A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

What is an audacious leader?

Monday, June 25, 2018

By Ricky Nowak, CEO, Ricky Nowak & Associates

Audacious leaders imbue a mindset that allows a shift in existing patterns of behaviour of staff and clients while breathing life into more productive habits such as follow up and follow through. Audacious leaders are profoundly transparent, truthful, and unafraid to say that they are wrong or that they don't know the answer.

As Research Professor Brene Brown said “The core of authenticity is the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable and to set boundaries.” It is indeed time to take heed of these wise and simple words before promises are made that create unrealistic demands on staff or where people are intimidated or blamed for making errors.

While good leaders work alongside their people and let them know why they and the work that they do are valuable, audacious leaders involve their people in problem solving and opportunity making without trying to take the credit for everything themselves. In fact, audacious leaders ask others to be insatiably curious, seek alternatives and find new pathways of thinking for solving old problems. It’s not accommodating a new generation of young lawyers, it’s opening the doors to a new way of thinking.

The intent of audacious leadership is not fanciful, but purposeful.  Audacious leaders are open to getting the best results through honest collaboration and compromise. To do this, they exercise humility to allow communal success and network growth.

True, not easy when personalities and egos compete. True, not easy when the pressures are on and the clock is ticking and true when autocratic or long-standing leaders have run things for years in the same way and have been successful. But this is what we now know for sure. Whatever got those firms to be successful in the past will not guarantee them to be successful in the future.

Audacious leadership is not a passive experience. Those days are over.

How does AI impact on audacious leadership?

As lawyers face the new and already existing threat of technology out-performing them in many tasks, it seems that the gateway to keeping clients and staff will depend on them stepping up as energetic and intuitive audacious leaders. They will have to demonstrate they are seizing every chance to develop themselves and their teams in ways that provide exceptional experiences rather than complex explanations. They will have to move at a fast pace and improve their mentoring and networking – things that AI can not yet provide. Note the word “yet”.

It makes perfect sense to predict that we may well be headed fast and furiously toward an AI revolution in the same way we had an IT revolution.

How does audacious leadership affect your firm’s brand?

In preparation for the imminent changes in all professions, it is not surprising that many successful Australian companies are spending millions of dollars and hours every year in leveraging their profile and brand. Law firms too will need to immediately step up their marketing and branding efforts in a more visible and audacious manner if they wish to demonstrate they are breakthrough thinkers and initiators.

Clients and prospects are looking for their professional services providers, legal or otherwise, not only to have the sharpest professional skillset, but also be the sharpest in intuitively responding to current trends, preparing them for the future and keeping them ahead of the game.

Audacious leaders must work through current criticism, old ways of doing things, complacency and internal or external influences and come out wiser, more compassionate and more connected to local and global networks. This must be demonstrated through harnessing the collective energy and knowledge of other leaders in all areas of business and being more prepared to share and document their knowledge.

In summary having conviction and the courage to take a stand, while demonstrating compassion along the way is Audacious Leadership. Of course, there are those who may be happy with settling as a good leader and that’s ultimately up to them, but they may miss the fact that being audacious is what makes good leaders great.

About our Guest Blogger

Ricky is a professional Facilitator, Keynote Speaker, and Executive Coach with over 30 years’ experience in executive and business training and development within Australasia. She has been successful in creating sustainable change and increased productivity for clients in diverse industries ranging from Engineering, Construction, Legal, Finance, Agribusiness, Urban Design, Technology, NFP, Government, Project Management, Mining, Medical and Mental Health, Transport and Logistics. Her unique style of presentation delivery and coaching has helped her diverse clients achieve outstanding commercial and professional results for themselves, their teams and their organisations.

She has trained, spoken or facilitated work over 3000 presentations to companies and individuals globally. She is a certified speaking professional, certified human resource professional, author of four business books, preferred Executive Coach for the Australian Institute of Company Directors and regular commentator on national radio and blogger for Australian Human Resource Institute.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rickynowak/     Web: www.rickynowak.com

Your clients’ experience is the key to growth in the new financial year

Monday, June 18, 2018

By Carl White; Director, CXInLaw

Is your law firm turning more of the right enquiries into profitable work and what new business levels should you expect from your investment in marketing, technology and practice management? How does your firm’s customer experience stand apart from competitors?

Your team is highly skilled and your firm is recognised as expert. Yet for many firms, the number of new matters being opened is underwhelming despite high volumes of new enquiries.

And while clients are your best referrers, clients now have more platforms and forums to praise or criticise your firm. What are your clients feeling and saying about your service from the outset of their relationship with your firm?

If these are discussion points raised in your firm, then it’s time to examine your firm’s client experience from first contact through to end of matter. Does this journey reflect your service promise and more importantly the new service norms of an increasingly client-centric marketplace?

The new battleground

As PWC’s latest CEO report states “No longer are customer expectations just set by the organisation they are dealing with. In today’s ‘Experience Economy’ the bar is set by the Amazon experience, the Facebook experience, the hotel experience. To remain relevant for customers, the bar has risen.

The ability to understand and deliver value to your customers – at speed – is the new battleground.

Today, new buyers of services ‘drop out’ of the buying decision at difficult ‘ouch’ moments. Thinking of the legal marketplace, the intolerance of underwhelming service (not just of poor service) is more acute given there is no shortage of lawyer or law firms.

CXINLAW’s 2018 Client Experience (“CX”) Benchmark report, First Impressions Convert, found that only 1 in 10 prospects would instruct based on their first impressions. The research highlighted where in the client journey you ‘win over’ prospects and where they ‘drop out’ highlighting that there are some immediate opportunities to improve your firm’s CX journey.

Yet investing in client experience does not mean ‘adding’ CX to everyday activities. Your investment need to be a whole hearted embrace embedded into the culture of your firm. This will not only grow your business volumes to achieve a greater return on marketing spend but also create more streamlined processes, workflows and client interactions so that activities with clients are easier, more productive and rewarding.


Six quick wins

Here are six quick wins to immediately improve your firm’s client experience and most can be applied across the entire client journey:

1.  Web enquiries – respond within 24 hours and set expectations for weekend enquiries.

2.  Initial incoming call – should be smooth, timely and well informed. The caller (your prospective client) should be provided with clear information about who they are being put through to and why. Conversely, make sure information gained from the caller is passed on fully.

3.  Call transfers – start by providing your full name, your role in the firm and in this call particularly if the caller is put through to an intermediary, rather than an advisor/lawyer. The research found that 58% of enquiries were handled by intermediaries and contact was typically dreadful enough to severely impact the impression made upon clients.

4.  Take control of the call or meeting. Best practice involves four stages and results in more information being gained in less time whilst building rapport:

  • Open and Welcome;
  • Find Out More;
  • Show How – communicate value; and
  • Gain Commitment and Close.

5.  Position the cost discussion confidently based on the value you can provide. This will deliver quality clients who will value and pay for your services - on time!

6.  Follow up – will make you stand out especially with a prospect. Firms omitting to undertake follow up or agreed ‘next steps’ fail to capitalise on otherwise solid discussions.

And then move to a differentiated competitive position….

Applying these small changes will start the transformation process. However, achieving a culture of client experience excellence (CXE) requires a holistic strategy, a fully energised team and an investment in:

  • Objective insights - change should always be based on objective insights of your firm’s current client experience.  These insights will be the catalyst to develop a CXE strategy that is owned and implemented by your entire team and builds on the firm’s proud history and expertise.
  • Service skills training - clients are making buying decisions based on the ease, emotion and effectiveness of their interactions with your team at a time of heightened anxiety levels. Therefore, everyone in the firm needs to demonstrate and reinforce your firm’s service promise.

A well-executed CXE training program addresses both the need to grow new business as well as provide a stimulating and fun firm to work in - training programs should consider new enquiry and matter workflows, templates, documented service standards and new staff induction – rather than a one-off session.

If your firm is ready to drive more conversions, more business and more profits, it’s time to seriously consider your clients’ customer experience and initiate or build on it.

About our Guest Blogger

Passionate about the clients' experience of professional services, Carl White entered the legal sector with Ashurst in 2002. He co-authored the highly-regarded ‘Customer Experience in Law' report in 2012 in the UK and led the market-leading Australian research in 2015 and 2018 that examines the Client Experience Advantage for law firms, in partnership with ALPMA.

As the founding director of CXINLAW Carl has a background in theatre practice, retail operations and law with expertise in employee engagement, L&D and "CX". Carl was invited to become a faculty tutor at the Queensland Law Society and has presented to Australia's law societies, ALPMA, LIV and Centre for Legal Innovation. CXINLAW has been recognised for introducing the concept and practice of Client Experience in law both in the UK and Australasia. 

W:  www.cxinlaw.com   |   Carl White LinkedIn   |   E:  carl.white@cxinlaw.com

The imperfect performance appraisal

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

By Janice Duncan, Principal, GM Outsource

End of financial year is approaching and so are three little words that often hold a level of dread for many; Annual Performance Appraisal.

It can feel overwhelming if you are required to manage one or more performance appraisals.  Particularly if you didn’t get around to setting KPI’s or clearly defining expectations.  Before you spiral down the path of appraisal despair consider the alternative, conducting an ‘Imperfect Appraisal’. 

Your starting point has to be authenticity so, if you don’t have all your measurement ‘ducks in a row’ don’t fake it.  The most important contribution you make to your team members appraisal is your time and genuine interest.

If you have been bogged down in one or more matters for so long you haven’t seen daylight for months, your team will know and their appreciation of you creating time to focus on their contribution and how they can improve and progress will be elevated.

So go with what you know.  Identify categories that are part of day-to-day life in a law firm and draw on your own experience to guide your team members.

Some things change, some things stay the same.

No Lawyer enjoys recording time, yet most firms still operate on a billable hour system, so recording time, billable and non-billable is a good habit for a lawyer to develop.  Junior lawyers need to account for their time. Partners and Management need to know where their lawyers are spending their time. 

Consider where your lawyers are in their career path and experience? What is the quality and volume of work they have delivered over the last 12 months?

  • Highlight 2 or 3 things the individual excels at
  • Highlight 2 or 3 things that need refining and will accelerate the individuals career

See the work from your team members perspective;

  • Ask them which matter or what type of work they most enjoyed working on over the last 12 months and why?
  • Ask them what is holding them back? 
  • The answer to this question may require you to hold your breath, and your tongue, but better to know, than not know. At the least the response should be insightful.

Replicate the above for your admin and support staff.

Attending a performance appraisal with a raft of reports and loads of detail looks impressive, and it may well be very helpful, but the real driver of performance is how the individuals in your team connect with you and take on your guidance and instructions.   We humans will work hard for, and follow a good leader, above and beyond all else.

Your team members need to know you have their development at heart. The appraisal is about them, and how you can guide them to be hugely successful.  After all, creating a win win scenario has to be the ideal outcome.

Want to avoid the annual appraisal and be more informed about the drivers, skill and aspirations of your team members?

Then you need to be interested and connected.  Try catching up with each team member once every 4 to 6 weeks for a 30-minute one on one. This can be in your office or outside, over a coffee. Be clear about the purpose of the one on one;

  • Discuss what they are currently working on.
  • What challenges are they experiencing and what do they see as the potential solutions.  This could apply to matters, business development/marketing, studying etc.
  • Give real and timely feedback on events or actions you have observed over the last month.
  • Clarify and reiterate your expectations
  • Ensure these chats are in confidence, held with integrity and the purpose being to support the recipient in achieving their goals.
  • Ask the individual to email you a few bullet points regarding what was discussed and what they are going to focus on for the next month straight after your chat. They can build on that document each month. (You have just created your running appraisal document).

You may be thinking you don’t have time, but the value in maintaining short, regular, structured catch ups happening can eliminate the need for a formal annual appraisal, however if you need to conduct an annual appraisal, or are required to do so, your monthly one on one approach may just lead to the perfect appraisal and a more productive and rewarding outcome for all.

About our Guest Blogger

Janice Duncan is an accomplished business leader with 20 years’ experience running successful businesses in multiple industries, including the legal profession and corporate travel.

GM Outsource is an innovative solution when a business requires additional management support.

3 initial steps to starting your own law firm

Monday, June 04, 2018

By Peter Carayiannis; President, Conduit Law

You’re reading this article today because of the concept of time.  You’ve been practicing law, for a long time or a maybe just a short time, but always on someone else’s time.  Now you want to consider your own law firm.

You feel like you’ve put in enough time to have a go yourself. 

You feel like things will be different this time. 

Maybe you’re sick of being a cog in a BigLaw firm, just selling time. Six minutes, at a time. 

Regardless of the reason you found this article today, you know that now is your time and you’re ready to start your own business in the legal industry. 

If I’ve got your attention, then may I be so bold as to ask for a few minutes of your time to consider a few of my thoughts and experiences on how to launch your new legal business.

1.   Lawyers have always been entrepreneurs

We are part of a business, and a profession, but also part of a tradition of entrepreneurship.  The truth is that it is only in the past 50 or 60 years that law has begun to be dominated by the mega-firms; both national and international.

In point of fact lawyers have been hanging their shingles around the world for centuries. ‘Twas ever thus and nothing will change.

By waking up to the fact that you are ready to launch your own firm, you’re not so much stepping away from the warm (and stifling) embrace of yet-another-super-big-law firm, rather you’re stepping back into the time honoured tradition of independent-minded lawyers the world over who have decided that they can better serve their clients, in their own way, with a law firm of their own creation. 

Don’t be intimidated. You are surrounded by legal entrepreneurs and they will all be only too happy to speak with you, mentor you and even refer work to you (more on the important topic of referrals a little bit later on).

You may not have thought that being a lawyer was halfway to being an entrepreneur, but that’s the truth and the sooner you get on with building your firm, the better.

2.   Don’t spend a lot of money – the lean startup

It used to be that starting a business meant a huge up-front investment; something that is understandably challenging for most of us, and impossible for many of us.

First, keep in mind that law is a knowledge-based business. It is about ideas, service, and solutions and nowhere in that equation is it mandatory to have opulent offices on the 50th floor of some glass tower with glorious vistas. No, clients don’t need that opulence. They don’t want to pay for you to have it and you don’t need to invest in it.

All of your investments should be limited, targeted and based on getting the operation up and running. There are phenomenal SaaS (software-as-a-service) solutions available to power every aspect of your business and that cost only a few dollars per month. You can use co-working spaces when necessary and spend all of your time and energy focused on your work, your clients, your staff and drumming up new business. 

3.   The three most important things – Market, Marketing, Marketplace

If this heading doesn’t make it clear, let me sum it up as follows: Marketing will be the difference between your success or your failure. Full stop. Period. End. Of. Story.

What do I mean by this?

First – know the market you intend to serve.  Will you be a generalist or a specialist?  Will you be tied to one geography or be global? Will you start a small firm that is intended to stay small and serve small clients or will you start a small firm intended to grow? You need to know the market you will serve.

Second marketing is the key to success. The legal industry is by and large, with limited exceptions, pretty universally dismal in marketing. Most of the marketing is copycat/derivative, lacking in originality, full of stuffiness and far more interested in boasting about degrees and experience rather than being focused on marketing how the legal solutions will help the client.

I understand how the legal industry got to this point of marketing banality and I understand why it continues to this day. I also understand that if you want to build a new firm or legal business for tomorrow’s solutions, you should not recycle the tired old marketing tricks from yester-year. This is your chance to set yourself apart from the crowd.  Seize the opportunity.

Third – making sure to know your marketplace and to build your reputation within that marketplace will help you succeed. And that marketplace includes lawyers. You will need referral work and you will learn to love referral work.  Lawyers (everything from classmates, to colleagues to opposing counsel) are pleased to make referrals to trusted counsel. Work hard to increase your profile through writing and speaking engagements and other reputation and profile enhancers, and then work hard to cultivate and grown those relationships. This marketplace will be the source of your work.


There’s no better time than now for you to launch your new law firm.

There is opportunity at every turn. There are countless clients, in all parts of the community, who need proper legal support, who need counselling, who need guidance, who need advice and who are unrepresented or under-represented (and I’m not talking about the Access To Justice crisis, which is a topic for another day).

I am talking about solid clients – individuals and businesses – who have been priced out of the market or for whom retaining a lawyer seems an impossible thing. It’s not impossible. And now is your time to stand up and make it happen.

About our Guest Blogger

Peter Carayiannis is the President of Conduit Law, a leading alternative model law firm.

After practicing law for several years at one of Canada’s largest national law firms as a corporate lawyer, Peter set out to build a new model of law firm focused on finding more efficient and effective ways of working with his clients and to deliver quality legal services to Canadian businesses.  It was this experience of delivering on-site and on-demand legal services that would lead to the founding of Conduit Law.

Peter has also worked closely with the LegalTech community in Canada and is a frequent speaker on entrepreneurship and innovation, especially as it applies to the practice and business of law.  He has spoken at numerous conferences and events in the US, Canada and Europe.

Conduit Law Professional Corporation
Mobile: 416-930-3846 | Email: pc@conduitlaw.com  | Twitter @pcarayiannis

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