The Council for Licensed Conveyancers has long argued that the scope of regulation of legal services is a muddled patchwork. The system of ‘reservation’ of legal services has grown up over time on no systematic basis and needs to be reviewed to ensure it is genuinely protecting consumers and supporting innovation and growth.
Given the massive global push to take computing off premises, a move to the cloud in the legal sector is inevitable – in fact, it is already happening. Analysts today are more or less unanimous in predicting that cloud computing will provide the technology foundation for businesses in the near future. According to Forester, we are on the verge of the second wave (application-focused) of cloud computing and we will increasingly find cloud providers focusing on the provision of next-generation applications in the cloud. The legal sector must partake of this opportunity.
Although many legal businesses claim to have introduced enlightened client-based practices, the existence of widespread poor satisfaction levels is arguably the sector’s Achilles heel, acting as a drag on performance in an era of fierce competition. It is also the reason that everyone from consumer representatives to regulators of the profession can continue to chide the sector for harbouring outdated attitudes and being demonstrably out of tune with modern shoppers for goods and services.
Mention the term succession planning in a law firm’s offices and most people over the age of 55 wince like a snail on a salt lick. So I suggest we abolish the phrase ‘succession planning’ and replace it with the term ‘success planning’. After all, what most law firm planning seeks to achieve is a successful outcome for the lawyers who want out or to slow down a bit, for the lawyers who are building for their future, for the financial stability of the law firm itself and, lest we forget them, for the firm’s clients who may be about to lose access to a trusted adviser.
Claims management companies continue to generate negative headlines but all too often it’s a handful of rogue companies that give genuine legal services businesses like mine a bad name. This needs to stop. And here’s why.
The personal injury industry is waiting with bated breath for the government to publish its consultation paper following the proposals in the Chancellor’s last Autumn Statement that the small claims limit could rise from £1,000 to £5,000, and that injured victims of road traffic accidents would no longer be able to claim for whiplash. These reforms could dramatically change the way that people claim in the future, and how solicitors’ firms operate.
I read with interest a recent report by Citizens Advice on litigants in person (LiPs) that said the “distrust of lawyers is exacerbated by stories in the media about ‘fat-cat’ lawyers who overcharge and underdeliver”. And it led me to think – where does this image come from? I can only think the public’s perception of law firms is somewhat confused having watched too many Americanised legal dramas, such as Suits, The Good Wife and, if you’re of a certain age, LA Law.
The findings earlier this month of solicitors’ knowledge and understanding of the SRA Handbook – as detailed in work done by Dr Steven Vaughan – present a worrying yet unsurprising picture. Perhaps the lack of understanding is unsurprising when you consider that the current SRA Code of Conduct is 30 pages long and is supported by another 400-plus pages of rules and regulations. That’s 200 pages fewer than just two years ago, but it is still too much to expect anyone to remember it all.
Evidence suggests the gap between successful and failing law firms is growing, a fact supported by the large number of firms that are under financial stress. It seems the gap will only widen given the constant pressure on law firms to reduce price and increase value. Unfortunately for some firms the gap may have become a chasm and some will fail to reach the other side. In markets where price and value are critical dynamics, history shows the battle is won on the customer experience.
IT has been a major investment and a major headache for all businesses for many years. High resource costs, increasing support costs, laughable licencing costs, expensive change and implementation, poor reliability and decidedly average functionality, are not what we all thought we were buying. Those of you with large IT departments or recent investments in off-the-shelf software, look away now as this article may upset you. The IT service of the future will be customisable, versatile and cost effective. It will do what you want when you want it to and you will only pay a small, monthly fee that covers exactly what you use and no more.