloud promotes quality standards including ISO 9001/27001, CIF certification, CISP membship, ICO registered and are Microsoft Cloud accelerate partners.

As client demands continue to increase, Lawyers need information at their fingertips from anywhere and at any time. The Cloud introduces a more flexible, agile and mobile way of working.

If you are thinking of setting up on your own or are a department separating from a larger firm then contact us in confidence at confidential@lawstart.co.uk or visit www.lawstart.co.uk

lawstart

To find out more about how LawCloud can help you switch and save costs, modernising your traditional system, call us on 0845 2020 577 or email innovate@lawcloud.co.uk or visit www.lawcloud.co.uk

As a lawyer going Mobile – Which device should you consider?

September 2013 – Portable Workstation Review

With the wealth of mobile devices now flooding the market, it is difficult to choose which one best suits you and your mobility needs.

Each device has its place and there are essentially 3 device categories and within that, multiple flavours in each.

Tablets

Tablets are essentially portable devices with touch screens and normally on screen keyboards. I would argue that they are tempered towards the home consumer with the ability to watch videos & TV, listen to music, browse the internet and a multitude of other nifty applications available to download from their App Stores. Whilst you can read the news, check email and open PDF files and Word documents, business usage can be a bit limited and clumsy due to the lack of keyboard and mouse and limited (if any) Microsoft Office and other business applications along with  the “locked down” nature of the device.

However, Microsoft has released their Surface RT Tablet and whilst sales have perhaps been a little slow, this is the ideal consumer tablet / business tool all in one. The Surface RT is really a PC companion. Whilst it has Windows 8 touch capability, it also has a desktop mode that comes pre-installed with Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note). The removable touch cover has a keyboard and mouse pad built in so you really do have a very business friendly “Nearly Notebook” style device to enjoy your personal applications and to work on business documents and emails in the same way as you would on a PC. It has great battery life and is very portable. The only downside is that you can’t install applications on it that you would normally be able to on a PC due to the different processor it uses. I however don’t see this as a downside, as long as you accept that this is not a full PC but a ‘almost a PC’ companion for working on the move.

The Apple iPad has probably been around the longest of all tablets and has grabbed its market share through being innovative and the first of its kind. If you like Apple and have an iPad then you learn to love it very quickly, however, it is not as flexible as the Surface from a business point of view, lacking physical keyboard and mouse (although you can buy add-ons that will give you this) but the lack of a familiar Windows interface for working in is arguably clunky.

Android tablets are Google’s version of an iPad but again are limited for business use. Whilst they deliver great personal usage facilities, they can also be a little clunky to use.

In summary, for the business user I’d strongly favour the Microsoft Surface RT tablet, especially if you are familiar with the Windows environment and want the capability of Microsoft Office with physical keyboard and mouse in a very well designed magnetic cover. There are 2 choices of keyboard, Touch and Click. I’d suggest paying the extra £10 and going for the click keyboard which is much easier to type quickly on.

All 3 devices are priced at a similar cost at the ‘under £400’ mark although it’s possible to get some Android tablets cheaper but with a possible compromise on specification and build quality. Both Surface and Apple and the higher end Android devices are really superb devices from a component and build point of view.

Ultra books, Notebooks & Hybrids

If a tablet isn’t for you and you want true computing power then you will probably want to look at a more traditional PC notebook. Modern notebooks, or the now called Ultra-books, come packed with power and performance. These devices will run full Windows and some are now hybrids with removable touch screens that act as tablets. You will pay a premium for the full PC tablet version but if you need raw power then these are a great choice.

There are multitudes of Traditional Windows 8 laptops with/without Touch on the market to choose from, some very slim and lightweight, others a little more bulky but at the end of the day you get what you pay for. You can’t beat going to John Lewis and choosing something you like and getting that essential peace of mind from John Lewis that you are warranty covered if anything goes wrong.

In the hybrid range, Microsoft has released the big brother to the Surface RT and called it the Surface Pro. It’s expensive, not as light as the RT and is much more bulky. Again, if you need power, it has it but I’d suggest that for normal day to day use then RT is fine.

The Apple MacBook Pro has a great reputation for elegance, power, performance, design etc… If you are an Apple fan then this may be for you. Personally for business use, I’d recommend a good old Microsoft PC.

Chrome Book is Google’s version of a lightweight laptop that runs Chrome o/s. They are much lower priced and good if you want to do browsing and light work. I’d seriously question their application for business users though.

Smartphones & PadPhones

SmartPhones are essentially a cross between a phone and a mini-PC. Nowadays they are packed with power and can do most things but the screen is much smaller and, I’d suggest, very difficult for doing any real work on. They’re great for checking your mail, small email replies, social media, looking up contact information, basic browsing and the like but they are really very limited as a tool to do any work on. Popup keyboards are small, however there are larger screen versions coming out such as the Galaxy Note 3 that could be more usable; but at the end of the day, you can’t beat a tablet or ultrabook for doing real work on.

Again there are Android Phones, Windows Phones, Apple iPhones, BlackBerry’s which are all cut down versions of the main tablet with (smartphone) operating systems optimised for small screens. The choice is yours and I’d suggest either a Windows or Android phone for reasonable and very mobile usability. Whilst I like Apple I do find that their operating system is now a little dated (though iOS7 is a facelift) and there is very limited choice on hardware. I’m afraid that I’ve never been a fan of BlackBerry but can see why some people are. Most phones will have a tethering facility where you can use the mobile internet on your phone to hook up with your tablet or notebook to get you on the Internet. Be very aware that you must understand your web allowance and how your airtime provider charges for this. Virgin do a great all round deal for unlimited Web, Phone minutes and Text for £15 per month on a SIM only deal if you own your own phone.

In Summary

Each device type and operating system choice has its place and nowadays it’s not uncommon to have a selection of each for different purposes. I personally have a PC Desktop and a Laptop for doing office or home based work on, a Microsoft Surface RT for working on the train and when I’m out of the office (as a PC companion) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 for very mobile quick work like checking emails and replying to messages and brief online searches. I find this combination works really well for my personal all round needs for flexibility, mobility, personal and business consumption.

However, everybody’s needs are different and there are plenty of devices out there to meet your requirements and personal taste.

If you would like any advice on mobile or flexible working, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to offer some friendly advice warren@lawcloud.co.uk

Warren Wander is founder and Managing Director of LawWare Ltd. His work on LawCloud (Cloud based Practice Management Software for lawyers) is highly acclaimed and his business has built a solid reputation for helping lawyers do more with IT.

You can find out more at:-

Visit our web site at www.lawcloud.co.uk

Join me on linked in at http://www.linkedin.com/in/warrenwander

Visit our Blawg at www.lawcloudcomputing.com

LawCloud Continues to Grow – Leading Cloud Computing Solutions for UK Law Firms

With the growing importance of cloud computing for law firms, LawCloud continues to be one of the UK’s leading independent legal Cloud suppliers.

Having just signed our 106th law firm customer onto our secure platform, the news of our continued growth has been shared on

http://www.thesolicitorsgroup.co.uk/News/Article.aspx?ArticleID=cd53f7e5-112f-4c5b-92ac-8b2874ef3113 (most recently)

in addition to the following publications:-

http://www.firmmagazine.com/news/3075/1_in_10_law_firms_now_using_Cloud_hosting.html

http://www.cloudcomputing-365.info/news_full.php?id=25596

http://www.scotlandcloud.com/news/law-cloud-in-scotland/

http://www.lawcloud.co.uk/about/celebrating-the-cloud

Helpful Cloud Computing Tools for Lawyers

Guest post outlining helpful cloud computing tools for lawyers (mainly for US law firms). For our own cloud services for law firms and for advice on legal IT for UK law firms, please visit our main website at www.lawcloud.co.uk

The continued popularity and usage of Cloud computing, especially in the paralegal industry, has led to the development of a number of reliable Cloud computing tools. These applications and software assist many lawyers in delivering exceptional service to their clientele.

Many legal firms have adopted Cloud computing technologies to power their businesses. In fact, in the 16th annual survey of The American Lawyer, the online news portal revealed that 65 percent of the 82 law firms surveyed said they use Cloud computing, and 77 percent of those who use the technology say they had a positive experience. LawCloud, a leading case management software development company, proudly supports and uses this technology to host their growing number of clients. As of June 2012, they host 83 law firms on their Cloud platform and the number is growing by the week.

This immense growth creates a great need to manage the Cloud. In this article, we will feature the best and most commonly used tools to help you make the most of your Cloud computing technology.

  1. Skype

Lawyers need to be available for their clients 24-hour a day. All firms will benefit from cutting their phone bills, so Skype is ideal your current plan for reducing outgoings is by getting a SIM only deal and controlling your phone usage. Skype allows you to call, send instant messages, video-conference, and share files with your colleagues and clients all for free. You can also download Skype on your Smartphone. For an additional fee, you can add a Skype online number which will allow you to receive calls and to call non-Skype phone numbers.

  1. LawBox

For busy attorneys on the go, having LawBox on your mobile device will be a handy tool. This mobile application offers you legal references including the United States Constitution, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 28 U.S.C – Judiciary and Judicial Procedure and more. Consider it your built-in legal library. You can browse, read and download these state and federal codes while doing your comprehensive research. Additional 2012 codes were added to the app such as complete statute sets for states of California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and Arizona.

  1. PocketJustice

Your in-depth study wouldn’t be complete without examples. If you’re away from your computer and need to review past cases, including the US Supreme Court decisions, PocketJustice is a helpful mobile app. Developed by OYEZ Inc., this award-winning app features case summaries for your to both case summaries for you to both stream or download, access to audio transcripts of cases, and live searching for a faster case summary results. The new version now comes with the updated list of cases from 2012.

  1. CloudStack

To manage your cloud computing technology, CloudStack is a very reliable open source software. It creates, manages, and deploys infrastructure cloud services. Users can easily manage their Cloud services with its user-friendly web interface and fully featured API that is compatible with S3 and Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2 for firms that want to deploy hybrid clouds.

  1. eFax

Important documents, especially those that have signatures, are only accepted through fax. If you don’t want to purchase an expensive fax machine, why not use eFax. This software allows you to receive fast fax messages online. With eFax, you can receive fax documents straight to your email. It has three key features: a vast inventory of fax phone numbers, efficient internet faxing and voicemail, and secured communications network. The software is free for a 30-day trial.

With reliability and convenience, Cloud computing has become the best way for new and established law firms to act smart and to make better use of technology. To jumpstart your newly establish firm or cut down on some company expenses, the tools presented above are an economical and efficient way of managing your Cloud.

About the Author

Reese Jones is a tech and gadget lover, a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture recently and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news from the likes of O2, to tech-related DIY.

Find more about her and her work at Reese+ and tweet her @r_am_jones.

Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers: Productivity

Welcome to the latest edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers. This month the focus is on Productivity. The Oxford Dictionary defines Productivity as “the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input:” and in this month’s Briefing we will look at getting more out from the effort you’re putting in. Much of this means working with the resources you have and applying them properly to make sure that you can improve the productivity of the firm. If you’re not getting the best out of your resources then you are harming the productivity and, inevitably, the profitability of your firm. Take some time out to consider how you work on a daily basis and whether there are some things you might think about doing differently that will give you a productivity boost. If you need any help in creating systems or tools to assist you in your productivity efforts please get in touch with me—I’d be delighted to help.

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA
Business Consultant
40c Drakemyre
Dalry
North Ayrshire
KA24 5JE
t. 07855 838395

Productivity

Every business must be conscious of the need to continuously improve its productivity and to apply its resources as effectively as it possibly can. Unfortunately, due to established working practices and inertia, many businesses fail to take advantage of the tools available to them and instigate the changes needed to achieve those aims. The resources of any business are precious, not least in the legal profession, where fee earner time is probably the most valuable resource. There are only 24 hours in every day—and, despite what the more young and energetic amongst us might think, we still need to sleep. After that, we’re left with somewhere between 16—18 hours every day to carry out a whole host of activities—washing, eating, drinking, getting dressed, relaxing—oh, and working!

To get the best out of the time you spend working it is absolutely essential that you are organised. You need to consider the other resources at your disposal—money is usually pretty high on the agenda as are the people who work with you. As with time, it’s highly likely that your money resource is not limitless. In the course of the last few years, money has been very “tight” for many, many legal practices and this has resulted in redundancies and short time working. As the recovery, such as it is, continues, it is important to consider all options to aid productivity rather than simply engaging more people. You are likely to have some form of office that you use—even if it’s a home office—and tools with which to do your work—a PC will probably feature in the mix somewhere as will, potentially, a Practice Manager system. Do you use these resources wisely…. properly…. at all? Finally you need to look at the processes you employ to carry out your day to day work. People say it’s hard to change and think about doing things differently.

If time is your most valuable resource and if you don’t use it properly you will lose it then it makes perfect sense to look at the ways you and those in your firms do things and work out the ways you could do things differently to employ your resources more effectively and improve not only your personal productivity but that of the firm as a whole. Improved productivity inevitably leads to improved profitability—after all, that’s what being in business is all about —isn’t it?

What are you going to do today?

In a previous issue of Back to Basics we looked at Objective Setting—and the need to write down your clearly defined objectives. This helps you to keep focused on what’s important to you and what you want to achieve in your business. Last month we looked at the Importance/Urgency Matrix that you can use to help you decide what parts of your work are top priority and which parts are unimportant. Another tool that many successful people employ is the To Do List—and not simply a list of all the things you need to do, but a To Do List that’s prioritised. To start off you need to list everything that you have to do—yes, everything. Then assign a priority to each item on the list, starting with A items and ending with F items. A items are the most impactful on your business and should be the things that will do most to help you achieve the objectives you’ve set. They might not always be the most urgent (but many are) but they will certainly be the most important to you. B items are not as important as A items but tend to support them whilst being more important than C Items. C Items are the third priority items which are less critical than A or B items. When it comes to D items, you really need to consider whether you should be doing these items at all.

By prioritising your A, B and C items you’re deciding that only you can do these things—and if, when reviewing your list you feel that there are some things on it that might be best dealt with by others, then demote them to Ds and delegate it to others. The E and F items on your list tend to be the “like to do” items and you need to consider whether you need to do these things at all! Once you’ve assigned each item a category you should then group all your A items together and prioritise the most important item in that group as A1. Decide on the next most important and assign it A2. You go thought your A list and assign a priority to each item. Then start to work on your highest priority item—your A1 item—and you don’t move on to any other item till your A1 item has been completed. Then move on to your A2 item and do the same thing. If something comes in during the day that you need to deal with (as it inevitably will), add it to your To Do List and determine its priority rather than just starting the task without thinking about it. Try to avoid distractions—particularly email distractions.

People tend to work with Outlook open, with prompts telling them a new email message has arrived. This is probably one of the biggest “attention thieves” that you are likely to come across. You should ring-fence some time each day to deal with email—and close down Outlook outwith those times—and if you can’t bear to be without Outlook being open, at least turn off the new message prompt! Solicitors work hard—it’s just sometimes they don’t work smart. Have a go at creating and using your very own Prioritised To Do List. Do this every day and watch your productivity soar!

Simon says…..

‘Performance’ is one of those often thought about aspects of running a law firm but one that is rarely attributed to any individual’s job description. Which is odd really because it can be easily measured, compared, analysed and then improved or worsened; by just a single decision. When I meet Partners of law firms to talk about IT, we often stray into other areas and a favourite question of mine is this – ‘in order to improve efficiency would you foresee doing more tasks yourself or delegating more tasks to others?’ By the way, there is no right or wrong answer – all 3 possible answers are perfectly acceptable (the 4th one involving not changing is obviously not acceptable). There are some common aspects of achieving an increase in the performance of all law firm staff. The quality of your Style Template Library is a vital component. I don’t mean simply having one. I mean having it in electronic form, having it available immediately to anyone that needs it, having all the common fields in-filled automatically from your client and case file information, storing the resultant letter or form automatically and distributing it electronically to the recipient – this would seem to me to be a utopia of performance. I rarely find it.

Even if you fell short in the final stage it would still be a tremendous leap up the performance ladder for the vast majority of law firms. A common failing of some Partners is the failure to agree on common styles for the firm itself to use, preferring instead to adopt individualistic forms of standard correspondence that fails to grasp any form of economy of scale that a basic Document Management system can provide. Some firms will be unwilling to invest any time or effort to produce a style library – fortunately there is an organisation called The Styles Bank that can supply ready-to-run Style Libraries that are kept up to date for you. I strongly suggest that you check them out. As I have suggested above having an automatic store of electronic documents – often referred to as a case management system – can make it easier for colleagues to retrieve files when you are out of the office and they are trying to cover for you.

This is doubly useful if you have also filed your emails in it as well (both Sent and Received). This means that there is a phenomenal reduction in staff time spent printing and filing (always a challenge in itself) and then locating the appropriate file (a lost file is a real daytime nightmare). These simple gains in productivity will convert directly into improved performance – and clients will notice. No Fee Earner is an island – there is always a team. People are change resistant, so there is often a proving stage to be negotiated, but if your improvement programme is sound, implemented well and people can see the benefits, they never want to go back afterwards. Your role is to keep them moving forward and to praise them when they achieve good results. By the way the 3 possible answers are:- 1 – Doing more myself. 2 – Delegating more. 3 – Both.

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon at simon@lawware.co.uk

Get organised

Keep your workspace clear, clean and tidy and try as hard as you can to have only 1 file on your desk at any one time. This will help you to focus on the matter at hand. Keep other files that you intend to work on nearby on a shelf or table so you can move on to them after you’ve dealt with your current file. When you deal with a case, do everything that can possibly be done at the one sitting—don’t do a little bit and then ask for the file back to do another little bit and then repeat the process. Do as much as you can in one sitting—”single-hand” everything you possibly can. Put a reminder in your Diary or Task List or, better still, your Practice Management system, and after that put the file back in the filing cabinet—then, at least, you’ll have half a chance of finding it when you need it.

Do you know that you can spend up to 30% of your working time looking for something that has been misplaced in some way? That’s a huge waste of one of your key resources and should not be viewed lightly. It can get worse, of course, when you engage the assistance of others to help you find the file. Just think of all of the productive things that you and they could be doing instead of trying to put your hand on a missing file—and if everything you do is in your Practice Management system, you might not need the file at all! It pays to be organised—don’t let that thought ever leave your mind.

Review your processes

We all take the way we do things for granted. Stop for a minute and think about all of the things that are done in your firm on a daily basis and why they’re done in that way. Is this just because “that’s the way it’s always been done” or has someone actually determined that it’s the most efficient and effective way to do the task? Make sure that the right person is assigned to do the right task—don’t have high cost people doing low cost work! Think very carefully about every process in your office. If you find any that are inefficient or ineffective—change them.

Lawyers love documents!

I’ll bet every lawyer who receives this Briefing generates several hundred letters and documents every week. Unfortunately, many of these documents are created from scratch when they don’t need to be—with the same thing being dictated over and over again. That means something that could easily be incorporated into a standard Work Template taking a few seconds to produce takes minutes to dictate or type (or have a secretary type). All of these minutes add up to weeks of wasted time. Do yourself a favour, consider having as many of your documents as possible created using Word Templates that can be easily accessed. It will take less time to produce your documents and letters and give you half a chance of enhancing your risk management processes.

Contact us

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA, Business Consultant, t. 01294 833220, m. 07855 838395, e. brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon on simon@lawware.co.uk

Back to Basics – a Business Briefing for Lawyers: Checking out the Competition

Welcome to the July edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers.  This month the focus is on checking out the competition—in management speak it’s called Competitor Analysis.

It’s not often that I dedicate a large part of the briefing to a graphic, but if you have any aspirations to compete it’s essential that you know how to check out the competition and what you may find when you do.

Michael Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis is an ideal tool to help you think about your competitors—and not just those who are in the same business.

There are competitive forces coming at you from all angles and to be aware of these is the first step towards shaping your offering to address the ever-changing competitive world.

Again, I need to be brief—Michael Porter dedicated a whole book to Competitive Strategy and this model appears in the first chapter— but I hope to cover the essentials

If you need any help in carrying out your analysis of the competition or using Porter’s 5 Forces Model please get in touch with me—I’d be delighted to help.

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA
Business Consultant
40c Drakemyre
Dalry
North Ayrshire
KA24 5JE
t. 07855 838395

e.   brian@drakemyre.co.uk

 

Existing Competitors

Like it or not, you are continuously in competition with other legal firms that do the same things as you, are in the same locality as you and trying to attract and service the same client base as you. This has been the traditional position of the legal profession in Scotland for years (although that is beginning to change). There are two aspects to this part of the analysis– the first part is to establish your own competitive strategy (and we looked at strategy in Back to Basics in July 2011) and once you’ve done that be aware of what other firms are doing to win and keep their clients. You need to consider whether your competitors are competing with you on price—and if they are and you don’t want to compete on price, then you might need to think about trying to attract a client base that is not as price sensitive as your competitors. Are your competitors’ differentiation strategies suitably robust that there is a clear difference in what they provide when compared to your services—or are yours suitably different from theirs? If not, then what can you do to change that? Please take some time to consider how you challenge to win and keep your clients and what other firms do to try to win them from you—and develop your strategy to meet that challenge.

Client Power

Clients are not, in the main, silly people. They are getting more and more savvy as time goes on and have realised for some time that their business is something that they can bargain with. This means that they  can choose to “sell” their business to whoever will provide a service for the lowest cost. Yes, I hear you say, this has been going on for years—remember the “any conveyance for £250” of the early 1990s?

We’re in a double dip recession. Inflation is coming back to the expected levels after a bit of a high where wages were pegged back. People (your clients—be they individuals or businesses) are cost conscious and, as a result, many will want to know exactly what you will charge and, if the figures don’t suit them, may take their business elsewhere.

So, you need to consider what value you can provide to the client—your own reputational value will not be sufficient unless it is backed up by excellent service to the client at a price that the client is prepared to pay. Remember, a client will tell 10 people about a bad experience he or she has had but may not tell anyone about a good experience—and the same goes for the service you provide.

The threat of substitutes

The final threat you need to consider is what alternatives are out there that can do what you do? These exist already. A simple example of this is the Link2Law offering that is available to the public at large—essentially a document assembly web application that allows you, through a series of questions to create a range of documents that might otherwise traditionally be provided by a solicitor—but without a solicitor being involved (and this web offering is owned and operated by a large firm of solicitors in the north east of Scotland). This is the tip of a very large iceberg and over time we will see more “self service” web offerings without any solicitor being involved in the delivery.

Supplier Power

We’ve already seen lenders flex their muscles. They’ve thrown solicitors off their panels, restricted their panels to a very small number of solicitors and then suggest that the purchaser of property should use that small panel of solicitors to act on their behalf in the purchase transaction. I think this type of behaviour is anti-competitive and could be subject to challenge. Just think, you have a client who wants you to act but is told by their lender that it would be cheaper if they used the lender’s panel solicitor to deal with the purchase than their own solicitor. This is a very simple example of a supplier of services influencing the marketplace and introducing practices which put pressure on your clients to switch to a new solicitor—and once they’re gone, they might never come back.

Do you have other suppliers of business to your firm who are beginning to dictate the fee levels you can charge if you want to be passed business by them?

Do some of these suppliers actually provide part of the service you would normally provide and only leave you with a much smaller involvement—for which you can only charge a small fee?

Review your relationships with your suppliers and find out where the pressure points are—or where and when they are likely to come.

New Entrants

Yes, we’re back to that old chestnut—ABS, something that’s caused a lot of trouble within the legal profession in the course of the last couple of years and which is coming ever closer to reality. An ABS organisation will be part owned by non-solicitors and we have already seen a raft of licenses granted by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in England to organisations ranging from the Co-op to Eddie Stobart (yes, that’s right, the haulage company). If you don’t believe me, have a look at this. Don’t be so naïve to think that the 51% ownership by qualified solicitors will be here to stay for ever—remember there is provision in the legislation for approved professionals being allowed to own that 51% share (in other words, the whole organisation) without there being the requirement for a solicitor to be involved in the ownership. We’ve already seen that Chartered Accountants being granted that status and it will not be too long before others follow. It’s not only ABS organisations that solicitors should worry about—the Legal Services (Scotland) Act  2010 also makes provision for the introduction of Registered Will Writers and Confirmation Practitioners who, along with ABS organisations, will be challenging for your business. Remember too that there are organisations that are looking at introducing services in non-reserved areas and these too will be competing with you for your clients. Prior to being authorised as a provider of legal services by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in England, the Co-op last year turned over THIRTY MILLION POUNDS in revenue generated from the provision of legal services in non-regulated areas of business—and lest you think that you have time to spare before they get up to speed, I can tell you that I’ve already had a mailshot from the Co-op offering their funeral planning service coupled with their Wills and Executry services.

Think about it this way—you have many, many clients that you should be in touch with on a regular basis. The Co-op has many, many members that it is in touch with on a regular basis. Now, if the Co-op is in touch with its members who are also your clients and is offering them the kind of services that you provide and you haven’t been in touch with your clients to offer them these services then you will certainly be challenged to retain those clients for very much longer.

Simon says…..

What are you saying?

I’ve said it before – it’s an interesting time to be a law firm.

I think most lawyers have now realised that the recession has ended. It actually ended shortly after it began, there is no sign of any further recovery therefore it is safe to assume that this is it. So where are we? We find ourselves competing in a market that is smaller than it used to be and the results of firm’s not adapting to this are very evident. However, the question remains – how can you attract more of the active clients that are out there (than your competitors can)?

I am amazed that some firms still rely on a singular source of business particularly if its ‘word of mouth’! I can’t really count listing type adverts in Yellow Pages – if you are simply in a list with loads of other solicitors then I don’t see the point. Unless your advert really stands out; has a powerful message and strong call to action.

And there’s the first point of my piece – what is your message to your market place? How are you getting that message through? Is it working? Once you start doing that then your competitors have something to worry about. Until then, they don’t.

You will need to keep an eye on what they are doing. Those firms that are more focussed on winning new business will be easy to find – that’s the point. They have sorted out what they want to say and who they want to say it to.

Put yourselves in the shoes of different types of buyer – and imagine how they would go about finding you. There are different types of active clients and you may find your competitors are targeting particular types e.g. the cost conscious, the distraught, the elderly, the young, family owned businesses, sole proprietors, plc.’s, etc, etc. Notice that I haven’t said what type of work is involved – that is because I am targeting a type of person or type of business. This is how marketing works.

is my second point. Promoting yourself is a very necessary and vital aspect of business nowadays. You have survived the recession – congratulations; many firms haven’t. Now is the time to build your business. It’s up to you but if you should assume that your competitors are because everyone is in the same boat and those that take proactive steps will have a better chance of progressing into the future than those that stand still. That’s what promoting yourself does – it improves your chances. It is a competitive world for the majority of law firms and it’s only going to get worse. Whilst the number of mid and large firms contract, the number of small firms emerging is growing and then we will have new entrants coming next year. And there will be new entrants. The competition is increasing and will increase further despite the smaller number of active clients! They must be confident that they can attract a decent share.

Now is the time to position yourself in your market place.

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon at simon@lawware.co.uk

Contact us

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA, Business Consultant, t. 01294 833220, m. 07855 838395, e. brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon on simon@lawware.co.uk

Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers: Managing

Welcome to the latest edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers. This month the focus is on Managing. Each edition of Back to Basics addresses a single management item and on this occasion I felt that it would be sensible to consider some of the processes that go into managing. It’s made up of many, many components and we can only scratch the surface in the limited space we have available in this publication—but we’ll touch on some of the essential elements you need to consider. Effective management is something you need to work hard to achieve—and you need to use a very wide range of skills and tools. It can take years to develop as an effective manager and you have to start somewhere—and where better than with the basics! If you need any help in creating systems or tools to assist you in your management efforts please get in touch with me—I’d be delighted to help.

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA
Business Consultant
40c Drakemyre
Dalry
North Ayrshire
KA24 5JE
t. 07855 838395

e.   brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Managing

Running your own business can be a bit like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle— you know all of the pieces are there, but it’s not always easy to find the right pieces in the right order and fitting them together. Management in a legal firm has always been viewed as something you learn on the job—or not, as the case may be. This leads to many, many difficulties, not least of which is having to make decisions without enough information to support them. Ad hoc management decisions inevitably produce results that are unexpected and generally poor. These lead to further ad hoc decisions being made which simply compound the problems. I’m not suggesting for a minute that management is an easy thing to do or that it is a panacea for everything that goes on in a legal firm.

If management is simply a case of “doing it by the numbers” then everyone could do it and become a success. There are, however, some fundamentals that need to be put in place for the smooth operation of any firm. There should be a clear purpose—where is the firm going? There should be some sort of “plan” to get there—and a written plan with specific objectives or milestones is critical. This is an essential tool to help you assess how you are performing. You need to ensure that your financial information is current and that you can see how your monthly results impact on your overall annual projections—and what that will mean to you in cash terms. You also need to make sure that you let your clients and the public know what you can do for them. These are just some of the pieces of the puzzle and your challenge is to fit them together in the right way to create a business that is effective and successful.

A view from the High Street

I’m delighted to welcome Austin Lafferty as my guest contributor in this edition. In his firm, Austin has developed his managing role over the years and now operates a distributed practice across 3 branches. In addition to managing his firm, Austin is Vice-president elect of The Law Society of Scotland and takes up office at the end of this month.

Here’s what Austin has to say on the subject:

Like so many solicitors with a relatively small firm, I started out with little idea of management, and, frankly/sadly, something not much more than contempt for that function, which was regarded as a minor function that sat in a backroom role around the edges of running a law practice. In other words, it was assumed that clients would come in, the solicitor and staff would do the work, get paid, and move on to the next case/transaction. I learned over a few years that if this philosophy had any traction, it would have been many years ago in a different world. The reality was and is that structured, planned management can either increase your profits while reducing your risks, or, in rough times, can secure your survival. I remember watching an episode of LA Law (it dates me, I know) and the story was that the managing partner (Douglas Brackman – bald but handsome…) was ridiculed by the glamorous litigators and real estate whizzkids for creating no fees and being a boring and almost worthless functionary who was only holding them back from bigger and better things. He went on strike. Within 3 days the whole firm ground to a fractious halt with mayhem and loss everywhere. Message received. No lawyer is an island.

It was the rise of computers that really got me into a full appreciation of management values. From the early 80’s I was involved in media work, and although this was the birth of commercial IT for law firms, I had to learn to type and use a PC (or Amstrad) to write scripts for TV and radio shows, and for newspaper columns. Having worked in these environments, I could quickly see how the techniques could be adapted to a small law practice. As I began to apply them, that led to other ideas, rationalizations, developments, changes. And as these played through, it became apparent to me through chatting to clients, friends, colleagues in other professions and trades that what I thought of as innovation was either standard procedure or even best practice in the wider business world. And that realization was the tin lid on it – management is not a lesser exercise or something that happens to other people, it is a universal tool of organization, and in effect essential to the profitable and safe practice of the law.

It is a sad fact that still, well into the second decade of the 21st century that so many law firms don’t yet appreciate this. I was involved in a number of seminars and conferences in my Law Society of Scotland role, aimed at helping the high street general practice division of the solicitor profession in Scotland in the light of the general economic downturn. Although I used as much of my ability, experience and understanding of management to suggest a wealth of ideas for firms to use to help themselves (not my personal ideas, just general tactics known to be useful). Some listeners got it, but a fair few looked blank, and some, even in the questionnaires completed by attendees, treated the ideas with naked contempt (makes you wonder what they were doing there). Let me leave you with this thought. Management is a never-ending story. You cannot rest on your laurels, there is always a better mousetrap, a new challenge to face, a risk or an opportunity arising. It is never enough to be a good lawyer. You need to have a business brain, and treat your practice as an organic enterprise that is capable of being grown, harvested and pruned when necessary. Profit is the crop, and the fertilizer? Constant vigilance and hard work – with always an open mind.

Simon says…..

There is a great deal written about this subject. A Google search for the specific term ‘law firm management’ will list millions of hits (over 43 million – I checked!). A lot of people appear to know a lot about it! So why is it something that features so little in many Scottish law firms? I know this is generally true from personal experience. I do think you have to be of a certain size before ‘management’ becomes a definable aspect, which can probably be summarised as the point at which it regularly encroaches too much on client work time. Then it becomes time to get an Office Manager and the problem goes away. Ironically it is at this point that Management disappears and get replaced by Containment, when Management gets associated with Staff and this ‘problem’ is delegated to the new Office Manager or promoted secretary.

The issue I have with this is that Staff is the single most important resource any firm has and if responsibility is delegated to someone with no interest in how effectively this resource is utilised then it won’t develop, it won’t improve – it will be contained. Yes, I know! – lots of ‘management speak’ in that statement. You’ll know if this has happened in your firm as you will have heard this phrase – ‘We have always done it this way’ – numerous times. This is not to say that Staff is Management. Management is a multi-disciplinary facet. There are 4 areas in a law firm that should be constantly changing and evolving and thus require managing:-

1. Case Load Performance 3. Business Development
2. Financial Performance 4. Staff Development

And these need to be proactively managed by setting a target, actioning a plan and reviewing the results.

Simply reviewing performance is not Management, anyone can review performance. Managers set targets and think about how to achieve them. I personally describe this level of activity as tactical because there is always something going on with each of these, a bit like plate spinning, and each contributes to the overall success of the firm. As I’ve just hinted, each of these has a supporting role in something bigger and more overarching – Strategy. A firm of any size should have a Strategic Plan, encompassing the 2 vital ingredients that all successful law firms have – Vision and Direction. Ask yourself two questions – Where are we going? [Jot the answers down]. And then – How can we get there? [Jot the answers down]. Now you have started your Strategic Plan; keep at it!

Prioritisation

Deciding what is or is not important is a key part of the management function— whether it relates to managing your cases or managing your business. By creating a grid like this you will be able to separate out and prioritise your tasks. Write down all the tasks you need to do on a separate piece of paper. Once you’ve done that, think about them in terms of importance and urgency and then list them in the quadrant that best matches the priority of that item—the most urgent and most important go into the top right hand quadrant and the least urgent and least important go into the bottom left hand quadrant. You should then work your way through the most urgent and important before anything else—then move to important, but not urgent. You then need to consider whether things that are in the bottom half of the grid—the urgent but not important—or non urgent and unimportant items need to be done at all. You must always remember that if you don’t manage your work—and that includes all the various management tasks—your work will manage you. You must make it your priority to ensure that it’s the former and not the latter methodology that you practice!

Contact us

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA, Business Consultant, t. 01294 833220, m. 07855 838395, e. brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon on simon@lawware.co.uk

Back to basics – a Business Briefing for Lawyers: Managing Performance

Welcome to the latest edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers. This month the focus is on Managing Performance. It is essential that every firm has a range of Performance Management tools—not only of a financial nature (although those are very important) – but more wide ranging.

Armed with these tools, firms will be able to make decisions based on factual foundations rather than on “gut feelings” or “instinct” which, sadly, can prove disastrous. We will touch on just some of those tools in this month’s Briefing. You should not only check your performance for the current month but also over a period of time to help you gain an understanding of the way your business is working and what trends there are that are affecting it. If you need any help in creating systems or tools to assess your performance, please get in touch with me—I’d be delighted to help.

Performance Managing

You see them vying for victory every week during the F1 season – trying to improve their performance week on week. They try things to see if they work, and if they do, they keep them and if they don’t they discard them and try something different. The whole team knows what it’s trying to achieve and they all have a part to play. They measure everything that goes on because they know that by doing that they will find ways of improving that will help them win the race. In your business, there is no difference between what they do in Formula 1 to what you need to do.

Every business needs to have a range of Performance Measurements against which it can test its progress. There are the obvious financial measurements in the form on budgets and projections which you can compare to actual results. You can measure the number of new cases that you opened this week, month or year against the same period last year. You can count the number of new clients that you’ve taken on— and where they came from. Are your Sources of Business continuing to perform as you expected them to? You must identify the information that is important to you and once you to that you must check your progress against that. Are you going to make the effort to improve week on week or are you just in the race to make up the numbers?

If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it!

It’s well known in the world of management that you can’t manage something if you can’t see it—and if you don’t set any performance measurements then there’s nothing to see. It is an essential element of running any business to set performance measurements. Without these you will have no accurate idea of how your business is doing. Simply relying on the bottom line in your bank balance will not give you a very good idea of which parts of your business are performing well and which are performing badly. To do this you need to introduce a range of performance measurements. There need not be a huge range of measurements—but you do need some. As I mentioned earlier, it is prudent to have a range of financial measurements. You really should set out a budget for your financial year (and if you’re part of the way through the financial year and haven’t set a budget—set one for the remainder of the year). Every month you should compare how you’ve done against your budget. You should look at which areas performed well and which areas performed badly—and, in each case, work out why. You should also benchmark your results against the Cost of Time Survey conducted by The Law Society. You will find a range of Financial Ratios in that Report against which you can test your own results.

If you are intent on growing your business profitably, you will be interested in where your new clients are coming from and to compare how many new cases are created by new clients against the number of new cases generated by existing clients. A monthly Source of Business report is a good barometer as to whether you have solid connections that supply you with new cases month after month—and whether a once successful Source of Business is now in decline.

Reading rows and rows of numbers can be difficult and don’t necessarily help you to spot trends. Try putting the resulting into a Chart to compare your projections against your actual results or, in the case of Source of Business Reports consider establishing trends over a period of time to see if there is an improvement or decline from your various sources of business. As can be seen from this chart, existing clients and client referrals are performing well, referrals from the firm’s Web site are increasing month on month, Yellow Pages produces a very small number of cases and might not be worth the money and there is a declining trend in IFA Referral work. This assists you in making decision about which areas you should focus on for growth.

Simon says…..

If I was a budding Olympian (I wish!) then the term performance management would be an oft used phrase. If I was CEO of an FTSE company it would be part of the furniture. So is it something only associated with participants that are at the peak of their chosen field, or, is it something to do with how you attain the heights of capability. The above have teams of dedicated people to measure, analyse and report, which of course isn’t the case for your average law firm in Scotland. Having said that, I reckon you only need the teams of experts if you are trying to win a medal or keep investors happy. The average law firm in Scotland can be informed about its performance much more easily – simply use modern Practice Management software that takes a holistic approach to the firm rather than just the Cashroom.

The most common tool to measure a law firm’s performance is probably the cash accounting system. Unfortunately far too many cash accounting systems were designed for cashiers to use, which means they pander to the needs of the few rather than the needs of the many. Compliance isn’t difficult to achieve and it’s certainly not an aspect to be feared or shrouded in ignorance. Any decent Practice Management System (PMS) will make Compliance transparent to all and automatically alert Partners as to how Anti –Money Laundering and Cash is performing – and, it will show you how your Fees Rendered and Fees Recovered are performing – although don’t be one of those people that think Fees Rendered is the goal; it isn’t – only Fees Recovered (i.e. cash in your bank account) is of practical use to today’s law firms. A good PMS will reveal how quickly you fee (by Work Type, by Partner, by Department) and how quickly you get paid; by revealing the number of days it takes to be paid – then starts you thinking about how you can reduce it. It will also show you any clients with a £500+ credit balance — and show you any clients with a Credit Balance and Fees Outstanding if your Terms of Business says you can take a fee if sufficient client’s funds are available, then call client and let them know you are taking it. If your Terms of Business doesn’t say this – change it. If you are currently using the Bank Statement as your primary performance management tool, then have a look at a modern Practice Management System; you will get a very pleasant surprise if you do. You may be one of those that waits for the accountant to tell you what’s what after the financial year end. The difficulty with this is that by the time you find out there’s a problem; it’s too late to do anything to improve things in the relevant financial year.

Many firms are trading on an overdraft, in which case the bank has probably taken a proactive role as far as reporting is concerned – in many cases this was because the firm itself wasn’t proactive. However, don’t simply be feeding the bank with what it wants to know; understand how good your business development is – report on new clients introduced and new instructions received as these are the things that will feed through into your cash figures in due course. Understand the dynamics of your business: what number of cases lead to what level of income, what are the overheads and expenses that underpin which levels of work type; How are they performing? Is a good question. How can they perform better? I would suggest is the goal.

Fee Earner Performance

Because of the nature of legal firms, it is very important that Fee Earners have their performance measured. In many instances Solicitors are not only the owners and managers of the business, they are also the prime producers of the firm’s income through the work they carry out to generate fee revenue. You should consider measuring the number of cases a fee earner is dealing with at any given time, when it is likely that these cases will generate an income—and how much. You will be interested in the number of fees the Fee Earner renders each month and, most importantly, the number of fees the Fee Earner recovers each month. You can look at the averages of both the number of fees raised each month as well as the average value of fees rendered and recovered and by doing do make a reasonable projection of how much a Fee Earner is likely to generate over a future period.

You can also test what the effect would be of either increasing the average number of fees raised or the average value per fee (or both) or, more worrying, what the impact of a decrease in either of these figures would lead to. To follow this process to its logical conclusion, you will be able to set costs against the Fee Earner—not just the Fee Earner’s salary but also Employers NI and the share or overhead that is attached to the Fee Earner for use of the office space and systems –and the cost of any secretarial or administrative support. By doing this exercise you will be able to calculate Fee Earner profitability. This is a very useful measurement to help you with your decision making. It may seem from taking a “top line” approach based on the value of Fees Rendered that a particular area of work is valuable to the firm but when you analyse out the cost of that work you may well discover that when the cost of carrying out the work is applied that the profitability is simply not there. This may help you to determine how that can be dealt with or whether the firm should continue to do that particular type of work.

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA, Business Consultant, t. 01294 833220, m. 07855 838395, e. brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon on simon@lawware.co.uk

Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers: Managing Change

Welcome to the latest edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers.

This month the focus is on Change and Change Management. What a topic to try to cover in a couple of pages! There’s a school of thought that says all the best companies are in a constant state of change—and that’s not wrong. I should make clear, though, that it’s not always wholesale change. Incremental change can be extremely effective. Be careful to make sure that you can justify the reasons for change—there’s no point in introducing change for change’s sake. Make changes that will support your objectives, improve your services and increase your profitability— that’s what you’re in business for, after all. If you need any assistance to introduce and/or manage change, please get in touch with me—I’d be delighted to help.

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA
Business Consultant
40c Drakemyre
Dalry
North Ayrshire
KA24 5JE
t. 07855 838395

e.   brian@drakemyre.co.uk

If it’s so hard to change—why bother?

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard the phrase “but this is how we’ve always done ……”. (add your own ending). There is no doubt that many people in most businesses are change resistant—they would rather do anything other than change the way they do things. They are emotionally attached to internal processes that can be shown to be outdated, obsolete, time consuming and no longer fit for purpose—but suggest that they change the way they do something and many people behave as if you’ve just suggested that they should jump off a very high cliff! I’ve mentioned this before in this Briefing, and I believe it’s worth repeating. If you want to change the results you’re getting then you need to do things in a different way—or to put it in a much less charitable way—the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Change is a challenge and many employers shy away from that challenge, sometimes because they fear change themselves! In the last few years change has been forced on many legal firms. External pressure caused by the recession meant firms had no choice but to review the ways that they structure their staffing requirements and be selective in the work they do.

Some firms moved away from doing what they believe to be unprofitable work whilst others diversified into areas where, in the past, they did not provide services. These changes have been forced on the profession by external circumstances and it is clear that there has been a great deal of pain. Change forced by external pressures will inevitably result in unpalatable decisions being made and changes implemented that would not be the first choice of the partners in the firm—I know many partners who had to make the very painful decision to make staff redundant or put people on short time in order to cut the cost base just so the firm would survive. It will come as no surprise, then, to learn that change driven from within and implemented through choice can have a much more significant impact on the future of the firm. This is change that’s introduced not for survival but for a positive purpose. Finally, there must be a reason for change—and what better reason than to achieve the objectives that the firm has set –Oh!, you did set those back in January when we discussed them…….didn’t you?

Back to Basics – a business briefing for lawyers: Marketing made simple

Welcome to the latest edition of Back to Basics — a Business Briefing for Lawyers. This month the focus is on marketing—and it’s not just advertising that we’ll be talking about. Marketing touches every aspect of your firm. It starts with your ability to deliver to your clients what you say you’re going to deliver and ends with winning new business through a process of designing systems and methodologies that allow you to provide services that are fit for purpose and then telling the world at large about them.

Gone are the days when a solicitor could depend on having a “client for life”. There are very strong competitive forces out there—and the worrying thing for lawyers is that their competition is no longer just other lawyers, but other more commercially minded enterprises— and that’s before we even have to consider the impact of ABS! This edition will look at marketing as a tool to help you improve your business performance by ensuring that you’ve done the ground work and then proclaimed your capabilities to the world at large.

Marketing is not a “One-off” activity

The are many anecdotal stories of solicitors conducting a “Wills Campaign” and then declaring “It didn’t work for me”. Well, there’s a very clear difference between sending out a mass mailshot to a whole bunch of people who you believe are still clients and conducting a well thought out, structured and continuous campaign to ensure that those of your clients who might not have a Will think about making one—and those of your clients who do have a Will, review it on a regular basis.

Whatever else Marketing is, it is an activity that must be undertaken on a continuous basis—and that means that there is a need to ensure that it is properly resourced. I don’t mean by this spending a lot of money on expensive advertising. What I mean is that someone in the firm needs to take responsibility to ensure that whatever the firm does to design and promote its services , it is done, properly, professionally and, most importantly, continuously.

The four Ps of marketing—Product, Price, Place and Promotion apply just as much to the legal profession as they do to any other commercial organisation—with the P of Products being replaced with the S for Service. So, try this for a very quick exercise: Review the Services your firm provides, determine the Price at which you will provide those Services, decide where you want to Place your Services and then Promote them sensibly and continuously. You need to plan this carefully and engage with others in the firm to do this. And once you have your plan it’s not always necessary that a lawyer has to actually run it—some would say that it would be best if the lawyers weren’t involved in the aspect of running it at all!!

Don’t keep your services a secret

How often have you heard one of your clients say “I didn’t know you did that”. This is not unusual in the legal profession because lawyers are not particularly good at promoting their services to their clients. This also raises the question of who are your actual clients and who should you be promoting your services to.

The legal profession has a tendency to count as its clients those people for whom they’ve carried out a piece of work. So, if you bought or sold a house for someone, say, 5 years ago, it is likely that you still count that person as a client. As a result of some accident, rather than anything else, your “client” contacts you at the end of that 5 year period to say that he’d like to use you to sell his house—and that he’s using “Such and Such Estate Agent” to do the marketing. While you’re on the phone to the client taking his instructions he tells you that since the last time you met he’s made a Will through another solicitor (or, even worse, through a “Will Writer”), arranged the winding up of his mother’s estate through her solicitor even though he was the Executor, used a “no win, no fee” company to help him claim compensation for the accident he had 3 years ago and, then, remortgaged his home last year on the expiry of the fixed term mortgage that he had when you bought the house for him in the original transaction. When you tell him you also provide estate agency services the now infamous words “I didn’t know you do all of that!” are uttered! In this case, just think about the amount of business (and money) you’ve lost by failing to keep in touch with this client.

If your client was aware that you provided all of the services he needed over the years there is every likelihood that he would have used your services rather than going elsewhere. Don’t keep what you do a secret. Let your clients know the range of services your firm provides. Keep in touch with your clients on a regular basis. Don’t fall into the category of the “can’t be bothered”. It costs you far more to win a new client than to keep and continue to provide services to an existing client. Do this: work out what services your firm provides (yes, this is a good idea—some firms are not entirely clear what services they do actually provide), set them out in an easy to read format (either electronically or on paper) and devise a means of communicating them to your clients. It is absolutely essential that you are in touch with your clients on at least 2 occasions every year—3 is better but as a minimum you need to be in touch more than once. Make the effort—if you don’t, someone else will. If you can’t allocate the time to this, outsource it—but make sure that you do it in such a way that you retain control of the activity AND the cost—marketing has a tendency to run away with the budget if you let it. Finally, use whatever means possible at your disposal to market to your clients—electronic as well as paper—and best of all, a combination of the two. Solicitors have a “lead list” that commercial organisations would give their eye teeth for—you should use this to this maximum extent possible.

Simon says…..

I wrote an article for the LawWare Newsletter (Winter 2011) which took a cursory look at the current state of legal marketing in England, as they are further down the ABS line than we are, and noted the influx of professional marketing organisations entering the market using TV advertising to communicate with the target market and the Internet as a delivery base for the service, highlighting QualitySolicitors and Wigster as examples.

The approach of these professional marketeers is very different from that of legal firms themselves. The approach of Legal firms both north and south of the border is similar – either they know what they do and can communicate it, or, they don’t and don’t. I went on to develop a few points – Once the English marketing model is established – the marketing machine won’t stop; it learns, it develops, it gets better. Other suppliers come into the market, offering slightly different services, but at a better price point. And so the marketing machine gathers momentum and pace. Scotland will be regarded as just another target audience and the numbers will be crunched, the strategies written and executed. And remember – your ‘Client’ is someone else’s ‘Prospective Client’. The two examples of change I highlight are both Internet based.

The Internet is the medium of choice for demographics A1-3, B1-3 and C1’s to find potential new suppliers and services – these are the people that have any kind of disposable income. The sort of people firms should be trying to attract! Change is often powered by IT. It is usually delivered by IT. But it is rarely because of IT. Change occurs when someone wants to achieve an objective, understands how to achieve it and can convince others to back the objective.

None of these characteristics are ‘Legal’ – they are ‘Entrepreneurial’. So as well as being good legal analysts and good business managers; Partners of Law firms have to be Entrepreneurial too. So YOU might have to change, maybe develop new skills, maybe hone existing ones. This is not a bad thing; to develop oneself is an admirable personal aim. There are many books and courses that can help. Perhaps look at the CPD requirement in a slightly different shade of light – the personal development requirement is there for good reason and I think it is time that we all got better at this side of our roles.

We are here to; provide a service; different clients require a range of services to suit their needs, and so we must develop and adapt those services as our clients’ needs change or are changed, and, we must attract new clients. It’s up to us to secure the future of our organisations, especially so when the future changes faster than it ever did before. So for this new year I resolved to be a bit more entrepreneurial and I encourage you to be too, for your own good and your clients. Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon at simon@lawware.co.uk

It’s the little things that matter

Just saying “Thank you” to a client can reap huge rewards. As an absolute minimum, you should thank your client on your engagement and on completion of the transaction—and for goodness sake, don’t say “thank you” at the end of a case and at the same time try to ram further services down his throat! Leave a decent space between completion and the offer of any new services you can provide to the client—and always remember—if the client should happen refer someone else to you, you must thank the client for that referral.

Is social media the answer?

The Internet offers a fantastic opportunity for lawyers to communicate with their clients, no more so than through the use of social media. The Facebook and Twitter phenomena means that people are in touch with each other on a daily basis and by using blogs you can get your opinion out to the masses. Professional media sites like LinkedIn give business people the ability to make contacts and the old words like “networking” and “making friends” seem to have gone by the board. This is all very well—and it is good to use social media, blogging and other online tools to promote your business—but it pays to make sure that you are able to capitalise on the opportunities that this medium offers—and that you don’t ignore more traditional marketing routes. If you do engage with social media, please make sure that you do so professionally, respond to enquiries promptly and that your online presence is managed. Doing this will ensure that your services are being promoted continuously and in the right way. Stephen Moore of Moore Technology Limited is an expert in this field and his advice is that before embarking on any online strategy it pays to decide what you want to achieve, how you want to achieve it, how you keep it current and how you manage the resulting enquiries. Visit Stephen’s web site on www.moorelegaltechnology.co.uk

Contact us

Brian O’Neill LL.B MBA, Business Consultant, t. 01294 833220, m. 07855 838395, e. brian@drakemyre.co.uk

Simon Greig is Sales Manager of LawWare Limited, Edinburgh. Contact Simon on simon@lawware.co.uk

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