Why not Re-boot your probate practice in 2017?
The main motivation for starting a change project in a firm is frequently cost-cutting; but it is far more positive to focus on growing revenues and profits. Indeed, this will be in the best interests of the firm as a whole. So rather than cutting costs in a department where it is difficult to make a profit due to changes in Legal Aid funding and court practice, focus on growing revenue and profits in an area of law which can only expand – Probate! According to Deloitte’s Global Health Report in 2016 1 in 10 of the world’s population will be over 65 by 2019.
It is far too easy to get stuck working in the everyday needs of the business and the work of the firm’s clients rather than think about where work is going to come from in the future and how will you grow work. The danger is that this approach can lead to a lack of clear aims and objectives for running the firm.
Without doubt innovation is one of the keys to success. You have to continually seek new ways to innovate and develop. Let’s use the term ‘Re-boot’ to help you change things in your probate practice.
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R is for Research
According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2016, 254,738 grants of representation were issued. This was down 7% on the previous year. Overall for 2016, 63% of the applications were made by solicitors and 37% were personal applications; although it is not clear whether all authorised providers are included in the term ‘solicitor’ or in personal applications.
In 2016, there were 77 contested probate cases, down from the 164 for 2015 and the lowest number since 2006 (73 cases).
One accountancy firm licensed to undertake probate reckons it undertakes 30 – 35 probate cases per year and could build that up to 75-100 cases per year which would bring in an additional fee income of £800,000. What number of Grants should your firm be aiming to achieve in 2017?
E is for Energy & Enthusiasm
So many of us run on autopilot in order to get everything done. This is alright for sub-consciously processing information all day but it is not conducive to creative thought and behaviour. Give your energy a serious boost to help you turn off that autopilot. Open your mind to new ways of thinking and behaving.
Decide to invest energy & enthusiasm into your re-boot project. You will need it because you will be rebuffed by well-meaning colleagues. Partners may try to dampen your enthusiasm because professional firms sometimes have quite dour cultures where people fear ridicule or disapproval for suggesting something different.
We seriously need to boost our energy in order to avoid being diverted from our goals – it is so much easier to do what you have always done before when you are tired and that must be avoided. See my blog on Stamina & Resilience Post Brexit.
Enthusiasm is infectious – if you’re not passionate about what you are trying to do why should anyone follow you?
B is for Brand
Simple advertising is expensive and results are hard to quantify. It is better to market your services effectively. But you cannot market something which is not fit for purpose. Get your practice ready to take on more work and face more public scrutiny before embarking on a marketing approach.
Creating a memorable brand is a marketer’s goal. Each firm has a brand – but is it memorable?
Is it memorable for all the wrong reasons? For example, much has been made of the “strong & stable” leadership brand of the Prime Minister which now looks a lot less strong & stable after her ‘u’ turn on the social care funding plans four days after launching the conservative manifesto.
You can’t market a brand successfully if it cannot be backed up by actions.
O is for Optimum investment
A shoestring may be all you have but will it be enough to achieve your goals? You may have to extend the period of the plan or reduce the expectations. Perhaps you need to phase your project so that phase 1 is undertaken for cheap wins which will help fund phases 2 & 3, for example.
You do need to put together a costed plan and identify what financial resources can be found e.g. updating your Will bank to get some more revenue from existing clients.
Without a budget it will be hard to identify whether you have succeeded in reaching your goals or identifying which part of the plan was less than successful. Be realistic.
O is for Operation
Plans are essential but are merely dreams unless you put them into operation. Implement your plan with military efficiency – if this is not your style choose someone in your firm who is excellent at operational management or outsource this.
Do not undermine the effectiveness of the operation by being the backslider – we all need to appreciate excellent organisational skills; they are just as valuable as excellent legal skills.
The brain is a muscle which needs to be exercised. It needs to learn to be resilient. If you push yourself successfully in small ways time and time again then when you face a real difficulty you will not wilt or fall back on old ways of doing something; instead you will fall back on what you have learnt through recent practice.
T stands for a variety of things: teams, trust and thanks
We cannot achieve change on our own. It takes bravery to follow someone down an unfamiliar road but taking the road less travelled will lead to different outcomes than before, which if you have planned it, should be positive.
We need to inspire trust – not just the trust of our team but also our clients. Clients will come back again and again for advice delivered reliably and consistently irrespective of any obstacles that get in the way of the provider (such as shortage of staff or IT meltdown). You will never lack clients if you maintain consistency and keep on track to deliver advice or action that you promised to deliver.
Everyone who has helped you achieve the turnaround deserves tangible thanks. Don’t just take all the plaudits; share success with those who helped you to achieve it.
The key to success – invest the time and resources to make your Re-boot happen.
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