A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Firm-Book; a snapshot of the risks of using Facebook in the modern practice

Monday, September 17, 2018

By Dugald Hamilton, Principal & Founder,  23LEGAL

Social media has become a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Facebook posts of new babies, insta-blasts of the latest delectable cuisine you have just whipped up in your kitchen or a boomerang story of you and your friends enjoying a Friday night cocktail after a long week.

But what does this mean for your firm? Regardless of whether you use Facebook as part of your firm’s marketing strategy, this global phenomenon impacts your business. 

Facebook Terms and Conditions

You may be hard pressed to find someone who has read, and understood, the terms and conditions of Facebook (T&C’s). Yet we use these platforms daily (perhaps hourly in some cases) and blindly accept that these companies have our best interests at heart. 

The recent US elections and the large-scale data scraping undertaken by Cambridge Analytica [1] to attempt to manipulate the election should have sent alarm bells off across the Social Media world.  Yet we all still seem to use these platforms and probably haven’t given it another thought. [2]

These recent events should be seen as a chance to consider (or reconsider) whether it is worth the risk of using Facebook; both as a marketing tool but also simply accessing it on devices that also hosts your firm’s data and information.

We seem generally aware that when we are sharing data with Facebook, we give them the ability to access and use that data. Facebook call this “Provid[ing] a personalised experience for you”.  But is it really this simple?

Intellectual Property Licence

One key term which generally gets glossed over is what Facebook can do with your Intellectual Property. The T&C’s state:

you grant us [Facebook] a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free and worldwide licence to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).”

Notably you allow them to translate and create derivate works from your content. You need to consider whether any derivative content will be consistent with your branding? Will it comply with your legal and ethical requirements when it comes to advertising legal services?  What if it doesn’t?

Generally, Facebook will only respond to orders issued out of a Californian Court [3]. So, there is a risk that you could be subjected to obligations or orders here in Australia (e.g. injunctions or other court orders) which ultimately you may need to seek the assistance of a foreign court to allow you to comply with such order.

Now you can end the licence with Facebook by deleting the Content or your Account, but if you have shared it with others (or if Facebook has) the content will subsist until those people also delete it.

Access to Data

As a user of Facebook, also grant them access to a wide (and possibly exorbitant) range of data.  This can stem from simply the data you upload or submit knowingly to Facebook (e.g. a photo or blog post) but also encompasses many other forms of data including, for example, meta data [4], location settings, device settings, signals and unique identifiers. 

One major area of concern which needs active consideration is that that you grant Facebook access to your cameras, microphones and even where you move your mouse on your computer screen [5].  There are reasons why founder Mark Zuckerberg covers his own webcam and microphone on his laptop with tape. [6]

The risk for firms is that if Facebook (or any other hacker) is recording, storing and using this data, you potentially put yourself at risk of breaching privilege, court orders and causing irreparable harm to your clients and your firm.  The reputational damage of a breach alone can cause significant irreparable harm to your brand, and this is before you consider the on flow of that risk to you having to notify your clients and respond to any claims as a result of that breach.

If you turn your mind to how many staff members use Facebook on their work computer, work phone or on their personal devices in their office, around clients or on firm business, the risk is ever present.

Commercial Terms and Conditions

In addition to the T&C’s, when you access Facebook for business purposes you are also subject to Facebook’s Commercial Terms and Conditions (CT&C’s).

Relevantly, these CT&C’s include terms such as:

  • Warranties that:

    • you can bind your firm when you use it for business;

    • your access of Facebook complies with all applicable laws, rules and regulations – this may arguably include the laws of other jurisdictions;

  • an indemnity in favour of Facebook for any damages (including legal fees) related to any claim brought as a result of your use; and

  • Depending on the service you use, you also agree to a wide range of additional terms and conditions which themselves can have a significant impact on your firm. [7] 

Five Tips for what should you do to minimise risk

Facebook, when used well, can be an essential tool in your Firm’s marketing arsenal.  When things go wrong however you need to fully understand what you have signed up for, the risks that flow from that.

So, here’s five tips on what can you do today to start to address this risk:

  1. Read the T&C’s and CT&C’s (and all other terms and conditions) in full so that you fully understand what you are agreeing to by allowing Facebook to be used on your systems;

  2. Begin the discussion about what risk your firm is willing to accept and whether using Facebook is right for your business;

  3. Develop, implement and enforce an appropriate policy for use of Facebook (and all social media for that matter) within your firm, your office and amongst your staff;

  4. Consider whether you can outsource any of this risk; say for example taking out cyber insurance;

  5. Stay up to date and continually review these ongoing risks.

All risk management strategies are designed to ensure that you are prepared to respond meaningfully and quickly to any issues which arise in and around your business.  The best time to prepare for that is today.

Meet the author, Dugald Hamilton at the ALPMA Summit in September

Rise of the Machines – The Essential Guide to Future Law Firms (Panel Member)

You are the Biggest Risk … Goodbye … but it doesn’t have to end this way

Dugald Hamilton, Principal, 23LEGAL

[1] (87 Million users (~300,000 Australian users) had their data accessed)

[2] (If you are concerned that you may have been caught up in the Cambridge Analytica data breach you can check via this link https://www.facebook.com/help/1873665312923476?ref=shareable )

[3] Consumer law breaches can be resolved in Australia; however, you are unlikely to be a consumer if you are using or publishing on behalf of your firm

[4] Meta data is a set of data attaching to files which describes and gives information about the data.

[8] See for example, Facebook Platform Policy, Self-Serve Ad Terms, Advertising Policies, Facebook Business Tools Terms, Pages, Groups and Events Policy, Facebook Commerce Product Merchant Agreement, Developer Payment Terms, Custom Audiences Terms as an example.

About our Guest Blogger

Dugald founded 23LEGAL to deliver traditional dispute resolution, restructuring, insolvency and commercial legal services but with a modern-world approach.  Prior to founding 23LEGAL, he spent 10 years working in high-end boutique law firms across Brisbane, specialising in litigation, dispute resolution, restructuring and insolvency.

This extensive experience provided him with a strong foundation to be able to assist you with the most complex of problems and to work with you to resolve it in the best way possible.

As a self-professed tech geek, he is passionate about the intersection of technology and law which can provide new and novel solutions to age-old complex problems.  He recently co-hosted the Sydney leg of the inaugural Global Legal Hackathon in February 2018 and is excited about the current legal tech landscape and the advantages is can bring to modern practice.

LinkedIn (23LEGAL):  https://www.linkedin.com/company/23legal/                   

LinkedIn (personal): https://www.linkedin.com/in/dugald-hamilton-8595b640/

Facebook (23LEGAL): https://www.facebook.com/23legal/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_23Legal

Five things you can do right now to future proof your legal practice

Monday, September 10, 2018

By Fiona McLay, Special Counsel,  Rankin Business Lawyers

If you feel like there is a lot of talk about innovation and disruption in the legal services, but very little actual change in the way lawyers and law firms are operating day-to-day on the coalface, you might be right.

What is changing?

There has been a 484% increase in the number of legal service technology patents globally in the last five years.  In 2017 investment in UK lawtech start-ups was reported to have reached £16m, with 87% of lawtech start-ups aimed at providing legal services to business.

Dramatic changes in processing power and connectivity are making new ways of working possible. New alternative legal service providers, improvements in AI options and increasingly accessible automation tools are bringing irreversible change to the legal market.  

Is it “phoney” change?

A 2018 online survey conducted by ALMPA and Centre for Legal Innovation in Australia found that only half of all respondents identified technology, innovation or disruption as directly impacting changes to their role in the last three years.  Aside from 10% who were not sure, 40% said their role had not changed.

Why are law firms and legal departments not adapting?  Surveyed attendees at the Legal Innovation & Tech Fest in Sydney in June 2018 revealed that the top three roadblocks to innovation were:

  1. Not enough time

  2. Too many ideas, no prioritisation

  3. Not enough money

Getting started – innovation with training wheels

If those roadblocks sound familiar, the good news is that there are often opportunities to implement effective, low-cost innovations in a short time frame. 

1.   Working smarter

Asking “What is the dumbest thing you do?” will turn up bottlenecks caused by manual or inefficient processes.  Look for small ways to eliminate an unnecessarily time-consuming process or double handling. 

Start with the capacity of your existing software.  Are there better ways to use it to avoid common time-suckers like:

  • manage collaboration on documents;

  • manage email;

  • auto-respond to routine requests;

  • use shared calendars to manage resources and avoid scheduling conflicts.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel and pour money into developing a customised, bespoke IT solution. Employ products already designed to solve problems commonly faced by law firms and legal departments which can be used “off the shelf”.

It may also be worth revisiting something that didn’t work very well a few years ago.  For instance, speech recognition products which enable dictation straight to screen have improved greatly.

2.   Legal project management

The Thought Leader Experiment underway in the US suggests that 46% of general counsel surveyed highly value legal project management by law firms.  Using legal project management facilitates more accurate scoping, pricing and resourcing of work. 

Comprehensive process improvement is expensive, but most law firms have detailed records of exactly how many billable units go into the work they do.  It does not require upfront financial investment to use historical billing data to better scope, price and resource repetitive work.

3.   Alternative legal service delivery

McKinsey estimates AI will automate 24% of what lawyers do.  Even if you don’t have the budget to use AI tools, you should get familiar with the capabilities. 

There are a number of reasonably-priced products specifically designed to help Australian lawyers and in-house counsel automate routine document production.  They include products that will:

  • produce comprehensive legal documents from information entered into a responsive series of questions;

  • allow you to automate your own documents using drag and drop elements (no coding required);

  • do an initial review of agreements by comparing them to similar agreements you have used in the past;

  • proof read to detect unused definitions, capitalisation and cross-referencing errors in documents;

  • update authorities cited in support of legal arguments.

4.   Talent management

A global survey by Peerpoint in May 2018 indicated that 81% of current lawyers believe that many young lawyers entering the profession will feel that undertaking the path to partnership is not worth it.  Consulting offers an alternative way for experienced lawyers to continue doing challenging work but with more flexibility and variety than the traditional law firm model. 

Employee engagement initiatives are essential in a disrupted industry.  It costs nothing to thank people for effort, publicly recognise employee contributions and involve employees in interesting projects.

There are lots of opportunities for law firms to use new technology to deliver better and targeted training.  Low cost products allow easy creation and sharing of videos and screen recordings. 

Reviewing data can also reveal a hidden need for training or improvement.  For instance, you can check if documents which are not approved precedents are being continually copied and used as a template.

Although it is expensive to develop useful workflows, checklists and templates for particular work types, this is another area where the quality of the available products has improved significantly.  The investment enables junior staff to progress matters more effectively and capitalises on the expertise of senior team members.

5.   Having an authentic and credible digital presence

If you want to be able to engage with clients online you need to adapt to the continuing trend toward mobile devices and video content.  You can establish an active digital presence by regularly engaging with social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook without having to revamp the firm’s entire website.  There is no budget required to regularly share useful information with your network. 

You will need to be able to present complex information visually if you want to compete in an increasingly busy online space.  

“Ready.  Fire.  Aim”

Don’t let hype about Lawtech blind you to the impact of new tools and new ways of working on the future of the legal profession. 

Look for ways to begin a digital transformation requiring little or no capital outlay that will improve client satisfaction, the way your law firm or law department works, and the bottom line. 

Meet the author, Fiona McLay at the ALPMA Summit in September

 Rise of the Machines – The Essential Guide to Future Law Firms – Panel Discussion

Fiona McLay, Special Counsel, Rankin Business Lawyers

Snapshot of the 5 Lawtech Trends You Should Know About: A Guide for Non Geeks

About our Guest Blogger

Fiona McLay is an experienced litigator who acts for individuals and small to medium sized companies in a wide range of commercial litigation matters. 

At Rankin & Co Business Lawyers she helps people resolve disputes, both in their business and personal lives, in a way that minimises the expense and disruption that those disputes can cause.   

She has implemented practice management tools which improved functionality like customisable automation and paper-lite processes.  She is excited about the way technology is helping us to work more efficiently and focus on delivering great service. 

Fiona regularly shares useful info on LinkedIn, @BreakupBusiness on Twitter or @FionaMcLayLawyer on Facebook.

Your super should not be “set and forget” – it’s time to make a statement

Monday, September 03, 2018

By Andrew Proebstl, Chief Executive, legalsuper

With superannuation fund members across Australia receiving their FY2018 annual member statement, now is the perfect time to reflect, review your fund’s performance and make decisions about what you can do to improve your future super outcomes.

Your super account investment balance and working out how much you’ll need for retirement

Understandably, the first thing most people look at when they receive their annual super statement is how much money they have in their account.

This amount will be shown on your statement. Ideally, your statement will not only show your balance at the end of 2017-18 but also your balance at the end of previous financial years. That way, you can see, at-a-glance, the changes in your balance over time.

To help you forecast what your balance total could be upon retirement, your super fund should provide an online retirement planner calculator.  If they don’t, ASIC’s MONEYSMART website provides such a calculator.

Once you have determined your forecast balance using a calculator, the next step is to compare it to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) Retirement Standard.

The ASFA Retirement Standard benchmarks, on a quarterly basis, the annual budget needed by Australians to fund either a “comfortable” or “modest” standard of living in the post-work years.

The latest standard, issued in March 2018, states that, in retirement, a single person aged 65 will need $27,368 per annum to lead a “modest” lifestyle and $42,764 to lead a “comfortable” lifestyle. Couples will need $39,353 and $60,264 respectively. (These figures assume the retiree/s own their home outright and are relatively healthy).

Should you be topping up your super?

If your analysis shows that you could fall short of your desired retirement balance target, you can consider making additional voluntary contributions to your super.

Your super balance includes both compulsory contributions paid by your employer (currently 9.5 per cent of your salary pursuant to the Superannuation Guarantee) and any additional voluntary contributions you have chosen to make.

If your Super Guarantee contributions are less than $25,000 per financial year, then you can choose to make additional voluntary contributions to super up to the $25,000 limit. These additional contributions (known as concessional contributions) are taxed at a concession tax rate of 15 per cent compared to your marginal tax rate, which in most cases will be higher.

If you decide to pay voluntary concessional contributions it is important to first check with your super fund to ensure these additional contributions do not lead to you exceeding the $25,000 contribution limit.  Contributions in excess of this limit can be taxed at a higher rate.

As well as making voluntary concessional contributions up to the $25,000 cap, employees can also make what are called non-concessional (after-tax) contributions. While non-concessional contributions are taxed differently to concessional contributions, these types of contributions also carry attractive taxation advantages. Your super fund can provide further information.

The current after-tax non-concessional contribution cap is $100,000 for each financial year. However, people under the age of 65 on 1 July in a financial year can contribute in excess of the $100,000 cap up to an amount of $300,000 in a single financial year pursuant to the “bring-forward rule”. This can be a valuable and significant way to boost your savings for retirement.

As the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) MONEYSMART website says: “If you can spare the money, you can really boost your super savings by making after-tax contributions. You will usually save more by investing through super than by investing in the same assets outside super.”

Investment options through super

One other significant aspect to consider when reviewing your current and future balance is the investment option in which your balance is invested. Your investment option will be shown on your member statement.

Most members are invested in their funds’ ‘default’ investment option. Speak with your fund to determine whether it is time to make a change. Often, younger members choose “aggressive” or “assertive” options (e.g. more highly invested in shares and property) while those nearing or in retirement choose a “balanced” or “conservative” approach (e.g. more highly invested in fixed interest and cash).

Insurance types and levels

Just as there are benefits in reviewing your investment options, it is also worthwhile reviewing each year the types and levels of insurance. Your circumstances will change and the appropriate level of death, disability (TPD) and/or income protection insurance for you and your family will therefore also change too.

Also, as part of looking after your dependents, it is well worth checking to ensure you have nominated a beneficiary for your super in the event that you die, and that you have indicated whether this nomination is “binding” or “non-binding”.

Fees and charges

There has rightfully been a spotlight in the media recently on the fees and charges some super funds charge.

Most super funds will have competitive and fair fees and charges and will readily be able to explain the basis for the levels at which these are set.

To help you evaluate the reasonableness of the fees and charges described in your annual member statement, the ASIC MONEYSMART website provides an excellent introduction to this.

Check your contact details and contributions

Each time you receive your member statement you should always check your contact details to ensure they are up-to-date, complete and correct.

At the same time, make sure that your employer has contributed the full amount required under the Superannuation Guarantee. Sadly, some employers, either through deliberate omission or oversight, fail in this regard. If you are not sure how to review your Superannuation Guarantee contributions (and other contributions such as your salary sacrifice contributions), your super fund will be able to assist.

Your fund’s performance

With superannuation being the bedrock for retirement for almost all Australians, people are entitled to know, and should want to know, how well their fund has performed compared to other super funds.

One independent superannuation ratings agency is SuperRatings , which reports that in 2017-18, the median MySuper investment option returned 8.7 per cent. By comparison, legalsuper returned an impressive 9.4 per cent during this period.

As part of your review of your annual member statement it is well worth checking to see if the statement provides investment performance information for your fund, including how your fund performed compared to other funds.

If your fund does not provide this information, or if they have not met or exceeded the median performance level, ask them why. If you are not satisfied with their response, it may very well be time to think about changing super funds.  Even small differences in return can make a material difference over time.

About our Guest Blogger

Andrew Proebstl is chief executive of legalsuper; Australia’s super fund for the legal community.  Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant while working with Arthur Andersen, Andrew has broad experience across the superannuation industry with fund administrators, investment managers, custodians and other superannuation funds.

Andrew is a member of the Policy Committee and former Director of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. He is also a former member of the Victorian Executive of the Associations of Superannuation Funds of Australia.  He regularly presents at superannuation industry conferences and writes regular superannuation columns for law societies across Australia.  He can be contacted on ph 03 9602 0101 or via aproebstl@legalsuper.com.au

Better together - 10 reasons why collaboration in your firm is a good idea

Sunday, August 26, 2018

By Joel Barolsky, Director,  Barolsky Advisors

A vast majority of law firms are highly collegiate. Only a few are deeply collaborative.

A collegiate firm is one where the partners and legal staff enjoy each other’s company and are happy to cross-sell when opportunities arise. A deeply collaborative firm is where all practitioners and business service staff are committed to win and deliver together. Clients are ‘owned’ by the firm, the primary focus is on integrated cross-team solutions to solve clients' problems.

Recent research from Harvard and elsewhere points to 10 key reasons why better collaboration in law firms is a good idea.

#1 Collaboration helps reconcile the tension between provider specialisation and breadth of client problems

There are two megatrends in the world of professional services that are moving at 90 degrees to each other.

In the pursuit of differentiation, advisers are becoming more and more specialised and focused on narrower areas of expertise.  At the same time, many client problems are getting broader and more complex. For example, a client issue like cyber-security may require expertise from legal, technology, change management, marketing and risk perspectives.

Better intra- and inter-firm collaboration is one of the few strategic options available to reconcile these two trends.

#2 Collaboration helps make the whole more than the sum of the parts

The past decade has seen a massive growth in the number of specialist freelance lawyers in Australia and New Zealand. Many freelancers are Tier 1 refugees or experienced practitioners seeking more flexible lifestyles. Their ability to set up shop has been enabled by new inexpensive and powerful cloud-based software.

In the battle between a ‘solo specialist’ in a high fixed overhead law firm and independent freelancer, the latter will almost always win. They simply have far greater price-setting discretion.

Conversely, a collaborative firm that pools its capabilities will usually outmuscle the one-(wo)man-band. In this instance, the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

#3 Collaboration fosters cognitive diversity which yields more creative solutions and better client outcomes

There is a saying that ‘two brains are better than one’. The truth is, if the two brains think in very similar ways and/or have very similar knowledge, then the benefits are marginal. In contrast, research shows that cognitive diversity yields far better results than cognitive similarity, as measured by the speed of problem-solving and the creativity/quality of the solutions.

A collaborative firm that brings diverse perspectives to solve client problems will outperform its peers over time. This collaboration includes involving business service professionals from HR, IT, marketing and finance.

#4 Collaboration is strongly correlated with higher client loyalty

There is far greater client ‘stickiness’ when you have three or more practice groups collaborating to service a particular client organisation. This multi-practice glue is based on:

  • The firm’s knowledge of the client leading to better understanding of needs and more opportunities to add value;

  • Lower transactions costs; and

  • More hooks or connections with ‘many-to-many’ personal relationships, as compared to one-to-many or one-to-one models.

#5 Collaboration yields higher revenue for individual partners

A recent Harvard study indicated highly collaborative partners out-performed comparable solo-specialists in the same firm by a factor of four – see Exhibit 1. While the study is limited by not being able to identify and compare two identical practitioners, it does point to the benefits of those willing to span boundaries and network widely across the firm.

Source: Smart Collaboration, Heidi Gardner, Harvard Business School Press, 2017

#6 Collaboration means higher margins

Complex multi-disciplinary problems are at the other end of the commodity continuum. Clients are far more likely to pay a premium when they’re getting a highly tailored solution to address a critical issue in their organisation. What’s more, an integrated bespoke solution cannot be easily compared to offers from other firms.

#7 Collaboration means better lateral hire integration

When a lateral hire joins a firm, they typically face two types of journeys: [1] they are invited onto incumbent clients’ matters and they share their clients with their new colleagues, or [2] they’re not.

Recent research indicates that those that experience journey #1 tend to remain within the firm and become highly successful partners within three years. Those that experience journey #2 become isolated, unproductive and often leave.

#8 Collaboration facilitates higher employee engagement

Generally, professionals will jump out of bed and rush to work if they feel like their work matters and they’re mastering their craft.

Working on complex multi-disciplinary client problems is messy but fun. Ask any lawyer in your property team if they’d prefer to process another simple lease agreement or join a cross-practice team exploring rental yield optimisation across a large industrial park portfolio?

#9 Collaboration can improve utilisation

It is common practice in many firms that mid-level and junior practitioners stick almost exclusively to one practice team. Resources are tightly held and protected within a practice.

In highly collaborative firms, resources are shared more flexibly to optimise overall firm capacity utilisation, to even out workloads and to lower cost-to-serve.

While allocating solicitors to specific practices helps with building specialist skills and experience, some resource fluidity could have enormous benefits for the firm and the individuals involved.

#10 Collaboration is key in a legal world moving towards open networks and ecosystems

Working collaboratively can be thought of as a strategic capability or an organisational ‘muscle’. In most firms, the collaboration muscle starts out weak and with little stamina. Collaboration is clunky and takes effort. It goes against the grain of most lawyers who place a premium on their autonomy. It’s often easier to get things done when there are far fewer people involved.

However, building the muscle or capability to collaborate within a firm will often result in a greater ability to partner with others outside the firm.

There is much evidence that the legal world is moving to open networks and ‘ecosystems’ involving multiple parties. These include competing law firms, in-house teams, legal process providers, law companies, legal technology providers, multi-disciplinary firms, consultants, freelance networks, the bar, the judiciary, legal educators and regulators, to name just a few.

It is now not uncommon to have up to seven different entities collaborating on a project to solve a client problem or to realise an opportunity.

In conclusion

There is little doubt that strengthening and conditioning your firm’s collaboration muscle will become a critical success factor. It’s time to hit the gym.

Meet the author, Joel Barolsky at the ALPMA Summit in September

Smart Colloboration in Law Firms

Joel Barolsky; Director of Barolsky Advisors, Senior Fellow of the University of Melbourne and Creator of the Price High or Low app

Being collegiate is just not enough these days. In order to grow, firms need to break down internal silos and become deeply collaborative with everyone working seamlessly to solve clients’ problems.

Professor Heidi Gardner of Harvard Business School recently completed a 10-year study into collaboration in professional firms. Her findings indicated a 7-fold revenue difference between a collaborative approach and a cross-selling collegiate model.

This presentation will define ‘smart collaboration’, share the results of Gardner’s study, identify the common barriers to collaboration, outline various strategies and tactics firms can adopt to become more collaborative and provide pointers for successful implementation.

About our Guest Blogger

Joel Barolsky is Managing Director of Barolsky Advisors, Senior Fellow of the University of Melbourne and Creator of the Price High or Low smartphone app designed to help you with pricing your projects.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/joelbarolsky/ 

Twitter:   https://twitter.com/Barolsky  (@barolsky)

5 innovative strategies to help you build and retain the workforce of the future

Monday, August 20, 2018

By Kim Seeling Smith, CEO,  Ignite Global

Firms thriving on 'perfect' conditions proclaims the AFR headline from June 28. The article reports that their 2018 Law Partnership Survey finds that, after several lean years, both revenue and profits are strong and the future looks very bright.

Unfortunately, this normally great news for the industry is matched by less than optimistic predictions about the second major trend reported in the AFR on the same day - disruption. This reporting is taken from the 2018 Emerging Legal Professions Survey conducted by ALPMA and the Centre for Legal Innovation (CLI) at the College of Law.  

According to this survey, law firms are under-prepared for the disruption that we are already seeing from smart contracts, cloud computing, the expansion of in-house legal teams, increased competition from both boutique, specialised firms as well as the re-emergence of a legal presence within multi-disciplinary practices such as the Big 4 accounting firms.

Your success as a Practice Manager will be predicated on your ability to build and retain a future-focused workforce during this period of unceasing change. This workforce will include traditional roles such as specialist lawyers, paralegals and business support and operations people - as well as an increasing number of non-legal professionals required to deliver new services or existing services in a new way.

Unfortunately, this challenge is happening in parallel with a dire skills shortage.

The growth in the working age population in Australia over the next four decades is only about 15% of what it has been over the last four. And while market and technological disruptions require that we hire new skills, many Australian employers worry that our education system is not adequately equipping the workforce with the skills they need.

So, not only will we have fewer workers available to fill our jobs in the future — many of those who are available will not possess the required skills to do these jobs successfully.

The combination of these factors has led the Australian Bureau of Statistics to predict that we will have up to 1.4 million jobs for which we cannot find suitable candidates by 2025.

Here are 5 innovative strategies you can begin to apply immediately to help you build and retain the workforce of the future:

1.  Treat prospecting for candidates like prospecting for new clients

  • Use workforce and succession planning to forecast future hiring and promotion activity.

  • Identify top talent in the market for all key roles in your firm and begin to develop relationships with them to recruit when the needs of your firm intersect with their career goals.

  • Identify and develop multiple, alternative sourcing strategies.

Doing this will give you access to more and better candidates and will ensure a steady pipeline of top talent. You’ll be able to choose from the best in the market - instead of the best available at that time, resulting in less stress for you and better utilisation for your teams.

2.  Update your hiring process 

A study by Hudson recruitment found that 44% of Australian hiring managers rated their last hire as “not good.” This isn’t a surprise since many hiring managers try to match a poorly written job description to even more poorly written CVs and end up going with their ‘gut feel’ - which can lead to a stomach ache for you! To update your hiring process:

  • Write compelling descriptions including an evocative purpose and outcome based, measurable KPIs.

  • Use these to structure and conduct Evidence-Based Interviews™.

  • Go beyond traditional interviews and utilise innovative hiring strategies such as real-life or scenario-based assessments, video pre-screens and gamification.

The cost to replace people ranges from 50-200% of their annual salary. Hiring the right person the first time will directly add to your firm’s bottom line.

3.  Generate engagement day 1

22% of employee turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment. To make sure your new hires are not part of that statistic:

  • Begin on boarding immediately when they sign the contract.

  • On board the person, not the process:

    • Help them become as productive as possible as soon as possible, and

    • Help them become part of the team immediately upon joining.

Doing this will tangibly affect their engagement and productivity - and your retention figures.

4.   Build a healthy workplace culture

Mental health issues in the workplace are becoming more common and companies are spending considerable money on wellness initiatives. But the most effective wellness initiative is free:

Identify and rectify toxic teams and toxic managers immediately.

Look no further than glassdoor.com to see how toxic cultures increase employee turnover and decrease employee engagement. This isn’t a quick fix, but the lasting impact will decrease everyone’s stress levels - including your own.

5.   Talk to your staff regularly about what matters to them most

In January 2016, The HBR published the results of a 10-year study on what, “Great Executives Know and Do.” This study shows that the most important characteristic of leaders at all levels is a deep connection with their direct reports.

Connection begins with conversation, but most managers don’t talk to their staff enough, about the right things or in the right way.

5,000 exit interviews teach us that your staff prioritise only 8 things. We call these the 8 Currencies of Choice™. Use this wheel to conduct regular, meaningful conversations about what they need to be fully engaged and productive and deliver on those needs - or manage their expectations when you can’t.

Implementing these 5 strategies will help you build and retain the future workforce you need to confidently help your firm navigate this period of tremendous disruption - allowing you to take advantage of the ‘perfect conditions’ heralded by the recent AFR survey.

These strategies will also greatly enhance your own personal brand and career opportunities as you become known as an innovative, future-focused practice manager who helps build revenues, save costs and creates a happy, engaged and productive workforce today, tomorrow and beyond.

Meet the author, Kim Seeling Smith at the ALPMA Summit in September

The Future Workforce in the Future Firm

Kim Seeling Smith – CEO, Ignite Global

Blockchain, smart contracts, cloud computing, the expansion of in-house legal teams, and increased competition from both boutique, specialised firms as well as the re-emergence of a legal presence within multi-disciplinary practices such as the Big 4 accounting firms.

These pose both opportunities as well as threats for today’s legal practice management teams. In order to leverage these opportunities and manage the threats we must be able to attract, engage and retain a workforce that is agile, innovative, creative and solutions oriented.

In the midst of an increasingly competitive ‘War for Talent’ brought about by changing demographics and shifting required skills. Ignite Global’s proprietary, LIGHT Up Your Workforce® model will leave you with 5 key strategies to embrace these new paradigms and to help you build the workforce of the future.

About our Guest Blogger

Kim Seeling Smith has personally conducted over 5,000 exit interviews. She knows why your staff leave -  and what you can do to keep your best and brightest.

Kim is the CEO of Ignite Global, the employee retention specialists whose work has been recognised by Richard Bransons 100% Human at Work Initiative. She is the author of Mind Reading for Managers: 5 FOCUSed Conversations for Greater Employee Engagement and Productivity and has appeared in the BRW, HR Director and Forbes Online.

Kim has judged 4 international HR awards and has worked in 8 countries across 30 industries.

Web:   www.IgniteGlobal.com

LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimseelingsmith/ 

Twitter:   @LtUpYrWorkforce

Maybe it's you!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

By Grevis Beard, Co-Founder & Director, Worklogic

You may be familiar with the saying, people don’t leave their organisation, they leave their boss. In fact, one Gallup study actually revealed that one in two had left their job to get away from their manager.

So if you are managing a team, take a little time to consider how your team are behaving. You may be the worried well, and your team is thriving, with your staff genuinely and proactively seeking your guidance, raising ideas for how to further improve processes, and sharing knowledge. If so, all well and good! No flight risks there, and sounds like you are an open and approachable manager.

On the other hand, if your staff appear to be disengaged and unmotivated, your team turnover is high and your staff appear to be actively avoiding you, then you will seriously need to consider whether aspects of your management style and behaviour are causing this dynamic.

So what is your style?

Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Are you truly approachable? Is your door not only physically open, but is it “psychologically open”? Do your staff proactively approach your room or space and feel comfortable being there? If there is nervous hovering, ask what is driving that?

  • Do you genuinely wish to hear what your team’s ideas and opinions are? Or are you a “my way or the highway”? Think about whether, even subconsciously, in meetings or one-on-one situations, you tend to shut down conversations or “move things on” if you are not hearing what you want to hear?

  • Are you an effective decision maker, or are you an avoidant one? Do you put off making decisions, such that the team “works around you”, and you are actually out of the loop?

  • Are you unable to control your emotional response to what is any type of “bad news” or feedback from a demanding client? How visible is this? Do you even know that is how you are coming across? And whilst you may think that you are able to hide your feelings of extreme responses from your staff, you may not be as effective at this as you think (or hope).

If any of these ring any bells for you, then that’s great that you have insight.

Too often, managers are in denial about their part of a dynamic and can be prone to “blaming the team” rather than reflecting on how the current workplace culture of the team has been influenced by their own management style. Everyone can always, of course, further improve how they engage with their staff. Where you may be exhibiting the traits above (whether it is of unapproachableness, command-and-control, avoidance, emotionally labile), think about:

  • Taking time to hear, listen and respond to staff concerns. Practice that now. It will take time to “turn the boat around”. Seek feedback over time from your staff about this and indicate that you are trying to be more available. Sounds confronting, but your staff will be impressed by your candour.

  • If your team are wise, then demonstrate that by hearing what they have to say and implementing any suggested improvements. No-one has a monopoly on innovation.

  • Reflect on obtaining a conflict management coach for dealing with your emotional extremes when in a “conflict” stressor zone.

Each of these can further help you on your way to improving how you engage more productively, and happily, with your team. Good luck!

Meet the author, Grevis Beard at the ALPMA Summit in September

Shape Up: How to Deal with Toxic Behaviour at the Top

Grevis Beard, Co-Founder and Director, Worklogic

We all know that culture is a critical enabler of future success for law firms. And we're all aware of the significant influence that firm partners and leaders have on setting the culture of the firm. But what do you do when a senior partner, leader or rainmaker is modelling bad behaviour, and setting a tone which is damaging morale, performance and employee retention – and potentially your firm’s reputation?

In this presentation, Director and co-founder of Worklogic, Grevis Beard will explore:

  • 'Rainmaker' syndrome - the immunity of certain people who are seen as irreplaceable, and seem to get away with anything

  • How the culture of an organisation can allow bad behaviour to thrive

  • Leadership: what gets traction, compared to what’s needed

  • The fallout of tolerating bad behaviour

Grevis then will share five practical steps you can take to shape the future culture of your firm.

About our Guest Blogger

Grevis is a co-founder and director at Worklogic; an Australian market-leader in identifying, preventing and resolving workplace misconduct. 

He co-authored “Workplace Investigations” (Wolters Kluwer, 2018). Together with co-director Rose Bryant-Smith, Grevis has also written “Fix Your Team”, published this August 2018 by Wiley.

Fix Your Team” gives managers the tools to rectify team dysfunction. 

Connect with Grevis on LinkedIn:   https://www.linkedin.com/in/grevis-beard-44aa4027/

Courageous conversations are your competitive advantage

Monday, August 06, 2018

By Linda Murray, Speaker & Executive Coach at Athena Coaching 

Courageous conversations challenge your confidence and your communication skills, but once mastered, give you a powerful marketplace advantage. These are the conversations which lead to peak performance in your team and establish your firm at the top of your profession.

Courageous conversation defined

A courageous conversation involves emotion… sometimes a lot of emotion! It might be one that involves confrontation or one you don’t want to have. Generally, these conversations make you feel uncomfortable or even catch you off-guard making you feel unprepared or even a little nervous.

For these reasons many people try to avoid such conversations. As you have probably noticed, no matter how deeply you hide your head in the sand, the need doesn’t go away. It might even escalate if you leave the matter unresolved.

Susan Scott, author of Fierce Conversations says, “Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can. Speak and listen as if this is the most important conversation you will ever have with this person. It could be. Participate as if it matters. It does.”

How do courageous conversations give you a marketplace advantage?

When you possess the skill of having the conversations which other people aren’t – the difficult or delicate conversations they’re avoiding – you’re immediately ahead of the game. Your competitive advantage is created when you deal with people and talk through the issues which can make or break a team and business performance.

Mastering the art of courageous conversations builds relationships where people feel safe and valued and help you to gain their trust. Done well, courageous conversations create strong connections between people. People who feel connected are happier, more engaged and more confident. They work harder and contribute more. They’re willing to exceed expectations because they trust and feel trusted in return.

These conversations are your opportunity to build deeper, more effective relationships with the people around you, and that includes your clients. Remember, we all prefer to do business with people we know, like and trust.

The payoffs include a productive team, excellent performance, greater marketplace impact, stronger client loyalty and a more profitable bottom line.

The goals of a courageous conversation

Unlike normal conversations, courageous conversations are structured and have a clearly defined purpose. Whether you’re prepared for it or not, understanding the goals will help you manage:

  1. to discover the other person’s point of view and why it exists;

  2. to show your understanding, gain their trust and lay the groundwork for an open, honest and collaborative conversation;

  3. identify and agree on the gaps and work out the best action to take.

It’s important to understand these conversations aren’t about right and wrong; they are about differences in understanding and how to overcome them.

3 tips for conducting a courageous conversation

1.  Courageous conversations take skill and strategy to win a good result and these three tips are key to a good resolution. Learn to manage your fears

The conversation may not be easy and you might be uncomfortable. In some cases, you might even find that you’re in the wrong. It’s quite reasonable to feel hesitant or ever afraid of these conversations when you first start having them.

Focus on the benefits of the conversation. After all, if you don’t deal with the issues, they will continue and might even get worse, becoming a distraction and leaving a negative vibe. However, once the issues are bought to light and talked about, you have the beginnings of a resolution.

2.  Listen to truly understand

Become curious. Set your intent to listen to understand, not to agree or defend. Discover the intentions or the reasoning behind the action, rather than just talking about the results, especially if they’re negative. People are good and intend to do the right thing, so credit them with that.

3.  Be factual and honest

The key here is to avoid using critical or emotionally-laden language. Focusing on the facts as you see them gives you both something concrete to work on, particularly if one of you has misinterpreted them or missed vital information.

Working with the facts removes the emotion and negativity, allowing you to look for resolution. When you express yourself honestly, your authenticity shows. Make no mistake; people can tell when you’re being sincere and they’ll respond to it even if they don’t like what they must hear.

Courageous conversations are the game changers; the new currency in business, and your future results depend on it. Are you ready and willing to step up?

Meet the author, Linda Murray at the ALPMA Summit in September

"Courageous Conversations: You Shape the Future Firm with Every Conversation You Have"

Linda Murray, Executive Coach, Athena Leadership Academy 

Being masterful at Courageous Conversations is nothing short of an unfair competitive advantage. In fact, I believe Courageous Conversations are the game changers; the new currency in business.

Shaping the future firm does start with you, and it happens with every conversation you have. You know those uncomfortable conversations we hope will disappear if we avoid them ... yet they tend to grow?! Let me show you how having the courage to truly connect with the people around you will reveal a whole side of people, connection and business you’ve been missing!

This keynote will entertain, educate and inspire you to rethink how you approach conversations. When you truly understand what drives our interactions, you can know a more about people than they realise they are giving away! All you need is the tools you will learn and the courage to give it a go. The concepts you will learn during this keynote are immediately applicable in all areas of their life – both at work and at home.

After all, we communicate all the time. The result ... you will be a better colleague, leader, direct report, partner, parent, friend. 

About our Guest Blogger

Linda Murray is the founder, Speaker and Executive Coach at Athena Coaching and Athena Leadership Academy; the 

professional development hub for high performing and high potential leaders.

Linda ensures that your leaders and your teams are engaged, motivated and empowered to achieve the best results for your business.

Linda has run her own successful businesses since age 22, so understands what it takes to maximise the performance of yourself and those around you.

Connect with Linda on social media

LinkedIn - www.linkedin.com/in/lindamurrayathena/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/AthenaCoaching
Twitter – https://twitter.com/athena_coaching
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPZWA24o0iohBl1O0LQxEkw

We can do better for our firms’ people

Monday, July 30, 2018

By Justin Whealing, Partner, Eaton Capital Partners

The law is a people’s profession, yet we often treat our own shabbily. Justin Whealing looks at how there is a strong business case for putting your people first.

The law firm environment contains many inherent contradictions.

Externally, there is political uncertainty home and abroad, nationalist sentiment is on the rise globally, Donald Trump is tweeting merrily and markets are fluctuating.

Internally, law firm competition is white hot, global law firms continue to arrive into what is a crowded market, law firm mergers are commonplace and clients continue to put pressure on rates and resources via secondment opportunities.

You would think that with such a perfect storm, law firms would batten down the hatches and look to make do with what they have got.

But the contrary is true.

Law firms are hiring, and many of them are doing so in large numbers.

What did a recent “Law Firm Partnership Survey” reveal?

At Eaton Capital Partners, in conjunction with The Australian newspaper, we have just put the finishing touches on the Law Firm Partnership Survey for January to June 2018.

Survey participants included many of the biggest global and national firms in the marketplace, as well as a number of mid-tier and boutique firms.

For the first six months of this year, 27 of the 34 law firms featured in this survey saw an increase in the number of lawyers hired below partner level compared to the last six months of 2017.

Law firms are tough. They survive through cyclical downturns, changes of government, technology and scandal.

Private practice lawyers are both in demand when the party is raging and also needed when the bottom falls out of the market. They are stoic beasts, and their structures are resilient.

From this position of structural strength, the greatest weakness within law firms is how it treats its people.

Law firms often demand a level of personal resilience that is unreasonable, and quite often make demands that stray into the unconscionable.

Changing behaviours

The high rate of depression amongst lawyers is a continuing blight on the legal profession.

In terms of looking for a good place to start to arrest this, I think the following guidelines from the Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation should provide the bedrock of what a harmonious and respectful law firm should look like. 

  1. People receive feedback at work that helps them grow and develop

  2. Supervisors are open to employee ideas for taking on new opportunities and challenges

  3. People have opportunities to advance within their organisation

  4. The organisation values employees’ ongoing growth and development

  5. People have the opportunity to develop their “people skills” at work

Law firm leaders recognise that law firm culture needs to change; they are just unsure of the best way to go about it.

Putting people first is a start.

If you ask law firm leaders what the most important part of their brief is, you will be surprised by their answers.

In 2016 I surveyed 20 law firm leaders

Participants included Danny Gilbert from Gilbert + Tobin, Peter Slattery from Johnson Winter & Slattery, John Nerurker from Mills Oakley, Dunstan de Souza from Colin Biggers & Paisley and Tony O’Malley from PwC.

When I asked these law firm leaders what the most important part of their job was, 60% of respondents nominated the ‘strategic’ focus, with the next best response being the ‘people’ focus.

“Our people deliver our service to clients, so they must be at their best”, commented one managing partner.

For people to be at their best, they need to feel valued.

That starts with law firm leaders establishing clear and transparent policies with regards to promotion and remuneration.

Law firms should be a meritocracy.

It is not acceptable to deny promotions to your cohort after lawyers reach or exceed previously agreed benchmarks.

Law firms do this too regularly, trying to shift the goalposts when a successful lawyer is ahead of the game.

At a partner level, it is imperative that a partner’s remuneration is not just based on tenure, practice size, and billable hours.

Money changes everything, especially behaviours.

By linking a percentage of partner remuneration to cultural goals, such as mentorship and collaborative behaviour, you will have a happier, more productive and empowered workforce.

“Large firms depend on culture. Without it they are just a web of mutual self-interest,” said another managing partner in the 2016 Survey.

In discussions about what the law firm of the future might look like, the emphasis is too often on the use of technology.

It is people that make a law firm, and the best law firms frame policies that reward good behaviour and good performance. The definitions of ‘good performance’ also need to be clear, as do the timelines that frame policies around career progression.

Successful law firms of the future will attract the best and brightest if they feel they are being valued. They will then stick around if that law firm lives by the policies it puts down on paper.

About our Guest Blogger

Justin Whealing is one of the foremost experts on the Australian legal profession and a leading commentator on the Asia-Pacific legal industry.

Justin was formerly the editor of Lawyers Weekly for many years, where he helped position it as Australia’s premier online legal publication.

Since joining Eaton Capital Partners in 2015, Justin has played an instrumental role in the growth of the business and that of its clients.

He is one of Australia’s foremost partner search experts, having sourced partners, including managing partners, for international, national and boutique firms in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

He has also assisted international firms in establishing Australian practises.

Justin continues to produce numerous thought leadership pieces and compile extensive surveys, and his research is regularly featured in national publications such as the Australian Financial Review and The Australian.

Outside of work, Justin enjoys spending as much time as possible with his wife and three daughters,  listening to Bob Dylan and PJ Harvey and stretching the legs where you can hear the kookaburras and not mobile phones.

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/justin-whealing-a342b523/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/JustinWhealing

What comes after Generation Z? Introducing Generation Alpha

Monday, July 23, 2018

By Mark McCrindle, Social Researcher and Demographer

Australia is in the midst of massive generational transition. Today’s grandparents are part of the Baby Boomers, born from the late 1940’s to the early 1960’s. This generation is followed by Generation X, born from 1965 to 1979 who, at the oldest edge, are moving through their mid-life. Today’s new parents and those entering their peak fertility years are part of Generation Y, born from 1980 to 1994. Today’s children and teens are Generation Z, born from 1995 to 2009 and Australia is home to almost 5 million of them.

From 2010 Australia has seen the start of a new generation and having worked our way through the alphabet, we call this new generation, the first to be fully born in the 21st Century, Generation Alpha.

They have been born into an era of record birth numbers, and there are around 2.6 million of them nationally. When this generation is complete, in 2024, Generation Alpha births will total almost 5 million over the 15 years from 2010, compared to 4 million births of the Baby Boomers for the 19 years from 1946.

The oldest of them commence Year 3 next year and will be the most formally educated generation ever, the most technology supplied generation ever, and globally the wealthiest generation ever.

They are a generation of “upagers” in many ways: physical maturity is on-setting earlier so adolescence for them will begin earlier and so does the social, psychological, educational, and commercial sophistication which can have negative as well as positive consequences. Interestingly for them while adolescence will begin earlier, it will extend later.

The adult life stage, once measured by marriage, children, mortgage and career is being pushed back. This generation will be students longer, start their earning years later and so stay at home longer. The role of today’s parents therefore will span a longer age range and based on current trends, more than half of the Alphas will likely be living with their parents into their late 20’s.

Generation Alpha have been born into “the great screenage” and while we are all impacted by our times, technology has bigger impacts on the generation experiencing the changes during their formative years.

The year they began being born was the year the iPad was launched, Instagram was created, and App was the word of the year.  For this reason, we also call them Generation Glass because the glass that they interact on now and will wear on their wrist, as glasses on their face, that will be on the Head Up Display of their driverless cars, or that will be the interactive surface of their school desk will transform how they work, shop, learn, connect and play.

Not since Gutenberg transformed the utility of paper with his printing press in the 15th Century has a medium been so transformed for learning and communication purposes as glass; and it has happened in the lifetime of Generation Alpha.

Meet the author, Mark McCrindle at the ALPMA Summit in September

Leading Teams in Changing Times

Mark McCrindle: Social Researcher and Demographer

This session will look at the implications of the big trends transforming Australasia on client expectations, staff engagement and brand perception. In this era of complexity and message saturation, the importance of thought leadership, brand experience and communication that cuts through is essential.

These times create the need for leaders to create a culture of collaborative innovation through effective and engaging leadership. Mark will deliver insights into how to best communicate, lead and futureproof organisations in this era of unprecedented disruption.

About our Guest Blogger

Mark McCrindle is a social researcher with an international following. He is recognised as a leader in tracking emerging issues and researching social trends. As an award winning social researcher and an engaging public speaker, Mark has appeared across many television networks and other media. He is a best-selling author, an influential thought leader, TEDx speaker and Principal of McCrindle Research.

His advisory, communications and research company, McCrindle, count among its clients more than 100 of Australia’s largest companies and leading international brands. Mark’s highly valued research and reports, presented through infographics, data visualisations, videos, media input, resources, and blogs, have developed his regard as an expert demographer, futurist and social commentator.

Mark brings a fresh approach to his research-based boardroom briefings, executive workshops, strategy sessions and keynotes. Armed with the latest findings and presented in a customised and innovative way, Mark is an in-demand communicator.

Mark McCrindle, BSc (Psychology), MA, is the author of three books on emerging trends and social change. The ABC of XYZ: Understanding the Global Generations, Word Up: A Lexicon and Guide to Communication in the 21st Century and The Power of Good.

Twitter: @markmccrindle   |   Facebook: @mccrindleresearch   |   Linked in: linkedin.com/in/mccrindle

Your clients hire you to be effective, not efficient

Monday, July 16, 2018

By Tim Williams, Founding Partner, Ignition Consulting Group

The executives on the front lines of your law firm must understand that you’re in the business of providing solutions, not services. Services can be procured from a lot of other sources, often at lower cost, and the professional buyers in client organisations know that. But if you present your offering as effective solutions to business problems, you’re putting your real value in perspective.

Behavioural economics teaches that one of the easiest and most powerful ways to enhance the perceived value of what you do is to reframe your offering. One of the most impressive examples of this principle is Howard Schulz’s reframing of the 50-cent cup of coffee into an experience that made a caffeine fix worth four dollars. Starbucks reframed the product as an experience and has been extracting incredible value from it ever since.

Before you jump to the conclusion that “This doesn’t apply to professional services,” stop and think about how little effort goes into framing the services of most firms. Visit a typical law firm website and you’ll see their offering isn’t really framed at all; it’s just a bullet-point list of widely-available services.

If what you sell are services, that’s what clients will tend to buy. If on the other hand, you package these services as solutions intended to produce positive business outcomes, your clients and prospects will place much more value on what you do.

Moving Up the Value Hierarchy

There is, in fact, a value hierarchy for professional firms. The least valuable offerings are services, which are associated with “labor,” are seen as widely available, and aren’t really scalable.

At the very least, consider packaging these services as programs - unique combinations of services designed to achieve a desired outcome that is important and relevant to current and prospective clients.

Taken one step further, these programs can sometimes be turned into products - branded solution sets that produce value for your clients (and recurring revenues for your firm) independent of any notion of labor or time spent.

Speaking of time, this is by far the worst way to frame what you do. Time (hours) simply represents effort, and no reasonable buyer of professional services would want to buy effort. While you may feel pressure from your clients to be “efficient,” this is only because you’re choosing to sell units of cost instead of units of value.

Under the hourly rate system, clients push for “efficiency” only because they don’t want to pay more than they have to for a particular output or outcome. If what you sell is the output or outcome itself, you’ll soon see that the emphasis shifts to where it really belongs: are we being effective?

Not Just Effective, But Efficacious

A better word still is “efficacious.” Yes, that’s a real word. In the pharmaceutical business, efficaciousness is an absolute requirement, defined as “the power to produce a desired effect.”  The concept of efficaciousness is infused with the kind of energy that can inspire teams inside professional firms to produce positive outcomes for their clients.

As Pine and Gilmore observe in their outstanding book The Experience Economy, if you just sell services you’re in the service business. But the goal of professional firms is to renovate, recharge and reform the business success of their clients. By recasting the skills and talents that reside in your business, you can move up the value chain to where you really belong: the transformation business.

About our Guest Blogger

Tim Williams leads Ignition Consulting Group, an international consultancy devoted to helping professional services firms create and capture more value. Tim is a noted author, international speaker, and presenter for major industry associations and business conferences worldwide.  As a career marketing professional, Tim’s seminars and keynote presentations have taken him literally around the world, including North and South America, Europe, Asia, India, and Australia.

Tim is author of the book, “Positioning for Professionals: How Professional Knowledge Firms Can Differentiate Their Way to Success.” He is also a regular contributor to business and marketing publications worldwide, in addition to writing for LinkedIn, where he serves as a global Linkedin Influencer. 

Twitter: @TimWilliamsICG  |  LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/TimWilliamsICG  |  Web:  http://www.ignitiongroup.com/

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