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Practice Management Services


Risk Management

by on Feb.21, 2011, under Practice Management Services

Those of you who know me will know that most of my career has been spent in banking where risk management is just an integral part of “the way we do things around here” (particularly when I was running a retail bank in Papua New Guinea!)

I believe that Risk Management must be incorporated into your law firms everyday practices as all of our businesses are becoming more and more open to risk that we may not have considered previously. Compliance is a big issue, particularly with every practicing lawyer in Australia needing to comply with the LPA 2004, (leaving themselves open to fee reviews, reprimands etc for failing to comply) and clients becoming more aware of their rights, or just generally more savvy.

As an example, I continue to be amazed at the number of lawyers appearing on the OLSC website for various misdemeanours, but particularly for not understanding (either deliberately or erroneously) the operation of Trust Accounts, Controlled Moneys, and even Transit Accounts (which some lawyers don’t even know about).

These are mostly “internal” or compliance concerns, but there are numerous others to consider, particularly, the reliance on one or two large clients. I think firms need to realise that whilst the “solid relationship” that once existed between firms/individual lawyers and their clients is still there, it should not be relied upon as there are so many other influencers that could jeopardise the relationship at any time.

Cloud computing is on the horizon (not a pun!) and we are not yet sure what risks will be associated with that, but I’m pretty sure that that is where many firms will be heading as an avenue to reduce operational costs.

One of the areas I am now targetting under the heading of risk management is that of succession planning. Not a new subject I know, but an area where many lawyers, particularly those in smaller firms (if they are around my age for example), should be putting a 5 to 10 year plan in place for exiting from the business they are in, (in whatever form that exit might look like) rather than leaving it to the very last moment and “hoping” they will get what they want.

If you need assistance with planning your successor, or recruitment generally for your law firm, please call me and we can get together for a coffee to discuss the options that are available.

Hope you all have a great 2011.

Cheers
Lawrence

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Competitive legal landscape to change forever?

by on Dec.17, 2010, under Career Management Services, Practice Management Services

This article by George Beaton in the Australian is well worth reading: http://bit.ly/exit_plan

The change is well and truly on the way, and some of us are not only very keen to see it happen, we are already engaged in making it happen.

If you are wondering what to do or where to go with your firm, speak with me.  I have several ideas and suggestions worth considering.

Some smaller firms tend to wait until it is too late to consider an exit strategy or succession plan.  The reality is, no-one will buy your firm if you are not there.  Harsh but true.  Unlike other professional services firms where there is a high degree of continuing work, lawyers are often involved in transactional matters only, or providing advice on certain issues.  Once the problem has been resolved, the client’s work is over – where is the continuity in the business?

As I mentioned above, if you are wondering what to do or where to go with your firm, speak with me.  I have several ideas and suggestions worth considering.

Call me on 0407 236394.  There is no cost, other than your time, for a conversation.

It’s your future and I want to help.

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Ten areas to be addressed to demonstrate compliance with “Appropriate Management Systems” (1)

by on Nov.18, 2010, under Practice Management Services

The following infomation is from the website of the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner, NSW

Section 140(3) of the Legal Profession Act 2004 requires legal practitioner directors of Incorporated Legal Practices (ILPs) to ensure that “appropriate management systems” are implemented and maintained to ensure that the provision of legal services by ILPs complies with the requirements of the Act and Regulations.

Failure to comply can amount to professional misconduct.

While the legislation does not define “appropriate management systems”, the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner, working collaboratively with the Law Society of NSW, LawCover and the College of Law, has adopted an “education towards compliance” strategy and has developed a set of objectives covering the areas that must be addressed to demonstrate that the ILP has appropriate management systems in place.

Here is a link to those ten areas:

http://www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au/lawlink/olsc/ll_olsc.nsf/pages/OLSC_tenobjectives

The OLSC is developing a library of material relevant to the ten objectives and copies of helpful handouts/templates/guides are available upon request. Please contact the OLSC if you require such assistance. Alternatively, you may contact our Practice Compliance Manager on (02) 9377 1800 for further information.

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Ten areas to be addressed to demonstrate compliance with “Appropriate Management Systems“ (2)

by on Nov.18, 2010, under Practice Management Services

Negligence
providing for competent work practices

Communication
providing for effective, timely and courteous communication

Delay
providing for timely review, delivery and follow up of legal services

Liens/file transfers
providing for timely resolution of document/file transfers

Cost disclosure/billing practices/termination of retainer
providing for shared understanding and appropriate documentation on commencement and termination of retainer along with appropriate billing practices during the retainer

Conflict of interests
providing for timely identification and resolution of “conflict of interests”, including when acting for both parties or acting against previous clients as well as potential conflicts which may arise in relationships with debt collectors and mercantile agencies, or conducting another business, referral fees and commissions etc

Records management
minimising the likelihood of loss or destruction of correspondence and documents through appropriate document retention, filing, archiving etc and providing for compliance with requirements regarding registers of files, safe custody, financial interests

Undertakings
providing for undertakings to be given, monitoring of compliance and timely compliance with notices, orders, rulings, directions or other requirements of regulatory authorities such as the OLSC, courts, costs assessors

Supervision of practice and staff
providing for compliance with statutory obligations covering licence and practising certificate conditions, employment of persons and providing for proper quality assurance of work outputs and performance of legal, paralegal and non-legal staff involved in the delivery of legal services

Trust account regulations
providing for compliance with Part 3.1 Division 2 of the Legal Profession Act and proper accounting procedures

for more information go to: lawlink.nsw.gov.au/olsc

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Succession Planning

by on Nov.17, 2010, under Practice Management Services

Wondering what to do with your business in the next five to ten years?  Need to look at moving your business into a bigger firm.

Having problems managing your firm and being a lawyer?

Call me; I have a number of options worth considering.  Obligation free and of course, discretion is paramount.  Just call me.

0407 236394

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Talent Acquisition Strategies 2010

by on Nov.09, 2010, under Career Management Services, Practice Management Services

Candidate Experience and Relationship Management Come of Age

by Kevin Martin, Justin Bourke

The process of effective talent acquisition has evolved.

Organisations realise the need for the right people in order to execute on their strategy, and as a result, competition for talent has skyrocketed. It is no longer enough for companies to simply court active job-seekers as many of the best candidates are gainfully employed and not necessarily “on the market.”

To determine the role of and makeup of talent acquisition at top-performing companies, the Aberdeen Group surveyed 380 human resources, recruiting, and line of business executives in the months of July and August 2010. The results were very clear: among top-performing companies, the method of simply casting a line and waiting for a bite has been replaced by a proactive and strategic process that focuses on candidate experience and relationship management.

Best-in-Class Performance

Three key performance criteria were used to distinguish Best-in-Class companies in talent acquisition. On average, these top-performing organisations achieved the following:

  • 89% first-year retention of new hires over the past two years, as compared to only 68% among Laggard organisations
  • 87% of new hires were the top-ranked candidate, as compared to 46% among Laggard organisations
  • 6% year-over-year decrease in the time-to-fill vacant positions, as compared to an 8% increase among Laggard organisations

Competitive Maturity Assessment

Survey results show that the firms enjoying Best-in-Class performance shared several common characteristics, including:

  • Hiring manager visibility into status of candidates in the recruitment process
  • Clear understanding of the sources for the best quality candidates
  • Corporate leadership support of the talent acquisition strategy

Required Actions

In addition to the specific recommendations in Chapter Three of this report, to achieve Best-in-Class performance, companies must:

  • Establish or maintain a longer-term view of talent requirements irrespective of current hiring needs
  • Manage talent acquisition as part of (not separate from) overall talent management
  • Make the ‘experience’ of the candidates and hiring managers a top priority

 

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Some examples of questions to ask (relevant to the Ten Commandments)

by on Nov.07, 2010, under Practice Management Services

 NB These questions are not endorsed by the OLSC

  1. How regularly do you consider and review workloads, supervision, methods of file review, and communication with clients?  (Negligence)    

  2. How regularly do you meet with the (Partners/Principals) to review the performance of the practice? (Or, in the case of sole practitioner practices, how regularly are meetings held with staff?) (Negligence)     

  3.  How confident are you that all fee earners have a good grasp of issues involved in running a practice and serving clients? (Negligence)    

  4.  How confident are you that legal services are always delivered at a consistently high standard? (Negligence)    

  5. How confident are you that clients are always informed in writing of the steps involved in their matter? (Communication)    

  6. Can you guarantee that your retainer is described precisely in writing to the client and includes a statement of what the practice will do and what the practice will not do? (Communication)    

  7. Can you show that the likely time frame involved in each matter, and the likely cost, is disclosed in writing to each client? (Communication)    

  8. How confident are you that your firm complies with the requirements of the Legal Professions Act 2004, Legal Profession Regulations, Professional Conduct and Practice Rules and other statutory/taxation obligations? (Supervision of Practice and Staff)    

  9. Do you use established new client engagement procedures including universal use of approved retainer/costs agreements? (Cost disclosure, billing practices and termination of retainer)    

  10. How confident are you that your files contain complete records of all aspects of the client’s matters? (Delay)    

  11. Can you guarantee that critical dates are recorded, monitored and complied with? (Delay)    

  12. Do you have standardised procedures for collecting client data, opening new files and recording that data within your firm’s accounting and practice management systems? (Cost disclosure, billing practices and termination of retainer)    

  13. Can you provide evidence that all comments and complaints by clients are dealt with promptly and, where possible, by someone else in the practice other than the person complained about? (Communication)    

  14. How confident are you that your client are regularly kept informed at each stage of their matters and are provided with periodic billing? (Delay)    

  15. How confident are you that the accounting systems established for your:

a) General/other accounts;  

b) Trust moneys account;

c) Controlled Moneys account; and

d) Transit Moneys register 

are compliant? (Trust Accounts)

 

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Productivity Reporting

by on Oct.30, 2010, under Practice Management Services

Does your firm produce a regular Productivity Report?  If not, how do you know who is ‘producing’ and who is not?  How then do you go about managing under-performers if you don’t have the information?  How would you know if they are performing to expectations or not?

In it’s simplest form, a Productivity Report measures:

  • Time billed in hours per month or per annum (or weekly if need be);
  • Time recorded in money per month and per annum;
  • Budgeted time in money terms (ytd);
  • Billings in money terms per month and per annum;
  • Budgeted billings in money terms (ytd), and
  • Work in Progress (in money terms);

by fee earner.  It can also include fee earners who have left the practice, but perhaps still have ongoing matters that have been allocated to others.

If you need help, please refer to your local adviser, or contact me.  Happy to help.

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