Knowsley Management Services
Legal Practice Management Consultants
I hope this November 2018 edition of KMS “Robservations” finds you very well…
I have again briefly covered for you a few more issues that I observe, from deep in the trenches, impacting lawyers in small-medium firms in Australia, New Zealand and Canada…
I trust you continue to find the content of interest, and value to you in your practice…as ever, feel free to email me any questions about the content, or to set up a discussion.
Best wishes for an excellent month!
Rob Knowsley LLB.
The strongest thread from our consulting in the past few months has been related to assisting firms to keep their eye firmly on the ball.
Few businesses can run well on auto-pilot, and smaller legal practices are certainly not in a category that do!
People management is always a challenge, and even more so when there are plenty of people to be managed and few who see it as their role to manage.
Those who should be managing need to be very clear what it is they are supposed to be doing, and what the indicators are of success or otherwise.
A fundamental danger for many Principals is that they have the massive competing challenge to their focus of clients’ matters and all that involves.
It is easy to get distracted until the symptoms of taking the eyes of the ball are bad or critical, and then the time taken to get back on top of the problem(s) is usually more than it would have taken to operate in a balanced way in the first place.
Non-Principal managers have their own focus challenges, and can also quite easily get bogged down in one or more projects that seem important, interesting, and immediate, when other vital systems still need proper attention all the while.
The greater the workload an individual is carrying, the more likely it is that apparently urgent tasks will pop up to distract. Carefully planning, and very regular review, are vital to maintain focus on what activities were agreed to be critical, so time and other resources are made available, non-negotiably!
Marketing does not need to involve much new, innovative, activity, if what you do is seriously client/prospect oriented, and full of relevant, helpful, information.
It should be able to be tracked to a marked increase in enquiry, and the enquiries be tracked to new engagements at an acceptable level for the time and funds invested.
The first very simple goal should be to get/keep desirable work coming in at levels that will fully support all the team members in their WorkPlan™ goals for client file work.
If that isn’t happening, irrespective of billings at the moment, or workload at the moment, eventually workload will drop, and invoicing must follow, taking the firm back downwards towards breakeven, or worse, below breakeven.
I often see firms doing a lot of things under the umbrella of “Marketing” that involve quite a lot of effort and very little observable results in enquiry and new instructions. Often the efforts appear to reflect a desire to be somehow different, or to be in early on the “next big thing” in sourcing work.
Being different can sometimes be very important, but being different by doing ineffective marketing is not useful!
Many lawyers do not readily accept that there is a direct causal connection between marketing and new enquiry/instructions. They usually do not much like marketing, because they haven’t yet learnt that it is a big part of being truly professional, and that doing it properly is very much in the best interests of the “targets” …their clients, prospects, referrers and gate-keepers.
They often feel that it is unprofessional, unlikely to be effective, and an interference with the main part of their role, working on client files.
In reality all of their role should be about assisting people, and that can also be quite easily done in appropriate marketing, relationship-based.
At time of writing this some parts of social media are flooded with lawyers’ chest-thumping their deep pride in being named best “X region well-respected, up and coming, Inter-Galactic lawyer for 2018”.
Not only is this not helpful for those who should be the real targets of helpful, relevant, information, it actually lulls many lawyers into a false sense that they are marketing very effectively, and that this added lustre to their personal brand will surely lead to a rich and exciting flow of work.
It won’t, and proper regard to the numbers will soon reveal that. Nevertheless, the same “hoopla” will unroll about this time in 2019. One would have thought that lawyers, of all professionals, would have more regard for facts and evidence!
In each issue I look to introduce comment about a management issue that revolves around “the numbers”.
A very fundamental “numbers” issue that contains room for significant, and quite unnecessary, angst in smaller practices is Principals’ holidays.
As strange as it may seem, the big majority of practices does not address the issue properly, and Principals’ tend not to have clear guidelines around leave entitlements.
All too often I observe tension built up around perceptions of significant differences in Principals’ leave taken.
It does not take much imagination to see that a snapping point is approaching where one or more remaining Principals have to cover for another who is away, on top of their own usually very substantial workload, while being resentful of the absent Principal taking much more leave than they feel they can take.
I counsel firms to have guidelines, and to keep accurate records, and to ensure that all Principals know where they are at with leave entitlements. It is a simple step to take to minimise angst.
This program involves membership of a small exclusive club, established by us at KMS in 1988, with a strict cap on memberships. The longest membership is currently 28 years and continuing.
Undoubtedly the most experienced Legal Profession mentor available for small-medium law firms…whenever needed…by email or telephone…
Unlimited assistance with considering appropriate approaches to day to day practice management challenges.
Massive discounts on standard rates for site visits…or special projects outside the scope of membership benefits.
We now have two memberships opportunities again available…”first-in, best-dressed” basis…
Very affordable subscriptions can be paid quarterly, six-monthly or annually in advance, to suit member firms’ cash flows, with the largest discounts for annually. KMSLoyalty™ benefits apply to membership, and continuous membership guarantees that membership fees will not rise for at least three years!
Membership subscription is based on current practice size…please email details so we can advise terms specific to your practice.
Testimonials available at this link… https://www.linkedin.com/in/robknowsley/
With all the commentary about Legal Profession disruption even those Principals who would be prepared to make changes to adapt and prosper can find great difficulty deciding what things should be done in their particular circumstances, and with what priority.
Views within a firm can differ greatly, risking paralysis in taking important action promptly. In this market delay can be deadly.
The Practice Health™ Report is a simple process that brings our great experience to your firm, getting to understand where you’re at, and what you’re hoping to achieve, and giving you clear recommendations on what we would do, in what order, if it was our firm.
As usual, getting quality perspective from outside the firm can unlock logjams that seemed impossible to achieve internally, and get the firm rolling forward strongly again.
If some of this content has been of interest and value for you in your practice, you will find other related content here…
My LinkedIn articles… I’m delighted that my articles are now going to over 7060 LI followers.
KMSWebsite includes an archive of all earlier newsletters…including all issues of “Robservations” and “KMSProfitPower Tips” back to 1996.
My LinkedIn Discussion Group… Excellent Management In The Small Law Firm