A presentation at Legalwise Seminars, April 2012
For the benefit of all practitioners it is timely to be reminded of some of the principles which guide prudent solicitors using time billing.
- The distinction between time costing (a tool of law office management) and time billing should not be forgotten.
- Accurate and prompt recording of time, during or soon after attendance, will be vital at the time of bill preparation.
- The client’s needs and requirements, especially demands for excessive service, should be promptly recorded at the time of taking instructions and referred to at the time of billing.
- The client should be promptly informed of any additional work required and the need for it.
- The various administrative and incidental expenses (including travel and photocopying) should be carefully reviewed prior to billing.
- Sensible and realistic time billing, in accordance with the principle of fair and reasonable costs, will prevent many disputes arising.
- The bill of costs is one of the most important documents received by the client and requires careful preparation.
- There should be a careful balance between brevity and sufficient information in the bill of costs to enable the client to understand and appreciate the fees charged.
- Finally, apart from time billing, the availability of alternative fee charging methods should be discussed with responsive clients when appropriate.
As we emerge from the challenging conditions of recent times, growth is clearly on the agenda for legal practices. But growth for growth’s sake is not always a positive thing, and increasing revenue quickly can lead to cashflow pressures.
How do you go about setting the right growth strategy for your firm? And what are the potential pitfalls to watch out for?
As a former business manager and now recruitment specialist, I am constantly surprised by the total lack of care many job applicants apply to their résumés, CVs and covering letters.
Candidates do not seem to realise that the old adage “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” applies just as much to the written word as it does to your personal appearance.
When posting a job advertisement, I always ask applicants for a covering letter. Why is that? The answer is really simple: to find out what the applicant’s attention to detail is like, and how well they respond to the requirements of the role I am seeking to fill. You would be amazed that, having asked for one, over 50% of applicants still do not bother to supply one – sorry folks, automatic delete.
These days it is easy to have a résumé or CV created by a professional service provider, putting in all the details of previous employment, education, career highlights and so on. You would expect, therefore, that that document would be “word perfect.” However a covering letter provides the applicant with an opportunity to provide the reader with details of why they should be considered over and above other applicants, what they can bring to the position, how they might do that and many other “positives” that would make this person worth considering. In some instances it can be more important than the CV. In most instances, it also means the applicant has to write it themselves, and that is where many of them come unstuck.
Recently, on behalf of a client, I advertised for an “Administrator/Receptionist.” Along with other criteria for the role, good attention to detail was listed. I advertised on the most popular job listing website and, as per normal, asked for a covering letter “explaining why this is the right role for you.” Without identifying anyone, and changing only names where necessary, here are some verbatim examples of what I received either in the covering letter, or in the accompanying email. Also note that I am a stickler for correct spelling and grammar.
- Hello i seen your ad on seek that you have a receptionist position available. I attatched my resume.
- Re: Administration Asstiant
- I would like to apply for a position as junior assistant as …
- APPLICATION FOR Customer Service Consultant
- … my job application for the Receptionist/Officer Junior …
- Attention – Joe Bloggs (name changed)
Re: Application for Trainee Recruitment Consultant position
Dear Mr Joe Bloggs (name changed)
Not only were words misspelled, or grammar incorrect, but fonts varied widely in the same letter, or in one case, the same paragraph. And who can excuse the last example above, the wrong person and wrong company – via the automated system on the job board website.
The reason that I am putting all of this down in writing is that I genuinely would like to see people get the jobs they are looking for, but they have to help themselves, and the first place to start is by creating a good impression and spending quality time on a good written presentation.
If you would like help in this area, please contact me.
How Your Next Job Can Find You
Australia’s low unemployment rate is making it challenging for employers to obtain high quality employees. Low unemployment however has not overcome a high degree of uncertainty being felt by employers and employees about the local and overseas economies.
Employees considering a move from a perceived relatively safe working environment to a new job, struggle with the “last in, first out” syndrome hanging over that decision.
In this environment, what job market strategies are available for professionals such as lawyers who are on the path of career advancement?
Should you list yourself with your resume on employment websites and wait for recruitment firms and employers to discover you? What if your current employer found out that you were promoting yourself on a jobs board?
Professionals have been joining one website and listing their career histories and achievements on it. That website is LinkedIn.com
On 14 April 2011, a senior LinkedIn executive revealed: “We’ve hit 2 million members in Australia, a major milestone.”
It is an interesting conundrum that listing one’s details on a jobs board website has all sorts of negative connotations but listing virtually the same information on the LinkedIn website is widely considered to be the savvy thing to do.
Since its beginning, LinkedIn has advertised itself as providing an opportunity to connect with colleagues and potential clients. The jobs board aspect of the website seemed to be more quietly promoted. This is no longer the case. See the videos below for example.
Cliff Rosenberg, Managing Director for LinkedIn in Australia and New Zealand disclosed “our growth has been driven by Australian professionals”.
According to Mr Rosenberg “LinkedIn opens you to a talent pool of professionals in the market who aren’t looking for jobs, but are open to a discussion.”
LinkedIn is now THE place to be found, if you want to be found.
An increasing number of employers and recruitment firms are using this extremely valuable database to undertake searches for high quality staff.
You may not be actively looking for a new role but there may be people actively looking for someone like you, particularly when the number of respondents to certain job ads are low or in some cases non-existent.
Employers can always advertise a position but what happens when they don’t get a satisfactory response? They have to go searching and LinkedIn is a good place to start.
In putting yourself “out there” however, there are some pitfalls to be avoided, and they go to the honesty and integrity of what you are saying about yourself, and what others are saying about you.
In being so exposed to public scrutiny, you do want to make sure that everything you post (and is posted about you) is true and accurate. This is not a case of caveat emptor rather caveat venditor.
Until that next job finds you on LinkedIn, you can still take advantage of the website’s many other benefits such as connecting with colleagues, joining groups of people with similar interests and putting yourself in front of potential clients.
23 April 2011
© 2011 Lawrence Atkinson & Peter Frankl
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.
providing for competent work practices
providing for effective, timely and courteous communication
providing for timely review, delivery and follow up of legal services
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
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
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
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.