Do your Partners misbehave?
2009 has been a difficult year for most firms and everyone now longs for a return to 15 years of dull and steady economic growth. There are clear signs that the economy is not yet back to full health and 2010 could prove to be another very difficult year. The strongest firms are likely to be the ones where the partners behave properly and are excellent role models for everyone else. Unfortunately, if the partners misbehave, and they are the role models that others follow, then performance in the firm is likely to be poor.
So what should partners be doing in 2010 and what would their New Year resolutions be?
- Rainmaking – The partners are the best placed to generate new work, be it from existing or new clients. To be effective at rainmaking you need a clear understanding of what clients actually want so now is the time to be asking for feedback and listening closely to what is said.
- Delegating – With the price correction that has hit many practice areas in the last 18 months looking set to be maintained it is vital to manage the cost of a matter more effectively. The easiest way to achieve this is to resource the matter with the appropriate fee earners. Doing something on your own is never clever and is a clear sign of inefficiency.
- Supervising – To avoid negligence and inefficiency partners must proactively supervise delegated work. It is a false economy to assume that a junior colleague will be okay without a clear instruction and effective supervision.
- Billing – Clients do not like nasty surprises on fees. Partners need to ensure that the default for all engagement letters is monthly billing, that an estimate is provided at the outset, that alerts prompt an early update to the client if the scope of the matter creeps and that the fees issued describe the work done in a positive way so that the client will be happy to pay.
- Collecting – The firm is at risk until the fee is banked and the biggest risk to all firms at present is that they could run out of cash. Just because a bill has been issued does not mean that the client will now immediately pay it and there needs to be some action. Cash collection can be accelerated by talking to the client before issuing the bill, phoning 72 hours after the bill is sent to confirm it is in the system for payment and ensuring that fee earners are regularly shown the level of their outstanding bills.
- Developing – Partners should never become complacent and should always be hungry to develop themselves, their team, new services and new products. A service is what you do the first time while a product is the subsequent provision of that service where there is an opportunity to offer the service for a fixed fee, with a prospect of a higher profit margin if you can effectively recycle what was learned when the service was provided.
- Leading – Good partners regularly stand back from the coal face and think about what they really should be doing to steer a more prosperous path, rather than simply reacting to everything on a daily basis. Having spotted what needs to be done they share their vision with the team and now work together to make this vision a reality.
Let’s hope that your end of term report at the end of 2010 does not have too many comments on your bad behaviour?
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