Debt recovery or problem escalation?

  Avid readers of this column (I live in hope) will be familiar with my pieces on competent retainer management.[i] In the last year, I’ve encountered an increase in small practitioners who take their eyes off their aged debtors lists to suddenly discover that they have a serious cash flow problem. Now, the best way

Cutting through fears of criticism and failure

  Fear of criticism and fear of failure are common concerns of early career lawyers. The sources of these fears are divergent, but there are common threads. Graduates will often have been the brightest and the best at school, where failure was a rare experience. Also, university learning style is structured and predictable, compared with

Extracting value from the first hour

  I think I’m OK at the whole productivity/behaviour game. But just recently a client spoke to me so passionately about value lost at early morning log-on that I thought I’d pass the story on. It goes like this… The lawyer arrives, logs on and opens Outlook. He starts scanning his email inbox. In the

Managing expectations via the agreement schedule

  Most firms now divide their client agreements into a set of general conditions which are common for all clients, and a schedule which sets out the essential facts and details of the matter. This works well because (a) each schedule item aligns with the associated field in the practice system, (b) essential information is

The new mobility – opportunity and threat

For some 20 years, delegates in the QLS Practice Management Course (PMC) have been asked what is driving them to be owners or co-owners in law firms. And for 20 years two themes have dominated without exception – money and control. In large practices money typically is first, but control (or related concept) a close

Strategise through your website

Starting this way can powerfully inform the viability of your business model…. The profession currently demonstrates a monumental spread of capabilities in online presence and activity… from the utterly incompetent one page set and forget through to the very active and easy to access (including transactional and assisted transactional) sites. We can say unconditionally that

Bonus Systems – what to measure?

This is the second in this series. (Read Part 1 and Part 3) In this part, we look at bonus structures. We recommend four core principles… simplicity, clarity, consistency and fairness. Simple is best. Complex mixes of qualitative and quantitative can be unhelpful. Indeed, contestable qualitative measures can actually demotivate. Qualitative feedback is fine for

Reviews – be organised, consistent and don’t just discuss money

Large institutional firms are generally more organised than small firms in the employee review process. But there’s no reason why small firms can’t do it just as well. Here are some tips… Make your annual reviews part of your annual forward budgeting process. In other words, plan your costs and fees in the one exercise.

No Charge Time Entries – Winning the War

Itemised time billing is often experienced (rightly or wrongly) as a relentless one way bargain skewed in the firm’s favour. This can produce various payment issues, including discount demands, and eventually broken relationships. Judicious use of no-charge (N/C) entries for some itemised attendances can change this for the better. Don’t fret about throwing away money

Staff Retention – Think the Three Hats

Maintaining a productive relationship with employed lawyers involves wearing three hats – a boss, a professional colleague, and a friend. Over time, every work relationship will only be as good as the poorest fitting hat. Lawyers are usually independently minded – so if you just wear the ‘boss’ hat, eventually you will drive them away