The Business of Law

The Business of Law
September 2012 | Issue 2 | ISSN 2050-5744
Dominic Regan urges lawyers to ‘change or
else fail’ in light of ‘unstoppable’ reforms.
ABSfabulous: Are ABSs as compelling as
the hype suggests?
COLPs and COFAs appointed? Now
what? Modern Law offers a guide for
compliance officers.
“Lawyers are as successful
as they are smart and
innovative. Now is the time to
display these attributes and
need to be aware of every
opportunity to them on the
open market.” Des Hudson
Modern Law Magazine | September 2012 | Issue 2
James Caan
“Private equity investors aren’t looking to be pioneers – we’re
looking to use methods we know will work in companies we know
will grow; with charismatic leaders who can build real success.”
James Caan
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Introduction
03
Welcome
L
awyers aren’t looking for further debate on the ‘ifs, buts and maybes’, they need to know
what they can do now - as a business - to withstand reform, increased competition
and how to attract the right partners to guarantee successful margins. In this issue of
Modern Law, we strive to bring you just that. As well as guidance and spotlights on where
legal entities can improve, we’re offering readers a direct channel to exclusive knowledge and
examples from national thought-leaders and specialists in the business of law.
It’s not something we want to keep to ourselves. From general law firms to niche and
boutique practices, Modern Law has once again packaged the right mix of information and
resources to help your business, now - not just prepare for the changes ahead. As James
Caan – CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, of Dragons’ Den fame and now a private equity investor
into the legal sector – says, a shake-up is long overdue for legal services and will only
enhance access to justice, client satisfaction and the profession itself.
Why law firms are such an exciting prospect for external funders like Caan’s outfit is clear
– legal entities are making a success of themselves and there is room for further growth.
Des Hudson, Chief Executive of the Law Society, agrees – stressing that law firms should be
looking to maximise opportunities through the new models available to them – so long as
how they run the firm complies with the high standards and quality of service the sector is
and should be known for.
Don’t let us keep you from reading on, save for the fact that as this is your outlet for
knowledge and widening your business network, we’d like you to get involved. Let us know
what you think: is there a topic you’d like us to cover or a feature that has got you riled? Do
you want to be involved in the conversation? We’d love to hear from you and look forward
to seeing you at one of the new Modern Law events we’re rolling out over the coming
months. For more information, please visit www.modernlawmagazine.com.
Modern Law is the title for an exciting new era...
Emma Waddingham, Chief Editor
Modern Law Magazine Issue 2 – September 2012 | ISSN 2050-5744
Chief Editor
Emma Waddingham
Production
Lindsey Thomson-Heley
Events Manager
Julia Todd
Publisher
Kate McKittrick
Editorial Department
Antony Smith
Stan Neal
Design
Richard Berry
Events Co-ordinator
Caroline Pritchard
Advertising
Rachael Pearson
Modern Law Magazine is published
by Charlton Grant Ltd ©2012.
Contact t: 01765600909 or e: [email protected]
All material is copyrighted both written and illustrated. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the publisher. All images and information is collated
from extensive research and along with advertisements is published in good faith. Although the author and publisher have made every effort to ensure that the information in this publication was
correct at press time, the author and publisher do not assume and hereby disclaim any liability to any party for any loss, damage, or disruption caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors
or omissions result from negligence, accident, or any other cause.
ML // September 2012
04
Contents
CONTENTS
03-09 Intro & THE News
07 Dominic talks news
Dominic Regan prescribes his call to
action to the legal sector in light of
costs and litigation funding reforms
steaming ahead for April 2013.
Change or fail...
11-16 The INTERVIEWS
11 Interview with... James Caan
The entrepreneur and a household
name for the investment sector finds
time to speak to Emma Waddingham
about opportunities in the legal
sector and being ‘investment ready’.
14 Interview with... Des Hudson
Chief Executive of the Law Society,
Des Hudson, outlines what he
believes to be the critical business of
law issues for law firms.
19-31 The views
21 Are investors right to be excited
by the legal market?
Steven Arundale, Natwest
21 Conveyancing: there’s room for all
June Munroy, Council for Licensed
Conveyancers
22 Keeping costs low in the
11
price war
Robert Parness, Paramount
Legal Costs
22 The power brand has arrived
Angela Moores, Jarvis Family Law
23 Do power brands hold the
advantage?
David Bott, Bott & Co.
23 Allure of the ‘big brand’
Eddie Goldsmith, Goldsmith Williams
24 Price war conundrums
Charles Christian, The Orange Rag
24 Are solicitors sleepwalking into
bigger PII problems?
20 Analysing feedback on
25 Direct Access: chambers’ USPs
referral fees
Richard Collins, Solicitors Regulation
Authority
Martin Ellis, Prime Risk Solutions
25 Are lawyers applying their
Brian Rogers, Riliance software
14
Chris Owen, St Philips Chambers
20 The biggest challenge
for COLPs...
07
financial analysis data effectively?
Jo Hodges, Redbrick Solutions
Editorial Columnists
Alan Nesbit
Managing Partner
Nesbit Law Group
Professor Dominic Regan
Legal commentator, trainer
and costs expert
Martin Ellis
Managing Director
Prime Risk Solutions
Eddie Goldsmith
Partner
Goldsmith Williams
Matthew Williams
Head of AmTrust Law
AmTrust Financial Services.
Elmear McCartan
Solicitor
Ralli Solicitors
Natalie Rodgers
Managing Director
Scala Business Development
Darren Gower
Eclipse Legal Systems
Faye Soden
Director
Legal Marketing Experts
Neil Inge
Managing Director
ILEX Tutorial College
Bernard George
Director
Socrates Training
David Bott
Managing Partner
Bott & Co
Jaunita Gobby
Director
Legal Eye Ltd
Nick Ingham
Legal Manager
Anglia Research Services
Barry Talbot
Managing Director
Informance Limited
David McNamara
Managing Director
SOS Legal
Jo Hodges
Managing Director
RedBrick Solutions
Nick Hodges
Managing Director
Oyez Professional Services
Andrew Stenning
Managing Director
Searches UK
Angela Moore
Partner Jarvis
Family Law
Antony Smith
Director
Legal Project Management
ML // September 2012
Brian Rogers
Director of regulation and
compliance service
Riliance software
Charles Christian
Editor in chief
The Orange Rag
Chris Owen
CEO
St Philips Chambers
Richard Collins
Executive Director
Solicitors Regulation
Authority
Robert Parness
Costs Lawyer
Paramount Legal Costs
Contents
27 Where do I start?
Bernard George, Socrates Training
Nick Hodges, Oyez Professional Services
49 Out with the old
27 Back office benefits
29 Risk & Compliance: the latest buzz
A growing number of progressive lawyers
are shrinking their costs, reducing risk and
building powerful competitive advantage,
writes Richard Hinton.
51-62 BUSiNESS MANAGEMENT
Andrew Stenning, Searches UK
29 Focusing on the outcome
52 Click & Go
31 Who holds the advantage in client
53 How can case management help
Nick Ingham, Anglia Research Services
service and compliance?
Eimear McCartan, Ralli
Mark Edwards, Rocket Lawyer
deliver lower operational costs?
David McNamara, SOS Legal
31 Will chambers and ABSs target
54 Are lawyers assessing their
CILEx qualified jobseekers?
Noel Inge, ILEX Tutorial College
32 The future of commercial ATE
Matthew Williams, AmTrust Financial
Services
Barry Talbot, Informance Ltd.
54 Competing with the big
ticket brands
Alan Nesbit, Nesbit Law
55 ‘Power brands’: a risk to the
Rob Hailstone, Bold Legal Group
33-51 The Features
35 Believe, succeed, grow
Chris Fry, talks about the self-belief and
collaboration required to grow a new
law firm.
37 Stand & deliver
Can we help overcome prospective
clients’ inhibitions and suspicions about
the legal profession? Ian Dodd reports.
39 Carving an ABS niche
Elizabeth Eagles, explains how the ABS
model is set to protect a niche client base.
41 Change of guard
Are the current changes to the civil
justice system for the good of the
people? Dr Victoria Handley reports.
43 ABSfabulous
Emma Waddingham reports on litigation
funding plans for now and in a post
Jackson world.
well-being of my business
Neil Hudgell, Neil Hudgell Solicitors
55 A great British service
Natalie Rodgers, Scala Business
Development
56 The missing link in brand identity
Faye Soden, Legal Marketing Experts
57 Implementing Legal Project
Management
41
Anthony Smith, Legal Project
Management
57 Boosting growth
Eclipse Legal
58 Preaching to the converted
Ted Sangster warns about the
importance of professional standards in
the use of interpreters
60 Survival of the fittest
Are ABSs as compelling as the hype
indicates? Anthony Smith finds out.
45 Sink or swim
31
data effectively?
32 Lender panels, the situation’s as
clear as mud!
05
Jitendra Valera looks at brand
differentiation, business models and new
technology combinations for business
survival
62 COLPs & COFAs: what next?
By now, firms are waiting for COLP and
COFA appointment confirmations, but
this is no time to rest, as our expert
panel reports.
49
ML // September 2012
Dominic talks news
07
DOM REGAN news
Preparing for the big bang
Professor Dominic Regan urges lawyers to ‘change or else fail’ in light of unstoppable judiciary led reforms
for justice at proportionate cost.
T
he declaration that general
damages will increase by 10%
where judgment is given after
1st April 2013 is just the latest sign of
imminent and unstoppable reform.
The announcement was made in the
case of Simmons V Castle (2012)
EWCA Civ.1039 by the biggest hitters
in the business and this was not
coincidental. The Lord Chief Justice,
the Vice-President of the Appeal Court
and the Master of the Rolls, was as
potent a trio as one could muster and
do not forget that the Master of the
Rolls is to be sworn in as head honcho
in the Supreme Court on October 1st
2012. The intention was to make it
clear that this piece of the Jackson
jigsaw was supported to the hilt and
anyone thinking that the courts would
be amenable to challenges should not
waste their breath.
Indeed, this leads me to make one
more observation which is fundamental
for every practitioner to recognise. It
is the key to all understanding and it is
simply this. Uniquely, the reforms now
enshrined in the Legal Aid Act 2012
were set in motion, not by Government
but by the judiciary. It was the then
Master of the Rolls who turned to the
newly appointed Lord Justice Jackson
in despair and asked for a report
on how justice could be achieved
efficiently at proportionate cost. This
is critical because the Jackson reforms
are driven by the Judiciary, the very
body which will soon have to apply and
uphold those changes.
Without exception, I have heard
so many judges express utter
admiration for the labours of Jackson.
The Judiciary is certain to be fully
supportive of what is coming. They
will look after their own and I do not
mean that in a pejorative sense. I was
present at the launch of the Jackson
report when Lord Neuberger Master
of the Rolls said that the talking was
over and it was time to get on. In
recent judgments both he and Ward
LJ have said - in terms - the sooner
we implement the better. So, it is a
done deal.
Armed for change
What can practitioners do to prepare
for this big bang? When I put the
question to the man himself earlier this
year, Sir Rupert told me that budgeting
was to be a fundamental, essential
skill for all to master. It is intended that
where a defence is served after 1st
April 2013 in a multi-track action, the
parties will be required to swap and
submit to the court a budget form,
indicating two things: who will work on
this claim (grades and charging rates
to be identified) and what work will
they do? This will then show how much
time and money will be invested in
disclosure, witness statements et al.
No Immunity
I was fortunate to sit at the knee of His
Honour Judge Simon Brown QC who,
as part of a judicial pilot, has been
managing costs in the Birmingham
Mercantile Court. It is no coincidence
that the Barclays LIBOR litigation has
been commenced in that venue which
is noted for speed and efficiency.
Jackson was adamant that litigation be
treated like any other project and that
meant planning and costing the steps
at the outset. No one will be immune
from penetrating questions about, for
example: the need for experts; their
cost; whether electronic disclosure
“Thanks to various pilot schemes we already
have two interesting decisions which just
emphasise the need to budget accurately or
else suffer horrifically.”
ML // September 2012
08
Dominic talks news
“Change or you will fail, for certain.”
has been visited, and; generally how can this dispute be resolved at a fair,
proportionate cost?
Thanks to various pilot schemes we already have two interesting decisions which
just emphasise the need to budget accurately or else suffer horrifically. In Henry
V News Group International LTD (2012) EWHC 90218, the Senior Costs Judge
delivered the first ever decision in this arena. It was a defamation action and, as
such, was caught by an early budgeting pilot scheme.
The claimant submitted a bill which was 18 times higher than budgeted for
witness statements and eight times higher for disclosure. The extra costs were
nearly £300,000. Despite expressing the clear view that the additional spend was
justified the Judge held the claimant to the budget. What, one might ask, is the
point of imposing a budget only to ignore it? The lesson is blindingly clear. If the
approved budget, for whatever reason, seems to be no longer accurate then get
back to court and seek approval for revised figures.
In this solitary case we see a significant sum of costs reasonably incurred being
disallowed. That should bring the importance of mastering this skill obvious to all.
More recently, HH J Simon Brown delivered judgment on 15th August 2012 in
the case of Safetynet Security LTD v Coppage (2012) EWHC B11. After giving
judgment for the claimant (and this detail does not appear in the transcript but
I have personally verified it with the learned Judge) it was decided that as the
spend was within the court approved budget a detailed assessment would be an
expensive and futile exercise.
Accordingly, a final costs order was made within minutes of the substantive
judgment being delivered and the claimant came away knowing that by the end
of that month his costs would be due. This has the tremendous benefit of good
cashflow as well as putting everything to bed at once. Again, get your budget
wrong and you will never secure these advantages.
Addressing the budget will also provoke consideration of proportionality. The
Jackson mantra is that the spend should be commensurate with the amount
at stake. Proportionality, whilst fundamental, reaches further than budgeting.
However, because the former is of universal application, whilst (as we have seen)
it is only in the multi-track that budgeting occurs.
No fixed costs for Fast-Track
One key Jackson recommendation is not coming, certainly not next April and all I
hear suggests that it has been jettisoned altogether. No fixed costs for fast –track
work! This was proposed by Lord Woolf and strongly reiterated by Sir Rupert.
The dilemma is obvious. Where are proportionality arguments most likely to arise
but in fast–track which is the lowest tier of costs bearing activity?
By definition, the damages cannot exceed £25,000 so, inevitably, the balance
between quantum of costs and of damages will be more pronounced here than
anywhere else. Had fixed costs been introduced this dilemma would never, ever
ML // September 2012
arise for the costs would be spelt
out and that would be that. I suspect
that Lord Justice Jackson will be
more dismayed about this omission
than anything else. It screams out as
an invitation to litigate over costs.
Whatever is proportionate?
Professional risk
There is one more subtlety that has
been overlooked in the stampede
and that is the much greater risk of
professional negligence claims in all
litigation. This will arise because the
Rules committee has discarded the
current CPR 3.9 which informs the
exercise of discretion on applications
to forgive default.
The Jackson view was that the
Judiciary was a bunch of pansies
which would sob quietly and fall for
hard luck stories as to why orders
made centuries ago had never been
honoured. No more. The new emphasis
will be upon compliance and the need
to respect the court and, in so doing,
abide by timetables. I guarantee a firm
if not vicious approach to default. The
failure to abide, unless by an order, will
be akin to a suicide note.
The Woolf reforms were, at the time,
perceived as the most drastic ever
and who at the time could disagree? I
may be wrong but I think that Jackson
dwarfs everything that has gone
before. Change or you will fail, for
certain.
www.profdominicregan.blogspot.com
By Professor Dominic Regan.
00
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Interview
11
Interview with...
JAMES CAAN
James Caan,
entrepreneur and
CEO of Hamilton
Bradshaw, recently
became the first
private equity
investor (PEI) to
commit to the legal
sector, through its
investment into
Knights solicitors.
Emma Waddingham
speaks to the former
Dragons’ Den
investor about why
PEIs are attracted to
the legal market and
where they can make
a difference.
Why is the legal sector
such an attractive
market to private equity
investors?
It’s a very exciting sector
with fantastic people and
an industry absolutely right
for change. Technology and
communications has revolutionised
business but the legal world has been
left behind – providing real opportunity
for growth in firms. For those firms
with innovative leadership and vision,
there’s real opportunity to expand,
providing opportunities for both
solicitors and investors; it’s very clear
firms don’t want to be left behind and
are looking at new ways to fund and
steer their future developments - such
as private equity.
However, there’s clearly a huge
difference between the thousands of
firms in the sector but only a small
percentage break the mould and
become highly profitable law firms.
Private equity investors know that
opportunities are there but why is it so
many law firms can’t break through?
Being successful or not is mainly
down to lawyers themselves. Lawyers
are brilliant technicians and but this
doesn’t necessarily translate into being
a great entrepreneur by spotting when
and how to grow their firm. Some
may not even want to grow. Of course
we’re not interested in these, but for
those firms with a vision to deliver
services, develop projects and grow
the business, there is an opportunity to
be a fantastic law firm.
Successful firms with 20-40 people
have the potential to be much larger
firms if they have the right leaders,
vision, willingness to grow and
commitment to auctioning marketing
plans. Private equity investors aren’t
looking to be pioneers – we’re looking
to use methods we know will work in
companies we know will grow.
So what can firms and
individual solicitors do to
be investment ready?
We can make firms go from
good to great but we need to
see stand-out leaderships and
organisations with a willingness
and aspiration to change. We instantly
ML // September 2012
12
Interview
“Law firms are having too many one night stands with clients and failing
to build deep and meaningful relationships... Clients will be unaware
of other departments, services and brand values, meaning they may not
come back to you for a different matter.”
recognised this in Knights and discounted many firms
because they lacked leadership potential and clear vision of
where they want to be. There’s no point, for us, to work with
a firm that doesn’t want to grow - private equity investment
isn’t for complacent lawyers.
As well as leaders in management, we also look for
individuals within the firm who might be better suited to a
leadership role, individuals who stand out will be used as a
catalyst for change across the firm, helping bring everyone
on board.
You wouldn’t want to change the culture of the firm
entirely – the reason we’re attracted to a firm is it’s success
– the culture is part of that success. But development
requires firm-wide engagement and that’s what stand-out
individuals and leaders can help to do.
What was Hamilton Bradshaw’s unique
selling point for Knights?
We’re an exciting opportunity to bring additional
and valuable expertise on board – not just direct
funding for projects. Helping to redefine, strengthen
and grow a legal brand is matched by years of success in
marketing and sales strategies – something that most firms
would love to do but don’t necessarily have the expertise or
align those skills in the most effective way.
We know how to build a professional services firm up – I
built up my first business out of a broom cupboard - and
have proven talent in this field – it will be the same in our
application to the legal sector.
Solicitors’ application of marketing,
especially brand awareness and value, is
often criticised. What are firms failing to
get right and what benefits can be gained by addressing tactics?
The use of PR by law firms is often totally
misdirected and focused at the legal trade press –
fine if you’re a B2B firm or referral based but the PR
performed by agencies on behalf of law firms and written
by firms themselves for the national and regional press is
often wide of the mark. Media relations isn’t a core subject
for lawyers, however they must identify their market place
and core area of the firm and channel PR efforts to the right
audience. If you operate in the commercial sector, define
and target your band to corporate organisations and gain
visibility in their arena. This is something firms consistently
fail to do.
At Knights, brand awareness was a top priority in the first
month of investment. An event to attract 40 top corporate
clients that Knights wanted to work with – using Hamilton
Bradshaw and my own brand and connections as pulling
power. My name does give an edge when looking to attract
potential clients for Knights but only reassurance. The
ML // September 2012
deliverability of high quality work and individuals comes
from Knight’s existing success.
Obviously Knights found the topic of marketing and
branding quite daunting – given the scale and focus the
discipline needs in a law firm. Marketing - successfully used
- is a key catalyst for growth but it’s not usual for law firms
to invest so much time and money into it. This is unlike
the private sector, where whole teams of non-fee earning
specialists in sales and marketing are purely responsible for
winning business.
However a message does needs to be sent out to
academic and legal institutions to invest further in
communication skills for new and existing lawyers. Lawyers
need to be able to sell their own business and have a better
relationship with clients and each other. There are a number
of courses available for existing lawyers but not enough
investment in them by firms. Nor is there an agenda for
those coming through the system to pick these up.
Are firms investing widely enough into
client services?
Law firms are having far too many one night stands
with clients and failing to build deep and meaningful
relationships. Law firms act as transaction houses
and for clients, their experience of the firm, the brand, is
that one piece of work they instruct. Clients will be unaware
of other departments, services and brand values, meaning
they may not come back to you for a different matter.
Key, immediate changes should be taken to communicate
better with clients – so they understand what you do. We
asked this of Knights: do our clients actually know what we
do and that we can look after them whatever their legal
concern? It works both ways – do you fully understand what
your clients do?
One of the key things we’ve implemented is sending a
solicitor into a client company for a month to get to know
them better and be on hand to help - like a temporary
in-house lawyer. As well as getting to know everyone in a
different department you can market your services more
proactively and apply them to situations that may crop up.
The client then has a solicitor they know understands their
business and can turn to directly.
Finally, what leadership qualities attract an
investor’s eye?
Somebody with clear passion, vision and charisma.
Being able to attract and manage talent is essential.
Without this you won’t be able to steer individuals to
implement projects for growth or engage clients - you can
only grow if you can attract talent!
Interview
13
Knights with armour
Emma Waddingham speaks to David Beech, Managing Partner
at Knights, about the immediate effect that James Caan’s
engagement and investment in the firm has had so far.
With a background in investment and the legal sector,
David Beech was already wise to the commercial success
and talent building specialisms private equity investors
can bring to organisations. Like Knights, he says, Hamilton
Bradshaw is a ‘service-delivery, talent and results focused’
company so the two cultures were already well-aligned. It’s
clear the people-first focus of Caan’s empire will pervade
even further into Knights but - as Caan stresses - without at
least one clear leader and visionary, Beech believes growth
is unattainable.
“People are the business; talent and experience are part
of everything we do but culturally we don’t want to change
it overnight. Internal communications will be key to ensuring
everyone is engaged with what we’re doing and why – if
we’re to grow, it’s essential we have buy-in from the start.”
Initialising plans for growth has been a long time coming
for Beech and the other partners, who knew their projects
needed wider capital to invest. “Capital is always scarce
in the partnership model as law firms tend to retain profit.
But without direct investment there was no other way. For
us, the move has given us the finance and the additional
expertise to action plans we’ve had for a while, make
decisions quickly and be more visionary and ambitious than
we ever could have been in a partnership model.”
Thanks to Caan’s profile, Beech has added notoriety
to add to his bow, something that is helping Knights
‘have a better conversation with huge institutions’; attract
further leading talent (an additional 12 fee earners have
been employed to boost the firm to over 80 in total), and;
gain ground with its ’Mexican wave’ project: on shore
outsourcing solutions.
“We want to be seen as a cost solution for firms
looking to outsourcing work, a firm that delivers the same
technical ability, client service and standards as a city
centre firm but without the cost. We know we have the
vision, plans and now resources to action projects and
recruit the right talent to help clients in a time where cost
and added value are key.”
Legal 500 2011
St Philips Chambers is a “commercially astute set” with clerks who are
“phenomenal at securing the barrister clients wish to instruct”
Chambers UK Guide 2011
St Philips Chambers is one of the largest sets in the country and receives
universal praise for its “practice and forward thinking approach”.
It houses an “excellent clerking team” as well as a deep bench
of highly proficient barristers.
St Philips Chambers
55 Temple Row, Birmingham B2 5LS
T: +44 (0)121 246 7000
F: +44 (0)121 246 7001
E: [email protected]
DX 723240 Birmingham 56
W: www.st-philips.com
www.stphilipsadr.com
14
Interview
Interview with...
Des Hudson
Compliance, business models and funding options, increased
competition and operating in the best interest for the public
are key concerns for solicitors – or should be - as Des Hudson,
Chief Executive of the Law Society, tells Emma Waddingham.
What’s top of the list for member
concerns?
Those in the magic circle are less fazed by
new entrants to the market place, ABSs
and joint ventures, etc. They have better
resources and are better equipped to adapt
their business plans to compete – requiring a
different kind of support from the Law Society than
other members. That’s not to say they don’t worry
about regulation or funding reform, for example.
For the high street firm, the triple effect of
recession (especially for conveyancing), new
market entrants and regulation (most recently
COLPs and COFAs) are prime concerns and fuel
the level of information, guidance and support we
offer. We are seeing a rise in member activity as
firms seek help for risk and compliance matters,
money laundering matters etc.
Regulation is a core concern. We’ve launched
our ‘Safe Harbour’ compliance advice on the
back of the SRA outcome-focused regulation.
The compliance reference group (CRG) is a direct
response to the fact that the SRA refuses to be
bound by the advice it gives to compliance officers.
So to help the sector help itself, the Law Society
has set up two panels - one for the largest 100
firms and one for all others. Each panel features a
range of anonymous COLP experts from top law
firms. Queries regarding regulation matters will be
sent to the Law Society for our experts’ opinions,
which will be checked by the Society and sent
back to the firm outlining what we believe they
should do. We will be bound by our responses and
will stand behind the firm if the regulator reacts.
Ideally advice from the SRA should be binding. It’s
good for the Law Society as it means we can help
establish and protect those high sector standards in
the long-term – ultimately good for members, the
public and professional clients.
Should the Law Society work
closer with the media to protect
the profession?
Now, more than ever, the legal profession
needs a national voice to promote the
high standards of members in the media
and to protect and champion the profession.
However, this doesn’t always mean working out in
the open.
We are very conscious of issues affecting
our members and work very hard behind the
scenes. Of course, for areas like claims and costs
reforms, opinions from the insurance sector
cover the press. I’m surprised the Prime Minister
is so confident there will be a fall in car insurance
in return for changes made on behalf of the
insurance sector. Our significant achievements are
made behind closed doors, with the regulators
and politicians. This is a key, high impact role for
the national Law Society, supported by regional
ones.
However we do see a big media challenge
ahead and intend to start another campaign
train. For example, to encourage the Ministry of
Justice to increase activity in claims management
company regulation and prove what it’s actually
doing about rogue operators. Part of the success
of our approach to campaigning has always been
directly with officials and decision makers – this
won’t stop – but there are projects we can run to
spread the message of quality and high standards
of using our members to the general public.
With increasing competition and legal service
providers coming in from all sides, the public need
to be fully informed to make their own choices.
“Firms should make no apology for focusing on the business of
law – it’s key to ensuring high standards of service.”
ML // September 2012
Interview
15
“What we’re seeing is
good ideas for hard
times...We expect to
see a rise in enterprise
activities and extending
the definition of legal
services provision.”
Are firms innovating or waiting
to see what will happen with new
entrants and / or the impact of
reform?
What we’re seeing is good ideas for
hard times. Those with niche practices
are sticking to that principle to see them
through; others are taking a new approach, as
we’ve seen with ABSs - most recently Irwin Mitchell.
We expect to see a rise in enterprise activities and
extending the definition of legal services provision.
This offers threats to some but also opportunities.
New entrants to the market will also, inevitably,
include the rise of web-based legal services and
I’m delighted to see some are innovating in that
market. The consumer market has already gone
through its digital revolution although this has
been slowly extended into legal service providers’
offerings. Whether selling legal services or simply
marketing law firms, websites will be more
important than ever before. These are the windows
on the high street for every day consumers and
the first point of call. Firms will be on the back foot
without an effective web presence to sell the brand
distinctions.
Lawyers are as successful as they are smart
and innovative. Now is the time to display these
attributes and they need to be aware of every
opportunity to them on the open market. Yes,
there will be increased competition and perhaps
a drive towards further commoditisation but it
will force members to better define their brand
differentiation. Being ethical and competent are
enduringly important values for members and
should be at the core of what law firms offer but a
clear USP is needed to compete.
Marketing is essential for client
capture – is this what concerns you
about the ban on referral fees?
Some firms are hoping it’s all going to
turn out OK in the end, others are actively
addressing the fact they need to further
imporve self-capturing methods. But what we want
is a better understanding of how the MoJ is dealing
Des Hudson was born in Halifax, Yorkshire, and graduated in law
from the University of Leeds in 1977. He qualified as a solicitor in
1980 and worked in private practice until 1987. During that time he
became a salaried partner in a major provincial law firm in the north
west of England, specialising in crime and child protection work.
In 1987 Des joined the Yorkshire Building Society as an assistant
solicitor and held a number of positions during five years there. In
1992 he took up the post of head of lending at the Britannia Building
Society. In 1995 he became operations director of Britannia Life, and
in the following year he was made managing director.
In 1998 Des joined SMG (Scottish Media Group) to become chief
executive of their publishing division and was appointed a director
of SMG plc in 1999. He joined the Institute of Chartered Accountants
of Scotland in September 2004 as chief executive designate,
subsequently becoming chief executive.
On 4th September 2006 Des took up the position of chief
executive of the Law Society of England and Wales.
with claims management companies, who serve no purpose other than
to benefit financially. This is a key issue for the Society. Of course it’s
down to members of the Law Society who they do business with; it’s
their choice and equally, not all referral fees are wrong. But CMCs are
not in the public interest and the MoJ should be more explicit and open
about how they are dealing with errant firms. Are they really tackling
those who flood mobile phone networks with texts asking about a neverhad accident?
ML // September 2012
16
Interview
So promoting what’s in the ‘public interest’
is key for solicitors?
Yes. And the Law Society continues to position it’s
members as high quality, ethical legal professionals.
It’s essential we get this message through to the
general public – this will only reinforce the position
and strength of solicitors as legal service providers. This is
something we’re going to increase further in the coming years.
Our Find a Solicitor Service is expanding to help the public
find members and their services more effectively. This is a
campaign entirely in the public interest – putting clients first
is the right and fair thing to do. The Law Society can now help
promote members by helping them advertise themselves –
and potentially overcome the negative press fuelled by some
CMCs.
We have spoken to former Dragons’ Den
investor, James Caan, about his company’s
investment into a law firm – what’s your
advice for firms looking to attract private
equity investors?
The legal sector is in choppy waters to an extent but
in the long-term there are significant opportunities to
be made. Private equity firms are often the ones able
to spot them. The Society has the view that the model a firm
chooses to adopt is a second issue. Our members are best
placed to make a decision on how they should be funded and
managed; there are plenty of opportunities out there, so as
long as ABSs and other ventures meet their fitness tests.
What is a firm likely to get out of private equity
investment is another matter. Marketing skills are clearly the
first thing. These investors will have more acute marketing
skills than an average consultancy. Finance to action projects
is another. Another thing to consider is the exit strategy –
does the investor have one or are they in this for the longhaul? They may wish to sell the firm on, which may / may
not be a bad thing but this has to be considered. The Law
Society has a liberal view on what is right for firms regarding
private equity – but solicitors need to have their wits about
them; be wary of those who come baring gifts!
Law firms have already been able to attract
non-lawyers into the management system surely this has helped benefit firms already,
moving away from the traditional solicitor
partner model?
We have seen an increase in a new set of craft
skills. Larger firms have embraced introduction of
technology as well as finance, human resources and
marketing partners. These have started to percolate into
the system as the business of law becomes a vital part of
the practice. Firms should make no apology for focusing on
the business of law – it’s key to ensuring high standards of
service to the public and vital to the success of any practice.
For further information, news and compliance updates and
members services, please visit www.lawsociety.org.uk
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The views
19
19-31
The
Views
ML // September 2012
20
The views
SRA analyses referral
fees feedback
W
ith the ban on
referral fees
in personal injury
cases due in April
2013, as one of the
regulators tasked
with enforcement the
SRA has been looking
closely at how to do
this in a way that is
practical, consistent
and works in the public
interest.
Personal injury
work is significant for
the legal sector and
is worth approximately £1.8billion. Given this, we need
to ensure that the changes do not result in financial
instability in firms reliant on the payment of referral fees
for personal injury business. Disorderly closures as a
result would not be in the interests of clients. Therefore,
we have identified the firms most heavily reliant on
personal injury business generated from paying referral
fees and will be working closely with them to see what
plans they have for managing when the ban comes into
force.
We need to ensure that firms comply with the new
statutory requirements. A number of existing referrers
and law firms are considering ABS status as potentially
providing a model that would succeed in the new
environment.
Richard Collins, SRA Executive Director, said: “This
sector will receive significant policy and supervision
attention from the SRA in the lead-up to the ban and
afterwards. Any entity, whether an ABS or traditionally
structured law firm, undertaking personal injury cases
where there is an ‘introduction’ of clients will be subject
to scrutiny to ensure any new arrangements are lawful.”
We are consulting extensively with those who may
be affected and are currently analysing feedback from
our recent discussion paper on the forthcoming ban.
The paper outlined that the regulator does not feel rules
would be consistent with outcomes-focused regulation
and suggests the best way forward would be to amend
the mandatory outcomes within its code, backed up
by illustrative indicative behaviours. Early indications
suggest that these proposals have been broadly
welcomed - but all options remain on the table.
The responses will be used to inform a formal 12week consultation which will take place in the autumn.
Any changes made to the regulatory framework will
come into effect in April 2013.
Richard Collins, Executive Director, Solicitors Regulation
Authority (SRA), www.sra.org.uk.
Q: what will be the
biggest challenge for
COLPs?
A
: For many
COLPs the
biggest challenge
will be implementing
a workable risk and
compliance system
that does a number
of things. First and
foremost, the system
must provide all staff
within the firm an
easily accessible way
of being able to carry
out their risk and
compliance related
tasks.
The system needs to be able to capture all decisions
made and actions taken. The COLP will need high level
visibility over the firms risk and compliance tasks, and
should be able to easily produce audit trails as evidence
that proves the firm has been doing what is necessary
to ensure it meets the SRA Handbook outcomes.
Many COLPs will no doubt be readying their firm by
putting together compliance plans and updating various
procedures, however, for a system to be effective it
needs to be more than just theoretical documents.
Firms need to ask:
• what processes are in place to ensure the timely
completion of file audits?
• how is a COLP to track, firm wide, the results of
corrective action taken on those file audits as well as
identifying any reoccurring problems?
• how is the COLP going to be able to track, monitor
and manage risks on a day-to-day basis?
• how do they produce the relevant audit trails that
prove compliance with the code of conduct?
To complicate matters, many COLPs will not be risk and
compliance experts and will still need to earn fees and
keep their clients happy!
COLPs that do implement an all encompassing, easy
to manage, automated system early on will be able
to reap the rewards later on in time saved, minimum
exposure to risk - as well as the benefits gained from
the smooth operation of compliance processes. COLPs
who decide to change nothing, update nothing and
try and muddle through with inadequate systems and
processes will, no doubt, run into trouble later on down
the line.
Brian Rogers, Director of regulation and compliance
service, Riliance software.
www.riliance.co.uk
ML // September 2012
The views
Q: Are investors right to
be excited by the legal
market - if so, why such
confidence and trust?
A
: ABS Article July 2012. The
true impact of the ABS regime
has yet to reveal itself but there are
enough firms voicing an interest
to suggest that the impact will be
swifter and deeper than originally
anticipated. Whilst initial activity
appears focused at the retail end of
the market, the full impact is likely
to be far-reaching as the benefits
emerge in a quantifiable and measurable way.
What has been interesting is that investors have not been
as ready to part with their cash as perhaps they had initially
indicated. Possibly, that’s of no great surprise given that legal
firms don’t carry the principle assets that appeal to external
investors usually presented in the form of product, process and
profit. No one would doubt the existence of profit but, for now,
that output is overly dependent on the people in the business
and that, in itself, is a very difficult asset to manage and comes
with significant risk management challenges.
As the new world post-ABS begins to settle, we anticipate
that legal firms large and small will start to adopt a more
corporate feel and commercial outlook. This is likely to be a
response to what other firms are doing rather than a strategic
approach to attract external investment, which may be a
beneficial consequence.
In March 2012, James Tsolakis, Head of Legal Services for
Corporate & Institutional Banking published a report: ‘A
perspective on the legal market’ and identified the following
potential implications of ABS on legal firms:
• The adoption of more commercial norms in the management
of the related business; for example, capital structures and
profit retention.
• The introduction of more, external, professional management
with the new and fresh perspectives that this offers.
• Establishment of broadly offered compensation models
closely aligned with the firms objectives.
• Deeper financial resources, providing capital for new
investment.
• Delivery of lower cost, broader and potentially higher-quality
services to clients.
• Increased competition between existing market participants
and new entrants.
• Competing time horizons of interest between long and shortterm objectives of management and owners.
• The threat of conflicts of interest between rights of clients and
rights of non-lawyer participants and external owners in the
ABS.
21
Conveyancing – there’s
room for all
J
uly’s issue of Modern
Law included a survey
exploring conveyancers’
attitudes to ABS (P. 49).
Overall, it made gloomy
reading. Less than half of
respondents were happy
that ABS should provide
conveyancing services,
with 42% feeling it to be a
‘terrible mistake’ which may
lead to the closure of firms.
At the CLC we take
a more optimistic view.
True, the introduction of
ABS will increase competition in an already challenging
market. Firms will need to work hard to offer good value
for money, or outstanding quality, or specialist expertise or
excellent service (and hopefully all four). We believe there
will be room for players of all shapes and sizes within the
new legal services market. The CLC currently regulates
firms ranging from sole practitioners to multi-million
turnovers, and long may this continue.
From a regulatory perspective, two aspects of the
survey gave us pause for thought. The first was that those
surveyed felt that ABS might not be held to the same
standards as other providers. For the CLC, nothing could
be further from the truth. Our application process for ABS
is just as stringent and rigorous as for other regulated
entities, and our inspection approach combines desk work
with on-site visits to make sure that all licensed firms abide
by our outcomes-focussed regulatory principles.
As Rob Gurney of Premier Property Law (the first ABS
to be licensed) said: “If you are expecting a thorough
examination of your business and its staff, you will not be
disappointed.”
The second was respondents’ view that there should
be just one licensing body. We feel that such a one-sizefits-all approach would undermine competition and limit
consumer choice and confidence. Our view is that the
provision of legal services should be regulated by activity,
not by a carte blanche to provide all legal services. A
lawyer with 20 year’s advocacy experience, for example,
may not be up to speed on probate. Maintaining a cadre of
regulators specialising in different areas offers customers
more choice, and a greater guarantee of expertise.
There is a need and space for different licensing
authorities, just as there is room in the market for
conveyancing firms of all shapes and sizes.
June Mulroy, interim Chief Executive, Council for Licensed
Conveyancers.
External investors are likely to be attracted to those legal firms willing to
embrace and exploit the rigour of corporate discipline.
Steve Arundale, Professional Services Director, Natwest
ML // September 2012
22
The views
Q: Solicitors have
to deal with the
commoditisation of
legal services (the
competitive price war)
what do they need do to
keep costs low?
A
: Until relatively recently,
the law was different from
other businesses: an insular
world where practises and
values echoed a bygone era.
The profession has even been
described as ‘frumpy’ in certain
circles.
No longer; with the Legal
Services Act 2007 and the
Government (determined to
ignore its own expert advice) pushing through extensions
to the small claims limit and the RTA portal in April 2013,
the law is ripe to be sliced, diced and sold in neat little
packages. Legal services will be the subject of pricecomparison websites where ‘he who is cheapest’ reigns.
In order to survive in this brave new world, costs will
need to be kept to a minimum whilst still providing an
effective service to the client. There are a number of
tools which solicitors can use to do this.
Information technology is one potential driver of
efficiency. Modern systems offer a high degree of
automation, reducing the time which fee-earners need
to spend on a matter. Furthermore, alternative ways of
delivering legal services, such as over the internet, are
becoming available which will allow tech-savvy firms to
reduce their overheads.
However, as always in the short-sighted economic race
to the bottom which pervades modern business practice,
perhaps the quickest way to cut significant costs is to
reduce your workforce. Back-office functions can be
outsourced or even offshored. The same can be done
with certain parts of the legal process. However, a word
of caution; I recently attended a business development
seminar where data were presented suggesting that
clients may not be altogether happy at having their
confidential information shipped to the Far East.
Another option is to operate a model of having
few partners/solicitors supervising a larger number
of unqualified and lower-paid personnel, creating a
sort of McLaw. This particular approach may be more
applicable to low-value, high-volume work.
One thing is certain, whatever approach you choose
carries its own risks but the risk of doing nothing is
equally great.
Rob Parness, Costs Lawyer, Paramount Legal Costs Ltd
ML // September 2012
We cannot deny the
power brand has arrived
S
ince February 2012,
solicitors have faced
potential competition
from those entering
the legal services
marketplace with the
might of consumer/
retail sector experience
behind them. As with all
changing markets there
will be those firms that
cope well and those
that don’t and there will
be advantages for the
consumer as well as disadvantages.
It is the experience for the consumer which has
the greatest potential for change. This includes: how
legal services are accessed; how they are charged; the
level of personal interaction with the provider, and;
satisfaction (or otherwise) at conclusion.
Let us not deny there are certain areas of the
market - or certain levels of legal advice and service
- which may well be better served by the power
brands. Indeed many of these areas are already being
provided by structures other than solicitors – consider
conveyancing and will writing. The fact that many of
these providers have proven successful is indicative of
the consumer demand for a different type of product
than traditionally offered by solicitors.
The question now is: what areas are next to be
developed by the power brands? For those of us within
the profession it may be obvious which areas of practice
are becoming less viable for provision by the traditional
solicitors practice. It is possible that the time has come
for us to release certain aspects of our work to be
better provided by the power brands.
Whilst we need to accept many of the changes that
are upon us, there is also the option for traditional
legal practices to adapt that manner in which the
legal services are provided to meet demand where
appropriate or necessary. The consumer will be the
ultimate decision maker.
If we in the legal profession are able to provide what
the consumer wants, ie a high level of personal service,
with expert, tailored legal advice, at a fair cost and in
the right environment we will survive the onslaught
of the power brands. Failing in any of these areas will
almost certainly result in casualties over the next few
years – but that is the price of change.
By Angela Moores, Jarvis Family Law
The views
Q: Do the legal
power brands hold
the advantage in
compliance and,
ultimately, client
experience and
satisfaction?
A
: Let us start from the
standpoint that any
well-run law firm should be
pretty good at compliance; it
should have been compliant
since it opened its doors on
whatever date that was.
However, in an average
firm, how many people are in
the compliance department
and how much emphasis
and weight is attached to
compliance in an average firm?
I think it’s fair to say that CLS will have a robust and well
staffed compliance department as will any insurer or power
brand. Whereas the compliance department of a law firm
could easily be one person and he / she only does it after a
day of fee earning and management.
The questions of resource, time and emphasis arise and
there is no doubt in my mind that any organisation that has
been FSA regulated will have more resources, more time and
more emphasis on compliance than most law firms.
So, on the face of it the power brands should have
an advantage in compliance or at least resource put into
compliance but does that necessarily feed into client
experience and satisfaction.
Again, this is a question of mentality and on how much
emphasis is placed on client experience and satisfaction.
Law firms are at their heart providing a legal service. Law is
a service industry. However law firms have not always seen
it like that; The emphasis was on being a member of the
professions rather than great client service. Better to be a
brilliant lawyer with no social skills than a reasonable lawyer
with superb feedback.
Hopefully that mindset is a thing of the past as the new
bar is being a brilliant lawyer with superb feedback.
I think that power brands build from consumer experience
upwards, which is how they become power brands.
So the trick for the lawyers is to learn from them, adopt
their thinking and move on. If the power brands have an
advantage in resources, well, we will always struggle to
match their size and profits. But we can match them on
compliance, client experience and satisfaction - it’s just a
matter of emphasis.
23
Big is Best
T
hey say that ‘big is
best’ and that we are
all enticed by the allure of
Big Brands - something I
would like to explore in this
month’s column.
The legal profession is a
cottage industry based in
thousands of offices across
the UK. We have worked
like this for centuries and
it has served us and our
communities well. There is a well tried and trusted
business connectivity between the lawyer the bank
manager, the estate agent and the broker, which has
provided good reciprocal work for each other. It has
also served the local client well – who paid a reasonable
fee for a reasonable service: all is well.
Hang on – are we talking about an episode of Life on
Mars? Where have I been for the last 10 years?
Well – I’ve been here and the scene above - whilst still
existing - is hanging on by the threads because there
is a revolution happening. Call it industrialisation, the
Legal Services Big Bang or just a nightmare but you
can’t ignore it because it’s going to affect each and
every one of us - and it’s happening now.
Since October last year, ABSs are a reality. For the
very first time there has been a recognition that you can
separate ownership and management of law firms. This
is really starting to make waves in what was, in reality, a
cosy legal market.
Parts of the legal market are very attractive to third
parties. Not just because they believe they can make a
good return on their investment on the conveyancing
and other future services but also because they believe
they can do a better job than we do.
And the ‘big brands’ probably can: they are
steeped in customer services and they have big brand
reputations to protect. They are trusted by their clients,
which is a huge strength, so if they are going to take us
on in conveyancing be afraid be very afraid. They will
do it well- not necessarily cheaper but their aim is to
get that client and keep them – that is why they are ‘big
brands’ and not parochial solicitors who simply won’t be
able to compete.
Eddie Goldsmith, Partner, Goldsmith Williams & Chair of
the Conveyancing Association.
David Bott, Immediate Past President of APIL and Managing
Partner of Bott & Co.
ML // September 2012
00
24
????views
The
Q: Solicitors have
to deal with the
commoditisation of legal
services (the price war)
but what do they need
do to keep costs low?
A
: Coming from the legal
technology side of the
equation, I expect you think
I’m going to recommend law
firms should invest in case and
matter management systems?
Wrong, those systems have
been around since 1978 – that’s
nearly 35 years ago. No, if a
law firm doesn’t already have
case management software
in its offices, it is so far behind
the times that it is truly a lost
cause and its partners need to
turn off their gas-mantles and go home – permanently. (Except
they wouldn’t be reading this magazine!)
But, if you do have case management software, you may
still not be running it as cost-effectively and efficiently as
you could. The two big issues that divide successful case
management users from the rest can be summed up as The 2
Ps: People and Place.
People
Who is operating your case management software? If it is a
secretary, PA, clerical assistant, claims handler, paralegal or
similar non-professionally qualified fee earner or member of staff
then that’s good. But if it is solicitor, what are you thinking? You
do not need qualified lawyers to handle the routine stages of
routine matters – the computer will do that for you. Don’t have
your lawyers wasting the firm’s time typing or dictating their
own special additions to template documents – clients don’t
care, they just want their matters resolved quickly and cheaply.
Place
Where is your case management work being processed? In
an office at your high street or city-centre offices? Why? If
your staff are working on computers and not seeing clients
on a regular basis, they don’t need to be there. Relocate the
volume case handling work to somewhere cheaper – beyond
the ring-road or in another part of the country where staff
salaries may also be lower.
Along with PI insurance, the two biggest expenses law
firms have are accommodation and staff salaries. To survive
in the current competitive environment, you need to be
ruthless so be prepared to prune your expensive staff and
move your main operations.
Charles Christian is a barrister who has been writing about legal
technology for over 30 years.
ML // September 2012
Q: Are solicitors
sleepwalking into
bigger PII problems in
the future?
A
: As this article
goes to press we
are in the throes of
the 2012 professional
indemnity insurance
(PII) renewal period
for solicitors in
England and Wales.
The premium is of
course a major factor
when renewing a PII
policy. Most firms,
however, know that the
premium is just one of
many factors needing
consideration.
It is fair to say that many solicitors still feel that they
are unlikely to be on the receiving end of a claim. These
solicitors tend to buy on price alone. It is only when they
do have a claim or a change in circumstances that they
sometimes find out that their brokers and/or insurers are
unable to provide the professional assistance they require.
This is why we feel it is important that solicitors try
to look beyond the premium charged and assess the
service provided by their brokers as well as the quality,
and financial standing of the insurer providing the
indemnity insurance.
Solicitors have seen significant changes to their
regulation during the last few years and this trend is
expected to continue. The ARP will cease in 2013 and
will be replaced by an Extended Indemnity Period
(EIP) allowing practices to arrange an orderly method
of closure, succession or run-off coverage, whichever
option is most appropriate. Some firms are looking
to merge or acquire; others are looking at potential
advantages a conversion to Alternative Business
Structures may bring. We are now living in a world of
COLPs, COFAs, MLROs and CROs - roles that, until
recently, did not exist. The responsibilities of partners,
management and compliance officers have been made
abundantly clear by the SRA and the penalties of noncompliance can be severe. These changes will begin
to affect PII cover since they introduce ‘risk-rating
factors’, insurers will rely on when determining the risk
presented by a firm. It has, therefore, never been a
more important time to ensure you are with a broker
providing good, market-based advice and an insurer
that understands your requirements.
Give due consideration to all these factors before
placing your PII policy and you may sleep just that little
bit easier.
Martin Ellis, Managing Director, Prime Risk Solutions.
The views
Q: What can direct access
to chambers really offer
in terms of client service
and added value that law
firms can’t?
A
: An obvious clash of
interest exists when
barristers’ chambers
work for law firms in the
traditional way and the
same chambers then accept
instructions direct from the
public. We are all after the
same work.
Stories of law firms
blacklisting chambers they
used to instruct when they
have evidence of this are on
the increase.
What is in it for the client?
Can the Bar offer something
law firms cannot? Is there any law firm/chambers benefit
that can spring from direct access to the bar?
Client savings
In certain cases a client can save money from single
handling whereby whatever the matter only one lawyer
is actually needed and the client gets the advice/
conference from a barrister who would ordinarily be
instructed at a later stage by a solicitor.
A client who chooses to instruct the bar in this way
should feel no difference from seeing a law firm. Most
chambers have direct access trained clerks who deal with
the money laundering/identity checks, collate the papers
and act as the go between before counsel sees the client.
Added value
Firstly, there may be a benefit in identifying the barrister
of choice and having access to him/her directly.
Secondly the bar’s overheads are much lower than law
firms so cost wise the client may well be offered a very
competitive advisory rate.
Power of referral
Some who attack the bar for offering public access
services ignore the fact that (on many occasions) when
a lay client contacts a chambers they are told the case
is not suitable for direct access. The lay client is then
guided to see a law firm. My clerks do this all the time.
In addition when a barrister is instructed he can always
decide that a law firm should be instructed at a later
stage and I have seen that happen. So the power of
referral is a strong one.
Whether it be a law firm or chambers the client goes
to the most important element has to be service to
that client.
25
Q: Are lawyers
applying their
financial analysis data
effectively in terms of
sustainable growth and
are they even assessing
the data correctly?
A
: Undoubtedly current changes, such as alternative
business structures, alternative fee arrangements and
new regulation are presenting new challenges to a sector
where is seems unrelenting change has become the only
constant. To compete amid such a whirlwind of change,
firms must be able to anticipate and adapt quickly.
Now that law firms profitability is being squeezed by
the economic climate and larger corporations are staking
a claim on what the high street firm would once have
considered guaranteed income, the benefit of powerful
business intelligence solutions to build key strategies and
measuring success in order to ensure sustainable growth,
are all the more essential.
The quality of the output is only ever going to be as
good as the quality and quantity of the data that went in
in the first place – if it went in at all! Data capture should
involve a high level of detail to enable objective decision
making. The fact is that most firms already have this data;
they just don’t have it one place and don’t know what to
do with it to make it mean something to them. If you don’t
get the basics right with regards to data input, everything
that comes after it is going to be of limited value.
I find clients tend to look to answer three main questions:
• Which matters/disciplines are our most profitable/
unprofitable?
• Why are those areas more (or less) profitable than
others?
• What changes should we make to improve our
profitability?
To answer these you need to be able to analyse historical
performance, understand what contributed to those
figures and make clearly defined strategic plans for the
future based on this intelligence. Putting in place KPIs and
targets will allow decision makers to monitor the success
of those strategies.
The good news is that once firms get to grips with the
wealth of information they now have at their fingertips,
they can use their BI systems to make strategic plans to
ensure they deliver clear competitive advantage. This
will see them successfully improve services to clients and
increase profitability over the next few years.
More information on Redbrick Business Intelligence can
be found at www.redbricksolutions.co.uk
Jo Hodges, Redbrick Solutions
ML // September 2012
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JF_MLM_1-2PageAD_June_2012_02.indd 1
14/06/2012 09:19
The views
Compliance: where do
we go now?
C
ongratulations. You are
your firm’s new COLP. You
must be very proud. Perish the
thought that this job could use
up hours of your valuable time,
or that your colleagues will
blame you if something goes
wrong.
Anyway it is too late to go
back now, so where should you
start? Here are my top tips...
Let them know you are there: Send an email around
the firm to ensure everyone knows you are the COLP
and what that means. Remind them that if they have
questions or concerns about ethical or regulatory
issues they should contact you. Assure them that if
they promptly and honestly report a problem you will
show them love and understanding; but attempts to
hide mistakes will force you to unleash horrors from the
darkest chasm of hell. A reminder e-mail (about every
six months) will keep these messages fresh.
Assess risk: What you do next should depend on
where the risks lie in your firm. For example:
• do all teams have effective supervision systems?
• do you have clear policies for high risk areas like costs
estimates and updates, recording advice and diarising
deadlines?
• does your firm have any rogue elephants (powerful
people who think the rules do not apply to them)?
As COLP, a fundamental duty is to identify your
compliance risks and take effective action to mitigate
them.
Create a file in which to record regulatory failures: This
is quick and easy and will give you a sense of progress.
Remember you are required to record all regulatory
failures and to report material failures ASAP to the SRA.
Oddly enough, SRA inspectors aren’t impressed when
told: “we have no such records; everyone here is perfect”.
Create a business continuity plan: This can seem
daunting but one day you may be very glad you
thought about it.
A business continuity plan describes how your
business will survive something like a fire (which destroys
your offices and files) or the theft of your computers.
Most of the answer lies in ensuring you have good IT
backup. Some firms take scary risks by not thinking
about this. Socrates has been working with firms recently
to develop a template business continuity plan.
Bernard George, Director, Socrates Training Limited, E:
[email protected]
27
Q: Are law firms and
ABSs well placed to
become vehicles for
service procurement and
added value back-office
functions for clients?
A
: With the background of
over-capacity in the legal
market and with pressures from
new entrants, law firms are
engaging in strategic thinking
about their options. They can
either decide to concentrate on
a market niche and excel in that,
or try to grow by increasing their
scale of operation - benefiting
from economies of scale and
possible diversification into new practice areas.
However is there a third way to achieve growth by
offering added value services to their clients? This has
already been a successful strategy for many of the larger
accountancy practices who are able to offer an extensive
range of services to clients (including marketing and product
strategy development, business process re-engineering, risk
and compliance services).
So why don’t Law Firms and ABS’s meet fire with fire and
extend their range of services including back office services?
The answer is that some will, and no doubt make a great
success of it. Understanding customer needs, and filling
product gaps, is a basic tenet of good business - business
managers ignore this at their peril.
At least in theory there is no reason why a law firm
couldn’t take over the human resources, contracts or
company secretarial function for their clients. Some firms are
already providing very successful legal outsourcing offerings
- take Berwin Leighton’s BLP managed legal services for
example which enables clients to outsource some or all of
their legal requirements in an outsourced model.
However, as with any business straying too far off the
path, diversification carries dangers. Proper research, careful
design of products and well thought out sales and marketing
strategies are essential. Identifying that clients have a need
that can be profitably met and doing this successfully can be
two quite different things.
What this boils down in the final analysis is excellence in
implementation. This means having the right people, with the
right skills, suitably motivated, following the right plan – and
being given the time and resources to do it. Are law firms
able to commit the time and resources to this? Or are ABS’s
in a better position with their potentially greater commercial
expertise and access to funding? Time will tell but my instinct
is that great opportunities are definitely there – try asking
your clients!
Nick Hodges, Managing Director, Oyez Professional Services
ML // September 2012
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PPL 21001 Half Page-0912.indd 1
13/08/2012 12:13
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The views
29
Risk & Compliance: the
latest buzz
Focusing on the
outcome
T
N
Andrew Stenning, Managing Director, Searches UK.
www.searchesuk.co.uk
Nick Ingham, Legal Manager, Anglia Research Services Ltd
hrough the years there have
been a number of ‘buzz’ words
and phrases which have taken turns
to dominate the business industry.
‘Risk and Compliance’ is the current
hot topic in the financial and legal
industries.
The SRA introduced Outcomes
Focused Regulation, the economy
has been difficult, professional
indemnity insurance costs have risen and ABSs have been
introduced. These and other factors have meant that
legal firms have been forced to look seriously at how their
businesses are operating and in order to remain viable,
many have looked to enhance their internal systems and
procedures to reduce risk of exposure to claims, bad debt,
SRA intervention, employment tribunals and to strengthen
their position within the market.
The Conveyancing Quality Scheme, introduced in 2011
by the Law Society, has seen incredible growth since its
inception, with approximately 1,600 firms already approved.
The Scheme is designed to create a trusted conveyancing
community which deters fraud and firms who successfully
achieve membership will establish a level of credibility with
regulators, lenders, insurers and consumers alike.
Lexcel is another Law Society incentive, which again
provides a similar level of credibility, and accredited firms
are recognised as having enhanced risk and compliance
systems and procedures in place. There are currently 1,333
firms who are accredited (including in-house practices),
which accounts for approximately 10% of solicitors
practices.
Both Lexcel and CQS are currently only available
for firms of solicitors, although the Council of Licensed
Conveyancers is also looking into a similar scheme for its
members.
At Searches UK, we too are keen to embrace the
changes necessary to strengthen the conveyancing
industry and are working hard to optimise best practice
and performance. We believe that all elements of the
conveyancing process need to work together to ensure
that risk of exposure to consumers, lenders, insurers and
conveyancing practices alike is reduced.
Searches UK are members of CoPSO, IPSA and the
Search Code and have further been assessed by a Lexcel
consultant, who has confirmed that we are working in
accordance with the Lexcel standard of excellence. We
have set up a Risk and Compliance arm of our business and
will be launching a series of newsletters and offering access
to draft templates for policies to help our clients work
effectively to manage their risk.
ick Ingham, Anglia Research
Services puts forward the
idea of probate genealogist as a
risk management tool in the new
regulated marketplace.
‘Winds of change’ are blowing
through the world of probate
practice. Following the provisional
recommendations of the Legal
Services Board in its consultation document: Enhancing
consumer protection, reducing regulatory restrictions: will
writing, probate and estate administration services (April 2012),
estate administration activities, along with will writing, are
likely soon to become ‘reserved legal activities’. This brings all
deliverers of these services within the regulatory framework
of the Legal Services Act. Moreover, implementation of other
aspects of the Act, particularly those relating to Alternative
Business Structures, have been underway for some time, serving
only to increase the already rife competition.
With this in mind, the proactive use of outsource specialists
such as probate genealogists in missing beneficiary or similar
people tracing scenarios will serve as an important risk
management tool for those delivering estate administration
services. The risk of error or oversight will effectively be
transferred to the probate genealogist - though in reality, of
course, the very involvement of the specialist will eliminate
(or at the very least diminish) the possibility of such error.
Naturally, however, practitioners should ensure that they restrict
instructions to firms with professional indemnity insurance
adequate for the assignment at hand.
Related to risk management is the probate genealogist’s
ability to source and arrange missing beneficiary indemnity
(MBI) insurance, which may be required as part of an
administration. Practitioners are best advised to look to
genealogists who are authorised by the FSA to undertake
insurance mediation, and who will have long-established
relationships with underwriters enabling the most appropriate
cover to be incepted on the basis of the firm’s report.
In harmony with the move towards outcomes-focused
regulation (OFR) which aims to give lawyers greater freedom
in how they deliver their services to clients, it is suggested
that practitioners should look to firms able to work with them
to find the most suitable fee structure for the assignment at
hand. This flexibility could become increasingly important
in an environment where practitioners may be required to
demonstrate cost-effective decision making in relation to any
necessary work, on the basis of proportionality. This, in turn,
requires the research firm to offer a flexible framework of
costing options to assist practitioners in fulfilling that duty, rather
than simply a ‘one size fits all’ offering.
Probate practice may be changing but help is at hand by
focusing on the solutions the probate genealogist is able to offer.
ML // September 2012
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The views
Q: Do the legal
power brands hold
the advantage in
compliance and,
ultimately, client
experience and
satisfaction?
A
: Whilst the power brands
may have the money to throw
at ethics training, software and
internal controls, this does not
necessarily translate into a happy
client experience. The starting point
in looking at whether power brands
will flourish in terms of compliance
and ultimately client experience is
to focus on what makes a client’s
experience a happy one.
Surely the happiest clients
are those who have experienced
quality legal advice from a skilled adviser, whether it comes
from a power brand or from the long-established high street
solicitor down the road.
Communication, approachability and the level of expertise
are pivotal in producing a happy client experience and such
characteristics may be lacking in a service provided by a
corporate power institution. Of course, cost is also a big issue
and those firms which deliver a cost-effective service will
ensure clients are satisfied with the service they receive.
The power brands may also struggle to deliver a well
rounded service in those niche areas of law which require a
more personal, intimate solicitor-client relationship. Using my
own experiences, one area of law we have developed expertise
in is business partnership law, notably partnership disputes.
Such clients are often in the midst of a very emotional and
stressful dispute and require considerable attention, focus and
TLC. I struggle to see that the corporate brands would deliver
the level of personal, knowledgeable service required in such
contentious and difficult matters.
Also, who is to say smaller firms are less compliant savvy?
There is something to be said for firms which are longestablished, with considerable experience in delivering a
quality legal service. There is absolutely no reason why such
firms, whether large or small, will not have built up efficient
systems through experience or otherwise, to ensure successful
compliance adherence.
In any event, whilst compliance is important, it is only one
factor in the big legal picture. The power brands have a lot
more to do than merely comply to ensure delivery of a truly
quality legal service.
Eimear McCartan, Partnership Law Solicitor, Ralli.
e: [email protected], t: 0161 615 0691
On Twitter? Follow me: @PartnershipLaw
31
Q: Will direct access
barristers’ chambers
and ABSs become a
key target for CILEx
qualified jobseekers?
A
: The move into the high
street by Co-operative
Legal Services and the launch
of Stobart Barristers have
intensified the debate about
the death of the common or
garden high street practice.
For Chartered Legal Executives
- for whom such high street
practices are a major employer
- the changes to the legal
services market are potentially
very profound.
But CILEx qualified
jobseekers have reason to be optimistic. One aspect of
most ABSs is increased specialisation, and Chartered
Legal Executives, as specialist lawyers, are ideally suited
to employment in these organisations. Another aspect
is the role of paralegal staff, who in certain practice
areas are increasingly employed to progress all but the
most complex files under supervision. Indeed, Stobart
Barristers have set up a sister company Stobart Barrister
Support Services to provide paralegal support in case
preparation. As well as the full qualification to become
a Chartered Legal Executive, CILEx offers recognised
qualifications at paralegal level and its Affiliate Members,
trained to Level 3 in selected practice areas, are well
placed to target such roles.
Meanwhile, other changes are afoot. ILEX Professional
Standards (CILEx’s regulator) is applying for probate and
litigation rights which could see new organisations being
created by Chartered Legal Executives banding together
independently of solicitors or barristers.
At the recent Legal Education and Training Review
Symposium the skills required of workers in the sector
were discussed at some length. Notable comments
included Richard Susskind’s view that we are in danger
of training future generations to be ‘at the cutting edge
of tradition,’ unless legal training incorporates those skills
that will be required by the legal services industry of the
future.
What will determine the success of Chartered Legal
Executives and others in this brave new world is their
ability to combine an undoubted knowledge and
understanding of law and legal practice with the customer
service ethic of new forms of legal service business
ownership. As James Atkin of Co-operative Legal Services
said, they’ll be looking for people with the appropriate
behavioural skills. That should give Chartered Legal
Executives as much of an opportunity as any other lawyer.
Noel Inge, Managing Director, ILEX Tutorial College
ML // September 2012
00
32
????views
The
Q: What will commercial
ATE insurance products
look like in the future?
Lender panels, the
situation is as clear as
mud!
A
T
: Products develop to satisfy
the needs of a market and
this is true for commercial ATE
insurance products. The rationale
for asking the question now arises
from the changes taking place in
the dispute resolution landscape
following ‘Jackson,’ LAPSO and
the introduction of ABSs.
The abolition of recoverability of insurance premiums
and success fees from an unsuccessful opponent is
a significant catalyst for change. Once recoverability
goes, the insured will pay the premium. The implications
have been much debated in the context of personal
injury, but there will be ramifications for commercial
cases too, although these may differ in nature.
A short answer to the question is that commercial ATE
insurance products are likely to:
• look more like traditional insurance products;
• be provided to a wider class of potential insured;
• become increasingly ‘bespoke’, and;
• be priced on a more competitive basis.
The risk of being ordered to pay an opponent’s costs
if the claim fails or fails in part will be as real as ever
and changes on ‘proportionality’ could translate into
lower recoveries of ‘own costs,’ even on success. While
continuing to be desirable, the viability of obtaining
cover (and indeed pursuing a claim) will become a
‘bottom line’ financial decision. That decision will be
based on ‘risk and reward’ and the net effect on the
potential damages ‘pot’ of premiums and DBA/CFA
recoveries, as well as any third party funder ‘upside’.
Contingent premiums (payable on success) will
continue to be important but there is likely to be
an increased emphasis on the use of ‘initial’ upfront
premiums (payable on inception and non-refundable
irrespective of outcome) - either alone or in conjunction
with a contingent element. Despite requiring immediate
outlay, the attraction of an upfront premium is that it is
likely to be offered at a lower rate.
In the new environment, legal practices will be
looking at ways to attract business. The emergence of
ABS structures and the potential for internal funding
options could lead to increasingly innovative solutions
involving ATE products being obtained by lawyers and
funders direct.
The impact of the changes will become clearer over
time - ATE insurance products will continue to respond
to the needs of those requiring cover.
Matthew Williams, Head of AmTrust Law at AmTrust
Financial Services.
ML // September 2012
he situation with lender
panels seems to get
more and more confusing.
Just when it appears that
some form of logic is
beginning to be applied by
one lender (HSBC) others
remove firms from its panel
without so much as a byyour-leave. This lack of coordination within the lending
industry is causing firms a lot of concern and additional
work. The additional effort completing multiple panel
applications and raising appeals against panel removal
is costing firms many man hours and distracting some
from the very work the lender wants carried out in the
first place. This scattergun approach must be causing
additional and unnecessary work for lenders also.
As a result of this confusing situation conveyancing
practitioners are increasingly calling for compulsory
separate representation. On the face of it the ideal
solution, the buyer has their lawyer and the lender
has its lawyer. However, unless a quick and efficient
process is developed (perhaps with costs being borne
by both buyer and lender) separate representation will
do nothing but increase delays and confusion for all
involved in home buying and selling. In addition, unless
all conveyancing practitioners are involved - solicitors
and licensed conveyancers - an uneven playing field will
be created.
There may be another way forward; the Law Society
Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) which it is hoped
‘will create a trusted community which will deter fraud’.
I have had and still have reservations about CQS but
feel that those firms not yet convinced it is the panacea
to cure current problems should attend one of the Law
Society events planned around England for September.
Don’t yet judge what you may not fully understand. I
will attend the Plymouth event and will make my mind
up after that.
The Law Society has CQS, licensed conveyancers
will have the SLC Quality Assurance scheme and
unfortunately they do not dovetail, so the situation
becomes ever complicated. Surely the CML, the BSA,
the Law Society and the SLC, with the support of their
members, should be sat round a table in order to thrash
out one solution that fits all?
For further information about the CQS events or the
Bold Legal Group please email: [email protected]
Rob Hailstone, Bold Legal Group.
The Features
33
33-51
The
Features
ML // September 2012
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Features
????
00
35
Believe, succeED, grow
Third party funding for law firms is the other solution for those looking to
attract external funding, wider skills and management experience, especially
for niche legal service providers. Unity Law – operating in industrial and
work-related injury, disease and Disability Discrimination cases – is one
of those making a significant impact in its specialist sectors. Chris Fry,
Managing Partner at Unity Law talks to Modern Law about the self-belief,
engagement and collaboration required to grow a new firm.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in the creation of
Unity Law?
You’d probably expect me to say “the banks” but ironically
it was the SRA. In order to get authorisation you need
an address, professional indemnity insurance and bank
accounts but yet we couldn’t really get these until we had
authorisation. It felt like a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario! The
certainties that we had were that we could get the work
and had the legal talent to deliver it.
Q: What leadership skills are essential in the formation of
a niche new law firm?
I established Unity at the end of 2010. I had a clear vision of
what I wanted the firm to look like and I trusted my intuition
that it would work. There is no doubt that I’ve needed to
be focussed, disciplined and confident. The unwavering
support of my fellow directors has been invaluable in
driving the business forward.
Q: What were you considerations in developing the Unity
Law brand?
I enjoyed the whole process of having a blank sheet of
paper. We spent a lot of time thinking about what to call
the firm and ensuring that it reflected our core values and
beliefs. We have got a brand that delivers a strong message
about our approach to the law and the work we do. The
strength of our brand has lead to us being approached by
the Equality and Human Right Commission to assist with
cases which reinforce, expand or strengthen rights for those
with disabilities.
Q: There have been considerable changes in the PI
market over the past five years. Has the firm been able to
adapt more easily because it’s a new starter?
Entering the market in a recession and being able to see the
well documented mistakes that firms have made has been
advantageous. To succeed, Unity needed the expertise of
non-lawyers and be held to account by shareholders who have
the ability to replace under-performing directors in the future
if they don’t deliver results. This tackles head-on the problems
often faced by a conventional partnership structure.
Q: What will hold firms back come April 2013, beside the
obvious referral fee ban?
Firms who operate a personal injury service as part of
‘general practices’ will undoubtedly struggle. These
departments will have well paid lawyers who, once success
fees are discounted, will find that their time is not as easily
recoverable. At the same time, there will be difficulties in
firms funding disbursements and non recoverable ATE
insurance premiums. We have structured ourselves in such
a way that we can deal with this. I suspect however that for
many firms, operating a profitable PI department will be
impossible and as a result, it will become a specialist work
type. Being niche and specialist in what we do means that
we already receive referrals from other lawyers who don’t
have the required expertise to handle this work.
Q: Will barristers’ chambers offering public access be a
danger to firms in the PI market or are these more likely
to impact the commercial sector?
I don’t consider them a threat in my niche sector. The
barristers I instruct are experts in their field and exceptional
busy doing what they do best – advocacy and defining the
law. I have yet to work with a barrister who is interested in
all the background work that’s involved in handling a case.
Also, barristers are unlikely to maintain their current levels
of income if they do decide to work in this way.
Q: Have you had to change your business plan in light of
pressures next year?
We are lucky – we don’t have the baggage that many law
firms have. We can react quickly and adapt to a changing
market without having to worry about retiring partners or
how other departments are performing. Our business plan
involves taking a very collaborative approach to how we
work. We have formed close working partnerships with
leading charities as well as government bodies such as the
Equality and Human Rights Commission. We also actively
develop working relationships with other law firms across
the UK who are able to refer work to us because of our
expertise in this field.
ML // September 2012
Features
37
Stand & Deliver
The legal regulatory bodies have made it easier for both solicitors and barristers to
engage directly with members of the public to provide open and transparent services.
But can the establishment make things even easier - overcoming the inhibitions and
suspicions prospective clients have about the legal profession? Ian Dodd reports.
D
espite trying and, in some cases,
succeeding, to make it easier for
lawyers to talk to ordinary folk
there does seem to remain a reluctance
from Mr and Mrs Public to take their
legal problems to those best equipped
to solve them.
For many, lawyers seem distant,
unapproachable, stuffy, judgemental,
intimidating and above all, expensive.
Some lawyers have gone a long way
to ensure their websites are easily
accessible, their high street offices
welcoming, their staff down-to-earth
and their prices reasonable; though
these are in the minority, it seems.
There are also lawyers who don’t want
to have ordinary folk as their clients
and deliberately discriminate against
them and market.
Solicitors can find it easier to
appeal to and accommodate direct
public access clients. Their locations,
business plans, experience and
general ease-of-use work in their
favour. Those at the Bar have a bigger
problem. Their offices (or chambers
as they will continue to call them)
are not, normally, found in that part
of town members of the general
public frequent. Their tradition and
experience is dealing with professional
clients. Many don’t have manned
reception areas, have inadequate
waiting areas and insufficient
conference rooms where private
discussions can take place. The Bar is
also having problems coming to terms
with the necessity and mechanism of
the ‘up-front’ payment direct public
access necessarily demands.
Naturally, the market responds
to opportunities and challenges
and there are a growing number of
C
210mmx20mm.pdf
1
07/02/2012
entrepreneurial businesses trying
to ensure it’s as easy as possible for
members of the public to contact with
lawyers. These are mainly web-based
and offer online or telephone access
to solicitors or barristers, with userfriendly and transparent pricing.
Solicitors’ offices and barristers’
chambers can be hard to find and
opening hours and appointmentmaking may be inconvenient. Some
legal businesses are open on Saturday
mornings though their - largely city centre locations can be equally
inconvenient for a suburban or
country dweller.
Websites make the search easier,
though some degree of knowledge
about what to enter into the search
engine is needed and, unless the
site owner has worked on web siteoptimisation, it could be a long and
fruitless search.
The easiest way to encourage and
allow members of the public to access
and use legal services must, surely, be to
take those services to them - in places
they visit regularly or can get to easily.
There are some firms that have
a presence in public places such as
shopping centres and there are others
who have dedicated, high street
locations looking more like a shop than
a law firm.
Taking this a logical step further;
Instant Law are installing private,
secure booths or working areas in
public libraries up and down the
country so that members of the public
can, at their convenience and without
an appointment, talk to a lawyer and
get advice.
Using unique, state-of-the-art video
conferencing software and an easy to
use, on-screen start page a member of
the public can see and speak to a lawyer
and (at the end of a 20 -30 minute, free,
initial consultation) will know if they
have a case which can be progressed.
What the next moves might be and,
more importantly, how much it is all
liable to cost is also communicated.
This service is becoming
increasingly popular with libraries and
a growing number are incorporating
it in the wide range of public services
they offer to their users.
This democratisation of direct public
access is, through public libraries,
reaching a wide audience. Birmingham
Central Library, for example, has a
foot-fall of about 4 million/year and
the Paradise Shopping Centre, to
which it is attached has a foot-fall of 3
million/week.
Large conurbations, such as
Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle,
have around a million people a year
using them. There are about 3500
public libraries in the country and they,
like every other business, are looking
for innovative ways to encourage
people to use them and their growing
list of services.
Maybe initiatives like Instant Law
teaming up with public libraries is
one way that the legal profession
can widen their appeal and offer
members of the public services at their
convenience and on their terms?
By Ian Dodd, Instant Law
16:32
M
Y
CM
MY
CY
CMY
K
ML // September 2012
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Features
39
Carving an ABs niche
Two experienced business women and non-lawyers have set the tone
for those looking into obtaining ABS status for specialist practices. Elizabeth Eagles, Director of NAS Legal Ltd outlines the reasons behind
their move and how their model best suits their niche client base.
N
AS Legal Limited is on face value a normal high street
Stockton on Tees based law firm but underneath
the façade on the high street is a well established,
flourishing, niche business. For a number of years, we have
been a key player in the business of County Court advocacy
or as we were historically known, Court agents.
We were well aware the legal world was bracing itself for
‘Tesco Law’ but decided to jump the gun on many corporate
giants to become one of the early companies to lead the
way in the UK’s legal revolution.
As the UK’s eighth Alternative Business Structure, we
are hoping that the niche area of instructing experienced,
expert advocates can grow and be developed under its new
regulatory status.
With an already existing portfolio of leading law firm
clients, we intend, as an Alternative Business Structure with
two non-lawyer, business-women owners, to push forward
and expand our client base – flinging our doors open for
new and potential clients to experience the first class service
on offer. With approximately 200 employed and self employed
advocates throughout England and Wales, NAS Legal
Limited is able to offer coverage in any County Court.
With long-term, experienced career advocates we aim to
guarantee the satisfaction of knowing that solicitors’ matters
are being dealt with by advocates who are pro-active in their
arguments and reactive to unexpected situations.
Testimonials from our existing clients remind us that
we’re more than capable of delivering on our promises and
be a vital partner to some of the country’s largest providers
of legal services. With our background as business managers
we will not only make the most of client feedback but also
ensure our services are tailored to individual client needs,
while letting the lawyers get on with their work.
We have invested in sophisticated systems to reach the
needs of all clients however large or small. Instructions can
be provided by telephone and e-mail as well as the more
traditional methods. As far as funding goes, we haven’t
looked to external sources – but that doesn’t mean the
door isn’t open. There may well be interest in ABSs by
external funders, such as private equity investors but as
yet we haven’t approached any. That’s not to say we’re not
averse to the idea but for now, we already have the business
development and directional skills to make NAS Legal
deliver on our vision.
As well as being open to funding ideas, the door is
widely propped open for non-corporate clients who require
assistance in the ever increasing market place of Landlord
and Tenant, Employment and Personal Injury law. As an ABS,
we offer a complete one-stop-shop, offering competitive
fees and the guarantee that matters will be conducted by
“Becoming an ABS in such
an exciting time of change
for the UK’s legal system will
hopefully help secure our
place as the forward thinking,
positive and pro-active law
firm it has become.”
experienced and qualified professionals and not outsourced
at any stage of the procedure. The one-stop-shop
development in our specialised areas will ensure easy access
to justice for the public negating high brow traditionalism
and offering a relaxed and approachable ethos.
Next year’s funding litigation issues are of course a
sector concern but we don’t envisage this causing us a
problem. We have always worked on a fixed fee basis,
agreed from the outset with clients. This helps individuals
and commercial clients get the right services at the right
cost – as low as possible to deliver the high standards we’re
committed to. Helen, our co-Director at NAS Legal, and I are
able to market services to a level that clients see as more
approachable and engaging than some traditional high
street firms. We have already gained new clients because
of our approach – being more accessible and in touch with
clients than those hiding behind their shop windows on the
high street.
This ABS model - meeting all needs under one roof - does
appear to be something the corporate giants are pushing. However, as an existing regulated entity we have a history of
satisfied clients and a proven track record that the one-stopshop theory really does work!
One of the key drivers to apply for an ABS licence by
the Solicitors Regulation Authority was to allow us to be
owned and managed by professionals with a background
in business development, client liaison and legal sector
service standards and requirements. Becoming an ABS in
such an exciting time of change for the UK’s legal system
will hopefully help secure our place as the forward thinking,
positive and pro-active law firm it has become.
The licence itself will in, the long-term, offer us broader
options with exciting career opportunities for existing and
new staff, whilst still demonstrating the most admirable
qualities and standards of the existing practice.
ML // September 2012
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Features
41
Change of guard
Change shapes business; change should be for the good of the people. Are the
current changes to the civil justice system for the good of the people and how do
they affect the businesses that service client needs? Dr Victoria Handley reports.
I
n 1998, the Queen’s speech had amongst
it’s proposals the modernisation of
justice. This entailed the introduction of
the Civil Procedure Rules (1999) designed
to modernise civil justice and eliminate
some of the barriers to access to justice.
Lord Woolf had been appointed to reduce
the unnecessary delay, excessive cost and
remove undue complexity. He introduced a
pre-litigation procedure for civil claims (the
Protocols) and a new procedural code.
Solicitors and insurers had to change
the way they worked. Front loading of
claims was seen as the way forward to
provide a cards-on-the-table approach.
The protocol required the circumstances,
legal basis and quantum issues to be set
out in a Letter of Claim to the insurers.
The burden then shifted to the insurers
to investigate and provide a decision on
liability with evidence in support within
three months. This reduced Claimant costs
as no liability investigation was needed
after the Letter of Claim, until the insurers’
decision was forthcoming.
The Protocols worked so well that
they were rolled out in other areas
of law. Predictive costs in RTA and
Employers liability cases placed further
incentive to work efficiently, swiftly and
make economic and realistic decisions
about claims.
Solicitors needed to gear up their
practices to work smarter, harder, and
faster from inception of the claim whilst
utilising the right level of fee earner to
handle the claim whilst balancing the
legal understanding of the issues against
predictive costs. Insurers needed to
reassign their teams to respond to claims
quickly, carry out precise investigations
and made reasoned decisions.
Move forward 10 years and costs remain
in contention. Confident that insurers
could improve even further upon their
practice to respond to a claim within three
months, the RTA Portal required a decision
in 15 working days. Yet again, costs were
reduced. Businesses had to invest in
technology, implement diary systems,
educate fee earners, employ administrative
and IT teams to upload the information
previously provided in a Letter of Claim to
the new portal. New technology saw some
firms unable to compete and close. Whilst
their understanding and application of the
law was good, their desire and financial
ability to move into new technology meant
that they could no longer service client’s
access to justice needs.
Despite the investment in technology,
few improvements have been made to
complexity having now four methods of
dealing with road traffic accident claims
alone (Portal, Portal litigation, Protocol and
litigation).
Faced with the new challenges of a ban
on referral fees (thereby reducing rights
awareness among claimants), reducing
portal costs and extending the portal to
non-RTA matters, solicitors and insurers
have to once again address their structure
and procedures.
Portal amendments mean additional
costs to the users to implement the
upgrades. Some firms will close as the
reliance on technology to ‘process’ claims
becomes too onerous. Each change
impacts on business by balancing the fee
earning staff ratio between experience
and profit; increasing the need for
administrators and IT consultants to
service the portals (could the insurers
not have responded to the Letter of
Claim within 15 working days and save
the overall costs of the portal?); failing
to improve access to justice as litigants
in person are somewhat precluded from
the Portal process.
As fraud is alleged
more frequently
and is a growth
area of complex
law, firms must
retain experienced
staff to protect
client’s interests.
Cost awards must
reflect this.
So, are the
changes for the
good of the people? Constant change and
reform does not reduce cost, delay and
complexity as the basis for these problems
is not rooted in one aspect of the civil
justice system.
Change sees only the reduction
in the number of firms operating PI
departments, the dumbing down of
tort and multi-tiered processes. There
is a need for firms to recognise that
this is a specialised area, that tort law
cannot be dumbed down to the lowest
possible fee earner and that cost is
linked to complexity of the substantive
or procedural law and not to quantum.
The Government’s desire to change
guard and improve access to justice
is being subverted by the desire to
simply reduce costs - without a proper
assessment of how and why costs are
generated and whether they are indeed
already at the correct level. Every
change shapes our businesses but as it
stands, such changes actually reduce
access to justice.
By Dr Victoria Handley, Director,
Handley Law Limited.
Handley Law specialise
in Personal Injury claims.
We provide advice and assistance to clients all over the UK.
We are proud to offer a professional, friendly service and are
committed to providing the highest level of client care.
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12/06/2012 11:56
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Features
43
ABSolutely fabulous?
A flurry of news and activity occurs each time a new ABS is named by the
regulator, but are they as compelling as the hype indicates? According to
Anthony Smith, it depends on your point of view.
A
noticeable development of the new legal services
environment is the growth of market based research
and industry events exploring various aspects of legal
service delivery. There’s probably more publicly available
information about lawyers and legal services than ever
before, providing much food for thought.
In June I attended a round-table debate hosted by the law
firm FoxWilliams. The purpose of this event was to discuss
results of a survey the firm commissioned about Alternative
Business Structures (ABSs). The survey report was titled
‘ABSolutely fabulous?’ and an executive summary can be
downloaded from Jures (www.jures.co.uk), the independent
marketing organisation which conducted the survey.
According to the survey - formed of responses from 100
commercial law firms to detailed questionnaires with some
follow-up interviews - it seems that most respondents don’t see
a single overwhelming compelling reason to convert to an ABS
structure. The most popular (46.9%) reason cited for potential
conversion was being able to ‘partner with other providers of
legal services’. Frankly, this hardly sounds compelling, much
less the legal service revolution that some were predicting as a
result of full implementation of the Legal Services Act.
One of the people on the discussion panel at the event
was Adam Shutkever, CEO of Riverview Law - a new market
entrant. He made the point that organisational structure
– whether ABS’s or anything else – is merely a vehicle for
serving the market. Much of the publicity surrounding the
launch of Riverview Law earlier this year was about how,
with the proverbial blank piece of paper, Riverview Law has
devised an approach to legal service delivery based on its
understanding of market requirements.
After the panel session ended I asked Adam why he
thought he knew what his market needed. He explained
Riverview Law has spent a lot of time, money and effort
conducting extensive market research before deciding upon
what legal services to offer, who to offer them to and how
they should be delivered. Although our conversation was
relatively brief, I was left in little doubt that market need
rather than internal capability is the driving force behind
everything Riverview Law tries to do.
Since the ABSsolutely fabulous event, Riverview Law
have demonstrated willingness to innovate with the launch
of its ‘Myview’ service. Once registered, users have free
access to a legal document library (over 450 documents)
and other resources such as a portal ‘containing all the
support tools used by Riverview Law’.
A recent conference - LawTechCamp 2012 - saw Ajaz
Ahmed, co-founder of Legal365 address delegates as a
keynote speaker. He was one of many who spoke persuasively
about why, and how, the legal profession must change.
Interestingly, he said: “I don’t think that people from
within the [existing legal] industry are going to be able to
make the changes needed to win in the long term. They
simply don’t have the vision or the courage to make the
required changes…So is innovation and disruption ever
going to come? You better believe it. It will eventually
come because this market is too big and too valuable for
entrepreneurs to ignore, but the innovators are going to
come from outside of the industry, it’s not the lawyers that
are going to do the innovating.”
The Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) initiated
and promoted by the professional compliance bodies
(Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and
ILEX Professional Standards) is perhaps seen by some as an
overly academic exercise. As the review progresses such a
view looks increasingly misguided. In July 2012 LETR held a
symposium in Manchester and by all accounts the event was
far from dull. James Atkin, head of Risk and Compliance
at the Co-Operative Legal Services was there to say: “The
Legal Landscape has changed and, with the advent of
alternative business structures, new project management
and consumer-focused skills are required.”
Other attendees from Riverview Law and Parabis spoke of
building a multi-disciplinary service culture, where non-legally
qualified personnel work alongside lawyers as part of (and
perhaps form the majority of) client service teams. Indeed Karl
Chapman, Chief Executive of Riverview Law, reportedly said
that he would not employ many lawyers currently available
because they do not have the right skills - ‘they cannot do
what’s required in a customer service environment.’
If public pronouncements such as these are anything to go
by, the newer market entrants seem to be validating the point
made by Ajaz. So how is the competition going to respond?
By Antony Smith,
Director of Legal Project Management Limited
www.legalprojectmanagement.co.uk
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Features
45
SINK OR SWIM
Litigation funding in the real, post Jackson reforms world, is going to be tough.
Solicitors are in self-preservation mode (those with leak lifeboats need not apply
after April 2013...) and ATE insurers are paddling to bigger ponds, As Emma
Waddingham reports.
D
ebates on the future of litigation
funding have moved past
speculation on the legal world
post Jackson and towards a more
realistic assessment of what to do
next. Consultations over Damage
Based Agreement (DBA) rates and
closer collaborations with insurers
and funders are gathering speed on a
daily basis. For ATE (after the event)
insurers, the wheels have long been
put in motion to diversify into new
markets or expand into more profitable
areas of their business.
This will have an undeniable effect
on the profitability of some firms, says
Alan Strange, Underwriter Director at
Lamp Services: “There will surely be
a reduction in the number of bulk PI
firms and PI departments post April
2013. If not, then they will be at least
streamlined to make things work more
profitably – such as RTA claims. We’re
writing policies for post April 2013 but
we don’t know how attractive they’ll be
to the market.”
The idea that more complex work
will go to specialist solicitors and
those with a highly regarded track
record in multi-track cases is shared
by some ATE insurers. Those operating
in a niche PI market could do well to
continue this, according to Strange.
While ‘risky lower value’ cases will
‘disappear’ - perhaps the intention
of the bill anyway, suggests Strange
- there will a rise in the number of
‘have a go’ cases. “To an extent, we’ve
seen this with the RTA portal anyway
but this will increase across all areas,”
explains Alan.
Jason Smart, CEO at Elite Insurance,
warns many firms - who have tough
decisions to make about DBAs, the
loss of commission from ATE policies
and dealing with the referral fee
ban – are putting themselves first
firms, unmoved by issues like the
recoverability of fees for legal experts,
such as barristers. “It’s every man
for themselves – it will be interesting
to see how fee arrangements with
chambers will work out,” he says.
Whether this is a) a good thing for
clients and b) the profile of the legal sector is a
debate in itself but as claimants cover the cost
of insurance premiums from damages, ‘in some
instances outside of injury work this burden will
be too much and prevent some actions being
brought,’ believes Jamie Molloy, Underwriter
at 1st Class Legal, adding: “This is not good for
access to justice”.
The ripple effect
For ATE insurance providers specialising or
mainly operating in PI ATE, the effect of LASPO
is clear. “The MoJ has taken up LJ Jackson’s
recommendation that recovery of ATE premiums
be abolished. For PI/clinical negligence matters
the MoJ is introducing QOWCS to eliminate the
need for ATE. This in turn will mean a number of
ATE insurers are likely to leave the market as their
core work will be gone,” suggests Molloy.
“Some will move into/focus on general
commercial litigation [although we’ll see later that
this isn’t a risk-free, easy move] and others will
look into writing BTE LEI products or different
classes of insurance altogether. Elite, for example,
(who are predominantly a Legal Expenses
Insurer) are now writing different classes of
insurance such as Professional Indemnity
Insurance,” he adds.
Smart admits this is the case but that it’s
nothing new: “We’ve always had niche products
for commercial clients and although these are
harder to write, it will be an area we expand into
post Jackson.
“Insurers face tougher constraints on capital
to underwrite business, so it’s clear we have
to expand policy streams that are going to
me more profitable. Ultimately, insurers and
solicitors shouldn’t be embarrassed to make
money out of what we do. Do you see GPs
- who make a fortune out of private work getting embarrassed?”
Jamie Molloy, 1st Class Legal
Matthew Williams, AmTrust
Value in experience
Alan Strange, Lamp Services
Change does bring opportunities – if you have the
experience. For those in the PI sector, it will be firms
with a history of dealing successfully with complex claims who will be open to
discussions on the best policies. For insurers (and solicitors) having experience in
the field of commercial litigation will be an open door to more work.
Matthew Williams, Head Of AmTrust Law at AmTrust Financial Services,
explains that for ATE providers, commercial litigation explains this is ‘mainly due
to recoverability’ in commercial cases. “Post April 2013, commercial litigation
claimants will have more realistic discussions with their insurers as fees will come
out of damages. This will lead to more ‘grown up’ products created through
sensible discussions with clients.”
ML // September 2012
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Features
For commercial ATE insurers with
a track record, next year will ‘bring
a great divergence of products’,
according to Williams: “At the moment,
products are all a bit samey but as soon
as recoverability goes – and it’s clients,
not judges who field private talks on
insurance policies – the opportunity for
private, bespoke arrangements will be
advantageous for all.”
However, adds Smart, commercial
ATE insurance comes with a myriad
of risks for those venturing into the
unknown, ‘so don’t expect this market
to boom’. “As well as needing the
contacts and skill to forge bespoke
agreements, commercial cases
themselves are a far greater financial
risk for insurers,” he says.
The move from injury ATE into
commercial ATE is not easy. Molloy
stresses the differences between PI
work (block-rated/scheme based
meaning an insurer will have a
large book of small policies) and
Commercial ATE policies (usually
bespoke and applied for on a one-off
basis) pose ‘far more concentrated
risks’ as the cases are more complex.
“Lose one case and you’re not
losing £25,000.00 but quite possibly
hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Couple the lack of requirement for ATE
in injury work with the lack of premium
recovery in other areas and suddenly
you have a much smaller market,” he
says.
Wiliams agrees, adding that the
benefit for those experienced in
specialist commercial ATE policies
will be able to spot where premiums
can be lowered without damaging the
sector. “Rates will go down, again, due
to those sensible conversations with
clients,” he adds.
His predictions for the small claims
market are less positive however.
”Smaller claims may disappear – the
squeeze will be on smaller cases with
a lower level of quantum. Damages
in these cases may not be enough to
cover the premium and will therefore
be less appealing to the claimant. Of
course, commercial BTE products
would be an ideal way to overcome
this challenge but convincing SMEs to
take out that insurance, in a recession,
is unlikely.”
Sharing the load
Alternative billing arrangements,
like Conditional Fee Arrangements
(CFAs) are also predicted to be more
widespread amongst solicitors and
barristers in commercial cases. “There
is a more gradual acceptance of
taking on a CFA as they know they’ll
lose business to another – especially
barristers’ chambers.”
Another concern is what might
happen in the future- as policies
agreed now will be scrutinised under
the new regime. Williams warns: “The
old recoverability scheme will apply
but judges may not be so sympathetic
two years from now – this is something
we all have to take into account now.”
Fast forward
According to Williams, those involved
in litigation funding are going to have
to collaborate even further to offer the
best, most secure policies for clients.
“Litigation funding is a rapidly growing
sector, with more funders joining the
market than ever. “There are a number
of different approaches but funders
are looking to work with ATE providers
– and vice versa – to complement their
funding products. The more innovative
ATE providers and solicitors are,
the closer funders will want to work
with them, creating a ‘partnership’
approach involving not just the ATE
provider, solicitor and client but also
funder and experts, such as counsel.”
Contrary to the ‘plight of ATE
insurers in the PI field’, the third party
/ litigation funding market is only just
emerging and growing rapidly, adds
Molloy, who notes: “First Assist has
been brought out by Burford (US
One of Northern Ireland’s leading
Personal Injury Solicitors including a
Catastrophic Injury Specialist Unit
Members of Headway – The Brain Injury Association Personal Injury Solicitors List
47
funder) and a number of other insurers
already work with funders”.
“1st Class Legal has taken a slightly
different approach in that we act
in a dual capacity as a cover holder
to insurers and also provide legal
underwriting to litigation funders. In
addition, we have funds that we have
invested directly ourselves into cases.
Our focus post April 2013 will be to offer
a variety of packages to those involved
in commercial litigation,” he says.
So what about those in the PI
ATE sphere – will the likes of Lamp
Services vanish? “Not at all; oneway costs shifting has come as no
surprise to the ATE industry. At Lamp,
international healthcare is something
we’ve been growing for a while in
light of the changes. Although we’re
fully investigating packages for PI,
it’s clear the premiums need to be
realistic as well as attractive to clients.
There will definitely be significantly
less ATE providers as of next year and
we already know one is completely
shutting up shop.”
Profitability and brands aside, there
is one factor Smart feels is marginalised
in post Jackson conversations – that of
risk assessments and fraud. He explains:
“The MoJ placed the burden to lower
fraudulent claims into the hands of the
insurance industry. Risk assessments
currently performed by ATE providers
will no longer be there to prevent
cases getting into the system. So what
happens to those 63/100 fraudulent
cases once insurers are out of the
loop? Jackson batted this issue away
when it was put to him in 2009 but Hill
Dickinson has already seen a rise in the
number of ‘have a go’ cases and with
less scrutiny over fraud, the number will
only rise. The MoJ needs to address this
and take responsibility for a problem it
will cause with these reforms.”
For more information, contact:
T 028 9023 5554
E [email protected]
ML // September 2012
MAKE A
WINNING
DECISION
more than just a conveyancing search company
Affiliated Member
Features
49
Out with the old
A growing number of progressive lawyers are shrinking their costs, reducing risk
and building powerful competitive advantage by utilising outsourced electronic
site mapping tools - helping streamline and increase profits for commercial
lawyers, writes Richard Hinton.
A
nalysing title information on large and often complex
sites is a task that traditionally takes commercial
lawyers an inordinate time to compile and assemble.
The customary way of pulling together the legal titles
and carrying out all the searches on a large development
site which involves a lot of different titles is a labour
intensive process. Researching and sourcing all the relevant
information, only to resize and print it before cutting it out
and sticking plans onto maps, is not a practical use of time
and resources.
This approach is old-fashioned, out of date and not in
keeping with the way the legal profession delivers other
services to its clients. Almost all other aspects of the legal
profession have been revolutionised by technology, with
any required data usually available at the click of a mouse.
But this essential part of the property development process
has hardly changed in decades.
So how does electronic site assembly compare to
traditional methods?
Historically the process starts with a basic Ordnance
Survey (OS) map, and from here it is straightforward
enough to highlight the area of interest, but then it must be
overlaid with cut outs from Land Registry title data. When
information about utilities is added in, and the findings from
the environmental searches are overlaid, it quickly bulks up
into a sizeable and unwieldy piece of work.
Slimming down
From a logistical point of view this makes transportation
challenging and often taking up an inconvenient amount of
space. An obvious advantage of electronic site assembly is
that it removes the need to carry around boxes of papers
and plans. A laptop and a projector or even a handheld
tablet can allows the lawyer to carry out the review
electronically and interactively.
Using electronic site assembly, clients who are appraising
a site benefit from the commercial insight it provides.
Environmental searches are a costly part of the process sometimes a client won’t want to do a full report on the
whole site when assessing its suitability for purchase.
Electronic site assembly can provide a contaminated
land screening ‘layer’ which takes Landmark data and
screens the area, providing a simple colour coded key for
identification purposes. The darker the colour, the worse the
contamination. Flood screening works in much the same
way. This allows the client to easily see where they can
place offices, houses, and car parks, and pinpoints where
they might want to do more environmental work in case
they need to dismiss the site on environmental reasons.
Another advantage of electronic site assembly is its
versatility. Beginning with a paper plan of the area, from
there, electronic site assembly will source the SIM, order the
OC1s and Registers and provide them in GIS format overlaid
onto the Ordnance Survey map. Users can then digitally
overlay and place existing hard-copy plans ‘geospatially’
onto the latest OS plans accurately.
The polygonised Land Registry data can be used to plot
the various freehold and leasehold titles onto an electronic
OS. It is then a straightforward task to colour-code the
different titles as required in order to quickly and easily see
if there is any discrepancy between titles. Also, to see if
there are any ransom strips or other areas of concern such
as unregistered land. In terms of risk management, this
lessens the chances of human error.
A major challenge for most development sites has been
identifying where the utilities are in terms of fibre optics
and pipelines etc but electronic site assembly can show
this in a single composite plan. It takes all the various
utility plans from all the different providers and maps them
electronically so users can view all of them together or
separately in the component separate layers.
It is not always convenient or possible to view the actual
site itself. This can make it hard to visualise or to spot things
‘on the ground’ which need to be addressed. The use of
aerial photography therefore provides another dimension to
electronic site assembly. It allows users to view the site ‘as it
is’ remotely without the expensive of a site visit.
The efficiencies created by electronic site assembly mean
the process can drastically reduce man hours, freeing up
staff to work on fee earning business, while enhancing the
client experience and installing a level of risk management
that does not exist with a manual site assembly process.
For further details contact [email protected]
By Richard Hinton, Business Development Director, Decision
Insight Information Group (Europe).
ML // September 2012
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03690 Modern law mag advet update v 1.indd 1
31/07/2012 16:01
Business Management
51
53-62
Business
Management
ML // September 2012
52
Business Section
Click and go
The UK online legal services market is in its infancy but as consumer
demand calls for more choice and increased access to services,
companies with huge success in the US are starting to stream their
fibre optic services here. Mark Edwards reports.
T
he idea of online legal products
in the UK has been a slow burner.
The rise of law-savvy consumers with
a history of Amazon, eBay and Ocado
e-receipts from online shopping is
an exciting prospect for legal service
providers. Yet this portion of the UK
legal market is quite immature; the
number of services purchased online
is insignificant compared to the overall
market size and market need is not
being met. Given that the UK is one
of the leading online purchasers of
other products and services in the
world, there’s no cultural reason why
UK consumers wouldn’t buy their legal
services online.
So the problem isn’t consumer
shyness, neither is it legislation. The
Legal Services Act is becoming a large
driver (although not fundamentally
necessary) of the change required for
the legal industry to modernise further
and make a significant shift to online,
yet it hasn’t. Here lies the problem. The
lack of desirable online legal products
and services for UK consumers is to
blame for the slow uptake.
However, there are a few exceptions.
Sectors such as personal injury have
created massive opportunities for
online providers. This will only increase
to catch up with the consumption
of online legal services in the US,
as uptake gains parity with other
comparable services (e.g. financial
services) over the coming years.
Lessons from America
In the US, individuals and business are
generally more law-savvy than in the
UK. The assurance of the blossoming
online legal services market in the
States highlights the potential for
similar new revenue streams here,
from both legally unprotected private
clients and small businesses.
What are they buying?
Customers in the US, through my
experience at Rocket Lawyer, typically
Want a free way to find customers and power up
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14/08/2012 12:51
Business Section
want lower cost solutions from online providers, and often
begin by looking for self help options to avoid the higher
prices of a lawyer (perceived or real). They are therefore
willing to engage with the legalities of the matter quite deeply.
Why should this be any different in the UK?
What do they get?
At Rocket Lawyer, we guide customers through the
purchase with online interviews that ask questions a
lawyer would ask. The interview is paired with guidance
to help people with their answers in order to make the
experience as easy as possible. As long as the customer has
the right information to hand about themselves and their
circumstances, they will be able to create their own legal
document online.
Do it yourself online legal services aren’t a complete
solution for all. For those whose needs aren’t fully met, we
have a ‘do it with me’ solution where we engage our law
firm partners into the process. They are able to deal with
more complicated elements and provide the legal advice
which rocket Lawyer cannot. This provides a flexible,
accessible and cost-effective service to help every customer
get the solution that’s best for them.
Big brand effect
Once well-known, trustworthy and easy-to-use brands
establish good value online services in the UK, then a
significant number of customers will opt-in to make savings
compared to traditional legal service providers. Additionally,
the added convenience and accessibility of online services
will considerably benefit untapped potential customers:
families, working professionals and small business that don’t
53
approach law firms for help, for whatever reason.
Rocket Lawyer already helps millions of customers in
the US each year with their legal needs. We do this by
offering an affordable and valuable set of products and
services directly to consumers. A high standard of customer
service is important (as for any legal service provider), but
it’s absolutely essential to create the right blend of online
products and help people use them. An easy-to-use website
and great telephone support are key, as is collaboration
with progressive lawyers (who can work online) for more
complex issues – ensuring those quality customer service
levels remain.
Back to the UK
Given the size of the UK legal market, its potential and
the currently limited choice of online legal services, it’s
clear to see why established brands from the US market
will be opening up their e-shops here. Rocket Lawyer, for
example, will launch to UK customers towards the end of
2012, bringing our marketing experience, web platform and
client-focused products here. It’s only a matter of months
before affordability and accessibility finally starts to meet
UK expectations. www.rocketlawyer.com.
Rocket Lawyer will launch in the UK at the 2012, www.
rocketlawyer.com.
By Mark Edwards, Vice President & General Manager UK,
Rocket Lawyer.
SOS
Q: How can case management help deliver lower operational costs?
T
he price-squeeze for law firms will take a strangle-hold
when it comes to mass volume work - the work new
entrants to the market are most coveting. New players are set
to deliver legal services (such as remortgage, conveyancing
and personal injury) in highly automated, online environments
at nail-bitingly competitive, fixed-fees to the customer.
Fully utilising case management technology is a critical way
solicitors may achieve any kind of profit in this type of work by
lowering the cost burden.
Speeding up repetitive actions is the simple premise
of case management systems, yet the cost-benefit to law
firms addressing the price squeeze of commoditised work
will vary depending on their size.
For larger firms costs can be reduced by de-skilling
recurring elements of high volume work with scripted
workflows so minimising the salary bill. Already
commonplace in what can be considered ‘law factories’
- teams of less qualified, less expensive staff use highly
prescriptive workflows to increase the output of work. To help
mitigate risk, team leaders are qualified lawyers and team
members are unable to deviate from the scripted templates.
For smaller firms, costs can be reduced with case
management by making solicitors more self-sufficient thus
reducing their reliance on support staff and challenging the
outdated 1:1 ratio of fee earner to secretary. By
automating repetitive activity,
lawyers can also increase their
productivity and enjoy more
rewarding and profitable work.
For many years, mass volume
work had been the life blood
of many law firms - the cash
flow provider. However, without
taking measures to reduce the
cost of delivering volume work with case management
technology, it may be impossible for some areas of work
to be delivered at a realistic cost to the customer, whilst
also bringing in a meaningful profit to the firm. Indeed, we
might remind ourselves of the old adage that ‘turnover is
vanity, profit is sanity’.
Checklist of cost benefits of case management:
• Larger firms: de-skilling laborious processes to reduce
salary overheads and manage risk
• Smaller firms: reducing administrative costs and 1:1 ratio
of support staff
• All firms: more profitable delivery of high volume work
to enable more competitive pricing
David McNamara, Managing Director, SOS, www.soslegal.co.uk
ML // September 2012
54
Business Section
Informance
Q: Are lawyers applying their business analysis data effectively in terms of sustainable growth and
are they even assessing the data correctly?
W
ith the current changes happening in the legal services sector and the emergence of
a new future, it has never been more important for law firms to do better. Firms need
greater transparency of their performance and be in the position to analyse their data on a
daily basis.
Some of the key areas firms should be looking at are: who their top 10, top 50 and top 100
clients are, how much more additional work they could obtain from existing clients and how
profitable their client base is.
For firms to sustain growth they must have a strategy in place to ensure continued
development and increased profitability with the right data analysis in place to execute and
measure performance. Without the right tools to do this, firms may find that they are at a
loss as to what the numbers really mean.
The burden placed their finance and IT departments to deliver relevant reporting is often
misplaced and when questions are asked, without the right tools in place, the answers will
more often than not, be too late.
There are a host of measures that should be frequently reviewed such as time, billing, workin-progress and outstanding debt. In addition, having a transparent view on profitability at the client and matter level is
becoming increasingly important. Whilst the arrival of Alternative Business Structures may not have an immediate impact,
those firms who are not taking steps to review their strategy for the future, may find themselves playing catch-up.
Having the ability to monitor their financial performance on a regular basis, by giving all staff the capabilities to make
a difference in their areas, will make a huge impact on how the firm rides the wave of change that is currently flowing
through the legal sector.
Barry Talbot, Managing Director, Informance. Informance is QlikView Elite Solution Provider and the UK’s leading provider
of QlikView to law firms.
Nesbit Law
Q: Do the big ticket brands have the advantage in the Modern Legal Arena?
A
: There are three choices going forward in the Modern
Legal Arena: get big, get niche or get out!
So the big ticket brands, firstly who are they? Coop Legal Services, RJW – Slater & Gordon and Claims
Direct, certainly. Should any household legal brand name
successfully obtain an ABS then I am sure they would
also be included, but other than that it is hard to see that
there are any standout big ticket brands in the arena.
There are certain advantages these much larger
firms will have by way of marketing experience,
customer service journey and the ability to deal with
the regulatory regime on a major level. Their ability to
harmonise process with IT driven platforms leads to a
significant advantage in speed and compliance. However,
whereas that will work successfully on a suite of both
straightforward and commoditised cases, when the cases
become more difficult and bordering on niche, the lower
grade staff at these big ticket companies are more often
than not unable to cope.
Therefore the ability to cope with niche work remains
as much a viable option as ever. The niche firm will have
lower overheads and will be able to provide a more
tailored and potentially dedicated individual service to
their clients. They will also be easier to manage on both
ML // September 2012
a supervisory and
regulatory level due to
the fewer number of
people involved.
The success of
big ticket brands is
going to squeeze the
markets considerably
for the smaller
and medium sized
practices, whose
only chance is to
corner their own
locality. However,
the tendency for the
public to want 24hour availability and online solutions means the local law
firm will hold only limited attraction for them. It remains
to be seen whether this is simply another storm that small
and medium firms will be able to ride, but it’s easy to
identify the obvious advantages that big ticket or niche
firms will have in order to make life difficult.
Alan Nesbit, Nesbit Law
Business Section
55
Neil Hudgell
Q: Are the ‘power brands’ a risk to the well-being and longevity of my business?
I
face this question in one form or another on a daily basis. My
answer is a consistent one, yes, but only if I let it be. It is the
same answer I give when asked about the Jackson reforms
and their inevitable implementation in 2013.
For my business the strategy is a simple one. Don’t
compete where you can’t. I don’t have the multi million
pound marketing budgets, national brand profile or back
office support that the Co-ops of this world have. Nor do
I have a client data base of literally 100s of thousands. I
couldn’t and wouldn’t want to compete on that level.
Where I can compete is in the regional market places where
I have long standing profile and reputation. I have a highly
skilled work force of qualified and support staff committed
to excellence in delivery of client care and a truly holistic
approach in how we deal with compensation claims from initial
instruction to post settlement. Growth has to be controlled
and measured to retain that culture. Through our recent
acquisitions that has been a very valuable lesson learnt for us.
This doesn’t mean that we give up on securing work
nationally, far from it in fact. We have a very good on line
presence, which generates work country wide. But our bread
and butter is within a 50 mile radius around our established
bases in Leeds, Hull and Birmingham.
There is no more powerful voice in securing work than the
experience of the people you have already done work for and
here I believe we excel. The biggest
single source of business for us is
recommendation. Some of that is
down to doing a good job, but it’s
also about listening to what people
want from the experience and
acting on that. This is why we routinely carry out satisfaction
surveys with our clients at any time from the start of the claim
to its conclusion. We know that no two clients are the same.
Some still want a face to face interaction, whilst others prefer
everything by email. We approach all our instructions on that
bespoke basis.
We retain a personal touch, which some of the big players
are often accused of lacking. Who enjoys going into their
bank, for example? We are of a size where we aren’t reliable
on huge chunks of work to survive, and can mobilize and
adapt accordingly. We deal with increasing volumes of high
value work, that isn’t necessarily suited to a power brand
operation, and we make our profit by maximizing the costs
on each job, not in the small margins on the volume.
Regardless of all the changes I still very much see a thriving
role for a well positioned, mid size, regionally based, niche
practice with forward thinking, bold and dynamic management.
Neil Hudgell, Managing Director, Neil Hudgell Solicitors.
A Great British Service
T
he summer of 2012 will be remembered as a time when
it felt spectacularly accurate that we should have the
word ‘Great’ in front of Britain. The Diamond Jubilee and
Olympics have brought a much needed morale boost to
the UK. Despite the Prince’s repeated bladder infections
- I suspect that the Queen is rather chuffed by how it’s all
turned out!
For someone who has dedicated the past 60 years to
serving her country, the Queen has much to teach us about
the principals of good service. The results of a YouGov
survey, commissioned by the Legal Services Consumer
panel revealed that only 70% of recent users of legal
services felt ‘they were treated as an individual rather than
as just another file’. This figure had been 75% in 2011.
Why is it important?
In times of austerity spending, companies have to get
their service right if they are to have a share of the market.
Research carried out by the Institute of Customer Service
demonstrates that there is a direct correlation between
market share growth and customer satisfaction.
With clients having more choice about where (and how)
they buy their legal services, marketing a law firm is more
about ‘relationship marketing’ rather than ‘transactional
marketing’. Relationship marketing focuses on getting the
clients and keeping them longer term using a combination
of marketing, quality and customer service.
Excellent customer service
is at the crux of relationship
marketing. Getting it right
means:
• Clients will be less inclined to
go to your competitors.
• Satisfied clients will
recommend you to others. It
costs up to 10 times more to
win a new client than it does
to keep one.
• You avoid the risk of having a
dissatisfied client who could
damage your reputation and
brand. Someone who experiences poor service is likely to
tell up to 20 people about their experience.
• You have a good chance of cross-selling your firms other
services.
• Fee earners and staff will get the ‘feel good’ factor from
working in an environment where clients are satisfied.
Overall, think long term - not short term. A royal service
equals a loyal client!
Natalie Rodgers, Managing Director, Scala Business
Development
ML // September 2012
56
Business Section
Legal Marketing Experts
Q: What are law firms missing when it comes to brand identity consistency?
B
rand identity is a key component to the marketing of any business and law firms are no exception. By having a strong
brand identity you are affording your clients and customers the opportunity of instantly recognising who you are and
what your business has to offer. Maintaining consistency is vital in order to ensure that your brand identity remains strong;
yet many firms still fall foul of the basics by changing colours, sizes and shapes. Others even omit their logo entirely in
some advertising and marketing literature. Others believe that a re-brand every couple of years will benefit their marketing
campaign. However, unless this has been handled expertly, there is a real danger of this course of action having the
opposite effect, with customers becoming confused.
The brand identity should be prominently displayed in all marketing, advertising or promotional material, including
letterheads, emails, websites, etc. It must appear in a consistent format at all times to avoid dilution - which will ultimately
weaken it. That said; some firms do use different colours of the same logo to denote different areas of their business, which
is fine as long there is consistency throughout.
If you are thinking of updating your brand identity, it’s important to fully consider what you want to achieve: whether
you are looking for an entirely new re-brand or looking to refresh what you already have. For a complete re-brand, you will
not want a brand identity similar to one of your competitors - you will want to look for something unique. If you are looking
to freshen up your existing brand, it’s advisable to keep some similarities between the old brand and the new, so that when
the re-launch takes place, clients and customers still recognise it’s the same business.
There are rules and regulations which need to be kept in mind and solicitors are additionally required to adhere to the
SRA rules. Chapter 8 of The SRA Code of Conduct 2011 sets out the requirements in relation to publicity and can be viewed
by going to: http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page.
Faye Soden, Director, Legal Marketing Experts UK
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Business Section
57
Antony Smith
Implementing Legal Project Management
A
s the name suggests Legal Project Management
(LPM) refers to the application of project management
techniques to assist with the delivery of legal services. This
can translate into practical help with things like:
• Improved realisation rates
• Better management of Fixed Fees
• Helping transition to other forms of Alternative Fee
Arrangements (AFA’s), particularly value based pricing
• Improved client communications and overall client
satisfaction (those who have implemented LPM processes
say that the ‘client collaboration’ aspect is probably the
most important single benefit realised).
Arguably, many solicitors already use some form of project
management in their daily work. Successful solicitors have
to manage their files and individual matters and this requires
project management skills, even though the administration
work may not be recognised as such. So what is Legal
Project Management? One answer is to say that LPM is
a more formal encapsulation of practices which are the
hallmark of every good lawyer. Because these practices
are captured and formalised, they can then become part of
standard practice by every lawyer in the firm thus driving up
overall quality of service.
Space does not permit a detailed explanation about how to
implement LPM so:
• Ideally it should be implemented as part of your firm’s
overall strategy. After identifying suitable markets and
services to be delivered, consider how best to deliver those
services.
• Identify a specific delivery objective, which can then be
measured and reviewed.
• Create LPM processes which best support that objective. Core LPM processes could include things such as:
oThe creation of a Project Initiation Document (PID) for
matters, which clearly records client needs and what
success looks like from the client’s perspective.
oA cost estimation and client communications protocol.
oPeriodic matter reviews where fee earners check
progress against the PID and the cost estimation and
communications protocol.
• Design and run a pilot project, applying LPM techniques to
a relatively small number of matters.
• Assess whether the original objective has been achieved
and the extent to which LPM techniques have helped to
achieve it.
If you are happy with the results of the pilot, then plan to
roll-out LPM delivery techniques more widely. If you are not
happy with the results investigate why and remember: there
is no such thing as failure - only feedback!
Antony Smith, Director, Legal Project Management Limited,
www.legalprojectmanagement.co.uk
PI claims specialist quadruples in size using Proclaim
Case Management
In 1997, Neil Hudgell set up his own specialist personal injury and medical negligence practice which has since
grown to be four times its original size and now employs a team of over 70 staff. He speaks to Modern Law about
his success.
Q: Why did you choose Proclaim?
W
e needed a robust system with the flexibility to adapt
and develop in line with the growth of our firm. Eclipse
was widely known to be the market leading Case Management
Software provider and Proclaim came highly recommended.
Proclaim allows us to manage our entire caseload within
a single centralised system, containing a principal store of
approved letters and customised workflows. Many facets of
case progression can be automated and routines can be created
that ensure we stick to our service promises. The automatic
generation of set tasks provides fee earners with a daily action
list and allows overdue tasks to be monitored by supervisors.
A major benefit is how Proclaim provides a ‘virtual contact’
with our business partners, increasing speed and security. All our
medical reports are obtained from UKIM, with instructions being
sent via automated email from Proclaim. We instruct Premex in
the same way to provide triage services for appropriate claims.
Q: Do you use Proclaim for management
reporting facilities and statistics?
R
eports are essential for providing transparency throughout
the business. All managers can easily monitor the quality
and mix of work to ensure it is carried out by the most
appropriate fee earner. Daily reports are distributed to team
managers to provide comprehensive updates on all incoming
enquiries and a weekly list of all closed files is circulated,
detailing the settlement achieved on each one. Without
Proclaim this would all have to be carried out manually, which
would have huge time and cost implications.
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ML // September 2012
58
Business Section
‘Preaching to the converted on the
importance of professional standards’
The MoJ has appointed an agency to provide interpreters to the legal sector, but as Ted Sangster warns, professionals
may not necessarily be qualified and accountable public service interpreters – offering high levels of risk for lawyers.
T
he legal profession understands
the vital importance of professional
standards. Lawyers spend years obtaining
the qualifications and level of experience
necessary in order to practice and
must abide by a strict code - being
held accountable for their professional
conduct.
Such standards are integral to the
judicial system. For people to be fairly
represented they must have access to
expert legal counsel – i.e. advice that is of a
recognised standard and regulated.
Just as legal professionals adhere
to and uphold professional standards;
I believe it should also be the case for
the public service interpreters who
are employed by the justice system.
Particularly as they provide the access to
your expert advice.
ML // September 2012
Maintaining standards
The National Register of Public Service
Interpreters (NRPSI) was founded in 1994
to maintain a register of professional,
qualified and accountable public service
interpreters to safeguard the public and
profession. One of the ways it helps to
protect the public is by playing a key role
in fulfilling the requirements of Articles
5 and 6 of the European Convention on
Human Rights (ECHR) concerning ‘the
right to be informed in a language one
understands of the reasons for arrest’
and ‘the right to a fair trial, including the
right to have the free assistance of an
interpreter’.
There are currently more than 2,200
UK-based professional interpreters on
the Register covering 101 languages. To
be accepted onto the Register they have
each satisfied
rigorous entry
criteria in terms
of qualifications
and experience,
and
demonstrated
their
commitment
to professional
standards by
signing NRPSI’s Code of Professional
Conduct. All registered interpreters are
issued with a photo ID card to prove their
registration and identity.
While NRPSI is a voluntary regulator, our
powers allow us to discipline and, ultimately,
exclude someone who breaks the code. In
this way we can ensure interpreters on the
Register are appropriately qualified, have
Business Section
the level of competence claimed and employ best practice.
At the same time, public service organisations and others
who use the Register can be confident that they are employing
a qualified interpreter who can be held accountable should their
conduct or competence fall below the high standards expected of
a registered professional interpreter. Essentially, using a registered
interpreter provides you with the peace of mind that you are
working with someone who is professionally competent and able
to do their job. Using the online register to search for an interpreter
is not only free but extremely easy. Something evidenced by the
fact that it receives over 30,000 searches each month to:
• Check if an interpreter is registered – by searching for a
specific interpreter by name or the registration number that
appears on their ID Card.
• Find an interpreter to employ – by searching for the
required language and then narrowing down the results by
selecting a location or type of security clearance.
Playing with fire
The risks of using an unregistered interpreter are many and
the costs high. You risk using someone unqualified at best and
incompetent at worst to be the direct line of communication
between you and your client. The consequences of being
misunderstood and serious inaccuracies in court interpreting can
lead to wrongful conviction and a potential risk to public safety.
And, when things do go wrong, you have no access to a formal
complaints procedure.
The use of unregistered and unaccountable interpreters is a
continual threat to the quality and reputation of interpreting.
Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the case of
unregistered and unaccountable interpreters failing to show for
59
court hearings at a considerable expense to the legal system and
taxpayer. There have been a number of such cases reported in
the news over recent months. This situation has arisen since the
Ministry of Justice appointed a single agency, Applied Language
Solutions (ALS), to provide interpreters for court hearings.
ALS is not required to use interpreters on the Register and has
successfully deterred a number of registered interpreters from
working for them by cutting their pay.
A shared vision
As well as collaborating with the interpreter membership bodies
to tackle this specific issue, NRPSI is working on a number of
other fronts to ensure the National Register is the first choice for
anyone who needs a qualified professional interpreter. To start
with we have embarked on a communications programme to
raise awareness of the register and convey the importance of
using qualified and accountable interpreters. We are working
to expand the register and enhance its usability. We are also
developing guidelines to help both interpreters and the users
of their services get the most from working together. These
improvements will enable us to better serve the public, users of
the Register and professional interpreters.
Our greatest asset is the professional interpreters who share
our vision and the users of their services, like lawyers, who value
professional standards.
By Chairman of the National Register of Public Service
Interpreters (NRPSI).
We work with law firms to ensure compliance and optimise best practice and risk management. Our
extensive and thorough knowledge of the Code of Conduct and other regulations will ensure your law firm
is compliant and your processes sound. The advice we offer is clear and practical, and we pride ourselves on
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• Training: AML, Equality and Diversity, Data Protection, Conflict of Interests, Lexcel, The Bribery Act
Tel: +44 79 2177 4548
www.legal-eye.co.uk
ML // September 2012
60
Business Section
Survival of the fittest
ABSs have arrived and are here to stay. With them comes the
emergence of new business models, as both existing firms and new
entrants seek to find that something unique that will differentiate
them from the competition. As Jitendra Valera asks, who will succeed
and which business models will survive?
T
he variety of business models emerging suggests that the winning
formula is yet to be determined. However, it’s clear that whether
it is to be: the market leader in a targeted high volume practice area
(e.g. conveyancing); to create a direct legal service offering (e.g.
Riverview Law) or; build an ‘Online Legal Service’ providing a variety
of automated legal services and documents, the business model - the
structure and funding will be driven by what made the firm decide to
become an ABS in the first instance. In nearly all cases, the overriding
driver is to create a business that will be market leading and generate
strong revenues, ultimately delivering high returns on investment.
Recurring themes in emerging models
Although the winning formula is yet to be determined, there are a
number of recurring ‘themes’ in the new business models which most
ABSs have, or should have, as central to their business ethos.
Client Centricity: There is a clear recognition that this is critical to
success. This ranges from providing transparency on fees to building
the service delivery capability seen in other industries - such as
finance and retail. This includes the ability for a client to track cases
online and communicate with the provider via various means such as
text, email and online
Alternative Fee Arrangements: A move away from the traditional
‘billing hour’ to offering clients a price for legal work based on value
of service, rather than the time a lawyer spends. This brings direct
financial advantages to clients and can be flexible, transparent,
competitive and in some cases, aligned to clients’ success. Although
the ‘fixed-fee’ model gets the most air time, the most interesting and
sustainable are ‘subscription models’ - where a monthly fee covers all
the services a client receives from a firm. Such arrangements not only
deliver value to clients but also create a sustainable value for the firm
Leveraging Technology to gain competitive advantage; ranging
from driving efficiency gains in high volume or repetitive, processdriven work to creating a new paradigm with lawyers operating
virtually without an office
Online Presence: This is not only about finding work, engaging with
clients and keeping them informed on case progress 24/7 online but
extends to provision of automated legal services, without any lawyer
intervention,. This pushes the U.K. consumer towards following the doit-yourself U.S. model.
Non-lawyers with specialist skills to run, grow and manage the firm:
Aligned with this is use of management information as a key tool, not
limited to financial KPIs but also operational KPIs covering all areas,
from process efficiencies to people and marketing effectiveness
Marketing and branding are central to ABS’s seeking to generate
demand, be competitive, create brand value and position themselves
attractively to clients and investors
ML // September 2012
Achieving return
on investment
Given that return
on investment and
therefore achieving
a high valuation is a
key driver for many
of the new business
models, there is
a need to move
away from the
levels experienced
by traditional
practices. This
would not be
uncommon at
around three to five
times the profit. This compares miserably with
commercially run businesses which can achieve
valuation multiples of 10 to 15 times profit. Such
high valuations are typically linked to businesses
that have a high degree of ‘recurring revenues’
and ‘valuable long-term contracts’ - with high
potential for further growth. It is therefore logical
that in seeking to achieve a higher return on
investment, ABSs move away from the traditional
WIP and adopt business approaches where either
recurring revenues or a move to life-time value
client relationships play a key part of their
make-up
Conclusion – the jury’s out!
The high likelihood is that many of the emerging
business models will not survive as they are
today. We are already seeing some new entrants
who saw a move to online services as a panacea
and fail to generate the high demand expected
as consumers are not yet ready (or willing) to
buy legal services online. The most successful
firms in the long run will be those that adapt and
change swiftly whilst still providing quality legal
services profitably and generating high returns
for shareholders and investors.
By Jitendra Valera,
Chief Marketing Officer, IRIS Legal.
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62
Business Section
COLPs & COFAs: Legal Eye
what next?
By now, firms will have nominated their COLP
and COFA, responsible for compliance within
law firms. So is this a time to sit back and wait
until the SRA confirm appointments or are
there key steps firms should be taking now?
Emma Waddingham reports.
I
t’s possible those nominated as a COLP and COFA are a bit fidgety at
the moment, to say the least. “It is fair to say that these are daunting
roles,” says Steve Cornforth, Senior Partner at EAD Solicitors and President
Liverpool Law Society.
“It is easy to feel that you will not be at the top of your firm’s Christmas
card list after a couple of months in the job. It is the duty to report to the
SRA which is scary to most of us,” he adds.
But will it be this bad? “So long as you start to prepare the ground now
then you should be able to cope or COLP without too many fears,” Steve
suggests. Rob Price at Bolder Solutions agrees there has been ‘huge panic’
in the run up to nomination, ‘but the focus should now be on internal
communications and leadership engagement.
“It won’t be that bad at the coal face – there is plenty of support but
its widespread understanding in the firm of the role and processes for the
COLP and COFA roles. It’s fine if the COLP / COFA knows what they’re
doing but firms need to ensure fee earners know why they are deluged
with new systems and procedures,” he says.
“Fee earners need to know which hops to jump through and refer
issues up to department heads, in the same way as money laundering
compliance. There are reasons behind the regulation changes and
everyone in the firm needs to be on-board for things to run properly,”
stresses Rob.
It’s clear you need a strategy to action now – not simply to give COLPs
and COFAs peace of mind but to ensure a smooth, accessible and honest
compliance procedure within the firm. Some top tips from Steve are:
• Make sure you have full buy in from your partners. I would get it in
writing from each partner that they understand your role and will give
you their full support even if you have to have to report a breach.
• Don’t be afraid! You have been nominated because you are the best
person for the job. If you don’t do it somebody else will have to!!
• Be realistic about what is a material breach; there is no clear definition.
I would advise to have your own definition and use that. So long as you
have seriously considered what is material and remain consistent, then
you are unlikely to be criticised.
Rob adds:
• Be cautious while things are bedding down - it’s like driving 20mph in a
30 mph zone. Don’t rush or potentially face retrospective discipline.
• Internal communications are key to distilling important information
• Use face-to-face training and workshops to explain the new systems
and address questions and resistance from the start.
• Don’t report everything that moves, however in the same vein, the
SRA won’t believe a clean bill of health from the COLP / COFA. There’s
always bound to be something that slips through the net. Again,
specialist training can help fee earners identify what they should be
reporting and how.
These are just a couple of ideas for starters. So good luck and be prepared!
ML // September 2012
Q: So the deadline has passed
now to assign your COLP &
COFA – what are the next steps?
I
f you are one of the 93% of
firms who did nominate your
COLP and COFA, one of the
next steps is to wait to hear
from the SRA regarding your
nomination(s).
It’s equally important that
firms need to acknowledge
the COLP and COFA will be
taking up their roles from
January 2013 and they need to
ensure they are proactive about compliance.
Key questions
The SRA will be reverting back with the following
types of questions. So, for example, the COFA will
have to provide evidence of:
• experience of working with the SRA Accounts
Rules
• the accounting system used?
• who will undertake the day-to-day accounting
activities?
• experience in signing off reconciliation
statements and confirmation that you will be
reviewing and signing them off
• knowledge of managing office and client
accounts
The COLP will be asked the following types
of questions:
• do you intend to share premises or use
serviced offices? If so, can you advise how you
intend to ensure that all client information is
kept confidential?
• will you be outsourcing any operations, and if
so, how do you intend to ensure that all client
information is kept secure?
• Do you have any active fee sharing or referral
agreements? Will you be paying for any
introductions and if so, please provide the
amount/s per agreement. Also provide the
percentage of the company’s total fee income
expected to arise from the arrangement/s.
Firms need to ensure they are ready to answer
these questions and provide the evidence
required.
By Jaunita Gobby, Director, Legal Eye Ltd
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