During recent weeks, there have been conflicting opinions on bank borrowing, particularly as it affects professional firms. One piece of advice, aimed primarily at law firms, expounded the view that firms which did not borrow more while interest rates were so low would be exhibiting behaviour ‘almost bordering on professional negligence’. By contrast, with comments directed at a broader market, portfolio managers want companies to pay off debt instead of paying large dividends to shareholders.
Cloud computing is no longer a cyber-playground for early adopters. It is now the digital backbone for individuals and companies that demand highly secure, infinitely scalable, perpetually accessible, and centrally managed data centres maintained by highly trained IT professionals.
For those privileged to be managing a law firm – and it is a privilege – getting decisions made and implemented is key to stopping balls from hitting the back of the net. Some leaders base their management style on tolerance and persuasion. On the face of it, this is highly laudable but, to counter-balance it, there needs to be a spirit of co-operation and performance on the part of those being managed. As we all know, this is not always the case.
360 feedback puts the individual in the spotlight. Delivered well, it can be powerful stuff, providing real evidence of ability and showing up what behaviours work well with colleagues and clients, and what rubs them up the wrong way. It’s a great way of bringing people to an understanding of how they affect other people at work. In terms of the regulatory requirement to provide evidence of competence to practise, it hits the nail on the head.
It is encouraging to see a number of recent surveys showing conveyancer and consumer confidence both on the up and higher than last year, as this suggests that business and personal prospects are improving. However, the government may well be playing Scrooge this year as the austerity plans for 2016 are the equivalent of taking out 0.5% GDP growth per quarter and its much trumpeted stamp duty reforms appear to have killed off transactions at the top end of the market.
Ever since the legislators introduced the Access to Justice Act in 2000, claimant personal injury law firms have taken a whipping of some sort; from insurers blaming them for escalating car insurance costs to the media berating the sector for the UK’s perceived claims culture. Then in 2013, LASPO was introduced and in 2015 when it really started to bite, impacting work streams and revenues, George Osborne stuck the knife in yet again with the Autumn Statement.
So, as if there wasn’t enough going on, the Competition and Markets Authority unexpectedly weighed in this week with its study into the supply of legal services to consumers and SMEs. This will be widely derided in the profession as more unwarranted interference from those outside the law (ie, they don’t know what they’re doing). Certainly, there does seem to be an unprecedented anti-lawyer narrative emerging.
Cybersecurity, agility and digitisation of the courts will be the top IT concerns for law firms in 2016, according to a number of our law firm clients. We’ve seen cybercrime impact organisations as never before, so it’s critical that firms have plans in place to protect data, systems and client information. Who would have thought that a 15-year old could hack into a telecommunications company or that we would hear about less-than-sophisticated scams targeting firm and client bank accounts via emailed links?
It has become a commonplace – I have bowed to convention and endorsed the notion myself – to observe that law firms are labour-, not capital-, intensive, and that (here’s the dangerous and subtle segue) therefore there would be no benefit to them in taking on outside investors, much less going public. This is often combined, at least by the more nuanced, with a brief observation on the perils of law firms’ taking on a material amount, or any amount, of debt. But what if the conventional wisdom is mistaken?
I recently read a very interesting article comparing how aviation and healthcare respond to and learn from mistakes. This is very relevant to the NHS, and might lead them to understand how they should investigate mistakes in the future.