Overall it’s an interesting read and probably worth 45 or so minutes of your time (lots of graphics should mean it won’t take that much longer of your time), but it was the last section on ‘Five simple steps to transform your firm’ (which funny enough has very few graphics) that really grabbed my attention. I thought they were useful tips/insights to keep in mind, so I thought I would share them here:
Assess where your firm demonstrates value to clients – understanding where you provide value to a client will inform how you create a sustainable business model.
Implement innovative practices – finding opportunities where you can innovate processes within firms will keep it competitive over the long-term.
Harness the power of data and analytics – having a better knowledge of where your firm spends its time will help in understanding where potential client value can be added.
Construct, and embrace an employee value proposition – having a central purpose will go a long way towards unifying four generations of employees at very different stages of their careers.
Embrace diversity and inclusion – bringing a variety of perspectives to your firm will help in retaining your team at a time when loyalty is at premium.
Take a look at the report – let me know if you don’t agree with any of these or if you have any you would add, and enjoy your week!
My son was born 10 June 2021. Since then, I have been in lockdown for 10 weeks (just starting week 11), homeschooled all of term 3 (currently 8 weeks, start of week 9), have three children under the age of 7 at home 24/7 (including the newborn), and with two working parents to schedule this madhouse around!
All of which is to say, I have been remiss in not blogging for a while, but hopefully you get the picture.
Anyhow, during this time of madness I came across an interesting article by Bhavisha Mistry on the Legal Cheek blog – ‘5 pieces of advice I’d give to my younger self’. Bhavisha is a College of Legal Practice programme committee member trying to help out aspiring lawyers.
Bhavisha’s article got me thinking, ‘What 5 pieces of advice would I give my younger self?’. So, here goes my attempt at an answer:
Expect the unexpected: Having been through the Asian Financial Crisis (1997/1998), the dot.com bubble bust (2001), SARS (2002), the Global Financial Crisis (2008) and now COVID (2019), one thing I can tell you is that the ‘unexpected’ happens on a pretty regular basis. Plan for it and always have a ‘Plan B’, because there are likely going to be more uncertain days than certain.
Back yourself: If you’re starting out in this profession, you’re just about to go through some of the most boring and mundane [very long] days of your life. Having been a massive over-achiever up to this part of your life, you will now go through an apprenticeship that will make you question why you bothered. You’ll hear a lot of comments about “paying attention to detail”. All I can say is:- back yourself and stick with it. There will be challenges. There will be dark days when you question your sanity. But back yourself, because you are here for a reason – and never, ever, be willing to compromise on your personal values to please your peers.
Always be willing to learn new things: While the profession of law probably hasn’t changed all that much since the days of Charles Dickens, the business of law is changing all the time. Always be willing to learn new skills that help you improve how you conduct the business of law – whether that be Legal Project Management (LPM), Design Thinking, AI or whatever fad is still to come our way. Read. Listen to podcasts. Attend webinars/seminars/conferences. And be willing to pay for this if you need to.
Business Development and Marketing are important skills: Following on from 3, know how to market yourself in a P2P (person-to-person) industry is important. Look at your customer buying journey/cycle. See where you need to be and when – and that may be on LinkedIn, but equally it may be having your hair-cut on Saturday when the barber/hairdresser is busy with friendly chat. It could be talking to other lawyers (for referrals), but equally it could mean staying well from them. But having an understanding of this is critical, because it will help you with one of the most important skills you need to succeed in this business: the ability to build relationships with people – both internally [in your firm] and externally.
Budgets are a joke: I’ll leave the best for last, when you start out at a firm you’ll be assigned a budget. That budget is likely going to be 4+ times what you are being paid. It is going to look like a lot of money. You a probably going to think: “If I had that much money I could buy an apartment”. Here’s the thing, these budgets are meaningless. Why do I say they are meaningless? Because at this stage of your career, you’ll have no control over whether you can achieve budget. You’ll have no control over whether you can achieve utilisation. So, if anyone from Finance or Management says you are not making budget, refer them to your supervising partner – because that’s where the buck stops!
As always, the above represent my own thoughts only and would love to hear yours in the comments below.
As far as I’m aware, Apple has never allowed retailers to discount (or have any other say in) its products pricing.
As far as I have understood it, Apple’s rational for this because it has always insisted that it – and it alone – has complete control over its pricing.
Why is this important?
In short, because while you will see retailers heavily discounting every other computer software and hardware manufacturers’ products during this year’s EOFY (lockdown) sales, no such offer is made on Apple products.
You don’t see red ink on Apple product price tags.
So what can law firms learn from this approach?
Always understand the value you provide to your clients
In 2018, on Canberra radio 2CC, the then Prime Minister of Australia Malcom Turnbull said:
“I actively discourage kids from doing law unless they actually want to be lawyers”.
Although maybe not apparently obvious (unless you are able to tie-in the relevance of the title of this post), Mr Turnbull’s comments were in reference to the number of students opting to study law here in Australia (where law remains part of a 5 year double degree) without any real desire to enter the profession.
As someone who had gone through the (admittedly English 3-year LLB undergraduate degree) university system in the early 1990s, I once heard it said that there were more students studying law than there were lawyers with practising certificates in England and Wales.
But here’s the thing, nearly all of us who had done our research (pre internet of things days), knew it. Most of us knew that a training contract was a far-off dream, especially as Student Loans were starting to kick-in.
Many didn’t even want to work in a Magic Circle firm – high street conveyancing was okay.
So are there too many people studying law?
Almost everyone I studied law with saw a law degree not only as a path to practising law but also as both an intellectual challenge and a gateway degree to better opportunities.
When considering that remark, keep in mind this was an era where having skills like a university degree (let alone one in law) allowed us to go overseas and work/travel (in my case that was 12 years in Asia and 14 years in Australia and I have still yet to see the inside of a court in England and Wales in any professional capacity).
‘Do universities have a duty of care to ensure their students have real work prospects before accepting them onto their undergraduate program?
I think they do, but from many of the responses I received others think otherwise.
Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I believe that if you pay 10s if not 100s of thousand of dollars to do a 5-year undergraduate degree in law, you should have some level of reassurance there is a reasonable chance you can actually be a lawyer. After all, on grades you should be in top 5% or so of students in the country.
10 ‘non-legal’ roles you can do in a law firm with a law degree
On the chance you do happen to do a 5 year law degree, don’t want to be a politician/diplomat and actually want to work in a law firm who aren’t offering you a Training Contract, then here’s my list of 10 alternative ‘non-legal’ roles you can do in a law firm with a law degree:
Management (COO, CEO)
Learning & Development
(NB: the use of ‘non-legal’ here is deliberate)
As always, the above represent my own thoughts only and would love to hear yours.
But isn’t that why we, as business developers, are hired? To try and give some insights to our partners on how the industry might look?
With that in in mind, for what it is worth , here are my two cents on some of things we may look forward to over the next 18 months:
The industry will remain fundamentally the same – as it was pre COVID-19 pandemic days unless there are structural changes to the business model. And, as I understand it, the trust partnership business model that is currently used in most common law jurisdictions makes the talk of change easier than the reality of change (in that nobody today would likely start a new law firm under a partnership trust structure).
Technology and working from home will play role – it goes without saying that both technology and working from home will play a part in the future, but how big that role will be in an industry built on presentism still remains to be seen.
Consolidation will likely feature prominently – with The Law Society Gazette (England and Wales) reporting in the past week that ‘71% of high street firms face collapse‘ I would foresee a similar scenario playing out here in Australia. Only I doubt it will apply to high street firms, who should do well out of the expected growth in wills & estates and family law matters, as much as it will likely apply to the middle market where there still remain far too many firms representing far too few clients.
There will be an increase in lateral hiring – for the reasons above.
Cashflow/credit facilities will help – Warren Buffet is reported to have said that “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.” Well, the tide has never been lower and we will see in the coming days who still has the ear of their banker. Arguably those with big trust accounts and/or on the panel of one or more Big4 bank panels will benefit.
How much office space do law firms really need? – it will be interesting to see if rent footprint decreases. Rental space – and whether to remove parts of the business to less expensive rental footprints (see Herbert Smith Freehills to Macquarie Park and McCabe Curwoods to Chatswood for example) – has been an issue for some time and one of the big take outs from this may well be a lot more Hot-desking!
The Big4 see opportunity – as EY reported this week, the Big4 are not going away. If anything, as this chart shows, they’ll be upscaling their charge
A need to be even more client and sector focusses – with the team at Adam Smith, Esq looking at the following areas of need:
Insolvency, restructuring and distressed assets
Private equity (I’m not 100% sold on PE in Oz)
Regulatory investigations and dispute resolution a/k/a litigation
Tech and all the ancillary practices it spawns, including IP
From an Australian law perspective I would add Insurance law (going to be more claims made) and all forms of Government (Government will be spending big on Infrastructure, Health, Education and others).
But all of the above are my views and so to finish this post I’m going to turn to one of the great take-outs of this week for me – a post by Trish Carroll who interviewed 12 final year law students to find out how they were feeling in the middle of Covid – ‘Is Covid-19 the mother of all disruptors for the legal profession?‘ – and this is about as close as we will get to how the future of law will look.
As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.
I want to start this post by acknowledging how far the discussion around mental health and wellbeing has moved within the Australia legal industry since the death of Tristan Jespon in October 2004. In part I put the moving of this needle down to the work of my good friend Justin Whealing while he was editor of Lawyers Weekly and in part I put this down to the continued work of Jerome Doraisamy, also of Lawyers Weekly and Minds Count (the new name for The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation). Don’t get me wrong though, there are many many others who have played both active front-line and support roles in ensuring the issue of mental health and wellbeing is taken more seriously in our profession (see RUOKAY Day for example).
That said, while I think all of these initiatives and discussions are fantastic and are standouts that should make us extremely proud of the direction the industry is taking in Australia, almost every single conversation that I have been involved in on this issue has related to the mental health and wellbeing of lawyers – and, more specifically, junior lawyers. So it was great to see a report published earlier this month by fSquared Marketing on the issue of ‘Legal Marketing Mental Wellness’.
The subtitle of this report – ‘Stress in legal affects more than just lawyers’ – sets out the parameters of the journey the reader is about to undertake. And if you are left in any doubt about this, one of the first paragraphs of the Report cuts to the rub of the issue and totally grabs your attention and is also so very true.
What about the legal marketing and business development professionals who are tasked with growing firms how is their mental health? They work in the same high-pressure environment as attorneys after all, and often under their direct management. Might the traditional pyramid structure, with equity partners at the peak, lead to stress cascading down the hierarchy to fall on the shoulders of the marketing and BD staff?
As someone who has worked on the front-line for over a decade my response is – ABSOLUTELY!
Taking a look at some of the responses I was particularly saddened, although not overly surprised, by these two graphs:
both of which were followed up by:
When reflecting on their own experiences, 83% of respondents listed their level of stress as at least a 7 on a scale of 1-10. No respondents reported feeling “very little to no stress”.
71% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “I have too much work assigned to me.”
76% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “There is a lack of resources in my department/assigned to marketing.”
And the following two highlighted comments made me sad that I personally am not delivering on my duty to my team and that the industry more generally really needs to address this issue:
“Much of the stress would be alleviated with stronger leadership from firm management, as well as from growing the marketing/business development team.”
“It is unfortunate that law firms segregate mental health awareness between lawyers and non-lawyers. Somehow they feel that staff (with whom they work directly) do not suffer from the same level of stress that the lawyers do.”
As damning as that last statement is – and never underestimate how damning it is, I want to end this post on a positive note, and that is this:
62% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement: “My team’s ‘wins’ in marketing are celebrated”.
*if you are having issues in this area, no matter what firm you are from, never feel shy to reach out. I don’t promise to have the answer (frankly I won’t), but I will try and help you find that answer.
In short Ron and Ed talk about the fact that there are some jobs around the world where you need a ‘licence to practice’ – examples: a barber (hat tip to Ron’s Dad there), an accountant, and even a lawyer.
On the back of the Kim Kardashian issue, Ed and Ron then go on to ask this question:
If you know someone isn’t qualified (e.g., don’t have a law degree) or isn’t licensed (e.g. have a practising certificate), should you still be able/allowed to ask them for professional advice – provided that you sign a waiver/agreement/whatever stating that you know that persons isn’t qualified or licensed to provide the requested advice?
Never, no way, stupid idea.
And I would agree with you.
But wait, we’re all adults here and should be allowed to determine our own future and make our own decisions.
“There is no restriction on any Thai national , with or without a law degree [bolded and underlined for emphasis by me], to offer you legal advice.”
Now Thailand is a civil law jurisdiction with a codified law, but still…
…leaving aside the whole issue of how stupid you may or may not need to be take legal advice from a non-licensed, non-qualifed expert (bought a pre-pack will lately?) – here’s a precedent.
There are “lawyers” who advise “on the law” who are not educationally qualified (as opposed to possibly life) or institutionally licensed.
Interesting as that all is though, that’s Thailand – hardly the US, UK or Australia.
Well hang on a second…
Listening to Ed and Ron’s podcasts there are States in the US where you can now obtain ‘legal’ advice from someone who isn’t qualified or licensed, provided that you sign a waiver saying that you knew this to be the case.
And, in my view the following comment from legalfutures.com – reporting on The UK Legal Services Consumer Research Report 2019 yesterday:-
A smaller majority (58%) would be prepared to use freelance solicitors, due to arrive this November with other Solicitors Regulation Authority rule changes, if they could save money on fees.
means they are not a long way behind.
As always though, interested in your thoughts/views/feedback.
In my last post I mentioned that I may post some further thought I had on this year’s Altman Weil Chief Legal Officer Survey.
One further comment on the Survey findings I did want to make relates to what I consider to be ‘the perfect storm’ brewing for the so-called #OldLaw or Traditional Law firm model.
And the best thing about this post is that my point can be made by showing you the following three easy to read charts from the Survey:
QUESTION: What are the chances you’ll be spending more money with me – your outside counsel – in the medium to long-term?
[click on chart to expand]
ANSWER: Not an awful lot!
QUESTION: If you are not giving me – your outside counsel – the work, then who are you giving it to (ie, who is my main competitor)?
[click on chart to expand]
QUESTION: When you do give me work, what are the chances that you are going to ask me for a discount?
[click on chart to expand]
ANSWER: Very likely indeed!
Have to say, reading these three charts I’m left with the feeling that outside counsel are in for a very rough ride unless they are 100% focussed on what they want to do, and who they want to do it for!
Altman Weil published the 2016 edition of its Chief Legal Officer Survey overnight Australian time. I may well post some more of my thoughts on this year’s content in the coming days, but what I wanted to share with you immediately is what I consider to be one of the most damning charts I have ever seen as it relates to business development, legal spend, and client relationship management:
That’s right, when asked the question:
Considering the ten law firms that receive the largest portion of your outside counsel spend, in the last 12 months how many of those firms have provided you with an analysis of spending data that was useful to your law department?
An overwhelming majority of CLOs (73%) responded “none”.
So, if you work for a law firm looking to differentiate your services; then the answer is it really isn’t that difficult.