L'importance de la formation continue dans le milieu juridique pour votre pratique, votre pays, et vous
La formation continue dans le secteur juridique se caractérise par l'instruction et la formation juridique qui se poursuivent après qu'un avocat a obtenu son diplôme en droit et, dans la plupart des cas, pratique dans la profession juridique. Dans de nombreuses juridictions, l'organisation professionnelle qui accorde des permis d’exercice aux avocats, telle qu'une association du barreau ou un barreau, exige telle formation juridique. Néanmoins, il incombe fondamentalement aux avocats d’assurer que leurs connaissances et leurs compétences juridiques restent pertinentes, solides et complètes, pour qu’ils puissent offrir une qualité de service qui réponde adéquatement aux attentes de leurs clients ainsi qu’aux exigences de la profession juridique et, finalement, afin qu’ils puissent protéger le public.
La formation continue dans le milieu juridique est un élément clé dans le développement et le progrès des avocats mais aussi de l'industrie juridique, parce qu’une telle formation garantit que les avocats restent compétents dans la profession. De surcroît, à une échelle plus large et encore plus importante, car les avocats sont, à la fois les architectes, les responsables et les agents du droit et de la transformation juridique, une telle formation contribue au développement des capacités dans un pays plus généralement.
Les avocats doivent comprendre et accepter que leur diplôme juridique formel n'est qu'une étape, en réalité seulement la première, dans leur formation juridique. En raison de l'évolution de la loi, de la pratique juridique et de l'obligation professionnelle d'un avocat de se tenir au courant de la loi, les avocats doivent continuer à apprendre pendant leurs carrières pour être efficaces et pour réussir. La formation continue aide les avocats à réaliser cet apprentissage en étendant leurs connaissances de la loi et de la pratique juridique au-delà de ce qu'ils ont appris en classe pendant leurs études juridiques formelles (qui ont souvent eu lieu des années plus tôt). Ainsi, la formation continue ajoute, finalement, de la valeur à l'avocat, à l'employeur de l'avocat, aux clients de l'avocat, puis aux communautés juridiques et générales dans lesquelles l'avocat travaille.
La formation continue renforce les connaissances juridiques des avocats de deux façons : la première, en comblant les lacunes dans la formation juridique d'un avocat et la seconde en élargissant les connaissances techniques et professionnelles d'un avocat dans les domaines dans lesquels l’avocat travaille.
Combler les lacunes dans les connaissances
L'importance de combler les lacunes dans les connaissances est particulièrement pertinente pour les jeunes avocats, mais s'applique aussi aux avocats d’un niveau plus élevé. Concernant la première catégorie, en général, une faculté de droit ne prépare pas les avocats pour la pratique du droit. Ainsi, la formation continue peut être utilisée pour compenser l’écart entre ce qu'un avocat a appris pendant ses études juridiques formelles (à l’école) et ce qu'un avocat doit savoir et comprendre pour être efficace, confiant et compétent pour ses clients.
La formation continue peut:
1. Aider l'avocat à comprendre le type de loi qu'il ou qu’elle pratique; et
2. Préparer l'avocat pour une plus grande participation dans le travail qu’il ou qu’elle fera par la suite.
Tout cela aide les jeunes avocats à devenir plus efficaces au travail.
Comme déjà mentionné, la nécessité de continuer à combler les lacunes dans la formation et dans les connaissances ne s'applique pas seulement aux jeunes avocats. Les avocats d’un niveau plus haut tiennent souvent pour acquis leurs connaissances et leurs expertises. Cependant, les lois elles-mêmes et la pratique juridique évoluent continuellement et cela signifie que la loi qu’on connaissait hier ou la loi qu’on connait aujourd'hui peut être différente demain. En conséquence, même les avocats d’un haut niveau doivent s’instruire continuellement pour être au courant de ces changements de loi, pour être efficaces comme conseillers, et pour être compétents et fiables pour leurs clients. De cette façon, la formation continue aide également à assurer que les compétences et les capacités d'un avocat correspondent aux niveaux exigés et requis par la profession juridique. Un avocat ayant des connaissances périmées est non seulement inefficace, mais peut aussi être dangereux pour ceux qu'il ou qu’elle conseille.
Élargir les connaissances juridiques
La formation continue permet aux avocats d'élargir leurs connaissances et leur expertise juridique au-delà du type de travail qu'ils connaissent déjà pour inclure le type de travail qu'ils veulent faire ou le type de travail qu'ils devraient faire en fonction de la demande des clients. L’élargissement des compétences de l'avocat peut aider l'avocat à garder ses clients et à attirer de nouveaux clients.
De plus, l'élargissement des connaissances juridiques peut aider un avocat à s’enrichir grâce à l'exposition à d'autres types de pratique du droit. Cela améliore aussi la capacité d'un avocat à contribuer aux projets sur lesquels l'avocat travaille déjà. Par exemple, pour un avocat qui consacre beaucoup de temps au règlement des différends, un cours sur la rédaction de contrats pourrait l’aider à comprendre la genèse de l'objet d’un litige. D’autre part, un avocat qui consacre beaucoup de temps aux contrats commerciaux pourrait bénéficier d'un cours sur le règlement des différends pour comprendre les problèmes potentiels pour qu’il ou elle puisse mieux conseiller ses clients.
En outre, la formation en cours d’emploi est nécessairement limitée au scénario présenté par la transaction ou le cas sur lequel l’avocat travaille. Parce qu'elle n'est pas spécifique à une transaction ou à un cas, la formation continue peut élargir la connaissance générale d’un avocat sur le type de droit qu'il ou elle pratique déjà.
Par ailleurs, les avantages de la formation continue s'étendent bien au-delà d’un avocat ou une avocate spécifique comme individu. La formation continue aide aussi chaque avocat à apporter des contributions significatives à son entreprise et à ses équipes.
Ainsi, à la suite de cette formation, il y aura des avocats qui, en général, seront plus compétents et plus efficaces. Ces avocats amélioreront les critères de la profession juridique et accroîtront la confiance du public envers les avocats et la profession juridique. Enfin, les avocats sont non seulement les gens qui maintiennent et appliquent les lois mais aussi les gens qui créent les lois. Par conséquent, plus les avocats savent et mieux ils comprennent la loi comme elle existe aujourd'hui, mieux ils travailleront comme agents du changement juridique positif dans les communautés et les pays dans lesquels ils évoluent.
Combler les lacunes dans les connaissances et élargir les connaissances et l’expertise juridique grâce à la formation continue permettent aux avocats de jouer un rôle proactif dans le développement de leur formation juridique et d’avoir une connaissance complète et holistique de leur pratique et d'autres types de pratique de droit, ce qui crée de meilleurs avocats. Et les meilleurs avocats sont non seulement mieux placés pour obtenir un travail bien respecté et bien rémunéré, mais ils contribuent aussi plus efficacement aux objectifs de développement des capacités dans les pays dans lesquels ils travaillent.
Pour voir comment vos avocats et/ou vous pouvez améliorer votre pratique du droit et vos capacités juridiques, veuillez consulter la liste des cours actuels d'Angaza Africa Law Training sur https://www.angaza.africa.com/content/Course-Descriptions.aspx
The Importance of Continuing Professional Development / Continuing Legal Education for You, Your Practice and Your Country
Continuing professional development (CPD) or continuing legal education (CLE) is the legal instruction that continues after a lawyer has completed his or her degree in law and is, in most cases, practicing as a lawyer. In many jurisdictions, the professional licensing organization such as a bar association or law society requires such legal instruction. In such case, it may be referred to as MCPD or MCLE, meaning “mandatory” continuing professional development or “mandatory” continuing legal education. In either case, it remains fundamentally the professional responsibility of lawyers to ensure that their legal knowledge and skills continue to be relevant, robust and comprehensive so that they can provide a quality of service that adequately responds to the expectations of their clients, responds to the requirements of the legal profession and ultimately protects the public. On a very basic level, CPD/CLE is a key element in the development and progress of lawyers and the legal industry as it ensures lawyers remain competent in their profession. Additionally, however, on a broader and even more significant scale, because lawyers are at the same time, the architects, enforcers and agents of law and legal transformation, such development and progress contributes to the overall capacity development goals of the country.
Lawyers must understand and accept that their formal legal degree is just one stage, in fact, only the preliminary one, in their legal education. Indeed, due to the evolving nature of law and legal practice and to a lawyer’s professional obligation to keep abreast of the law, lawyers must continue to learn as they progress in their careers in order to be effective and successful. CPD/CLE helps lawyers to achieve this learning by extending their knowledge of the law and legal practice beyond what they learned in the classroom during their formal legal education (which in many cases took place years earlier). As such, done effectively, CPD/CLE ultimately adds value to the lawyer, the lawyer’s employer, the lawyer’s clients, and to the legal and broader communities in which the lawyer practices.
CPD/CLE bolsters lawyers’ legal knowledge in two main ways: The first is by filling any gaps in a lawyer’s legal education and the second is by broadening a lawyer’s legal knowledge both in areas such lawyers know and areas they don’t know well.
Filling Knowledge Gaps
The importance of filling educational gaps is particularly relevant for lawyers at a junior level, but also applies to more senior level lawyers. With respect to the former category, it is generally understood that law school alone typically does not prepare a lawyer for legal practice. Thus, CPD/CLE can be used to fill the knowledge gap between what a lawyer acquired during their formal legal studies and what a lawyer needs to know and understand to be an effective, confident and competent representative for his or her clients. CPD/CLE may assist by:
1. Helping the lawyer’s general understanding of the type of law he or she is practicing; and
2. Preparing the lawyer for future higher value participation in deals and/or cases.
All of which assist junior lawyers to become more effective in the workplace.
As noted, however, the need to continue to fill educational and knowledge gaps does not apply only to lawyers in junior positions. Lawyers who are in a senior level of legal practice often take for granted their knowledge and expertise. However, as we know, laws themselves and legal practice are continuously evolving and this means that the law you knew yesterday or the law you know today may be different tomorrow. As such, even senior lawyers need to continuously educate themselves to be aware of those changes, to be effective, competent, reliable counsel to their clients. In this way, CPD/CLE also helps ensure that a lawyer’s skills and capabilities keep pace with the current standards of other lawyers. A lawyer with outdated information knowledge is not only inefficient, but can also be dangerous to those he/she is advising.
Broadening Legal Knowledge
CPD/CLE additionally allows lawyers to broaden their legal knowledge and expertise beyond the type of work they already know to include the type of work they may want to be doing or the type of work that they should be doing based on client demand. Broadening the lawyer's skills can help the lawyer keep the clients the lawyer has and help the lawyer attract new clients.
Another positive point with respect to broadening one’s legal knowledge is gaining exposure to other types of practices. This also enhances a lawyer’s ability to contribute to the deals, projects or cases the lawyer works on. For example, for a lawyer who spends a lot of time on dispute resolution, a course on contract writing could help such lawyer understand the genesis of the subject of the litigation and vice versa, a lawyer who spends a majority of his or her time on commercial contracts might likewise benefit from a course on dispute resolution to understand what might go wrong and what that might mean for the client.
Finally, on-the-job learning is valuable but is necessarily limited to the scenario presented by the transaction or case at hand. Because it is not specific to one transaction, CPD/CLE can broaden lawyers’ specific knowledge of the types of law they already practice.
The benefits of CPD/CLE extend far beyond the lawyer as an individual, however. Continuing legal education helps lawyers make meaningful contributions to their firm and teams. In addition, it leads to more knowledgeable, competent and effective lawyers, which improve legal professional standards and lead to increased public confidence in legal professionals and the profession as a whole. Finally, because lawyers are not only the enforcers of the law in any given jurisdiction, but indeed the creators of it, the more that individual lawyers know and the better they themselves understand the law as it exists today, the better agents for positive legal change they are in the communities and countries in which they practice.
Filling educational gaps and broadening legal education through CPD/CLE allow lawyers to take a proactive role in their legal education development and, if done correctly, should provide an ongoing, holistic and comprehensive view of the lawyer’s practice as well as how their practice interacts with other types of law and practices, which makes on the whole better lawyers. And better lawyers not only are better positioned to get more and better work (and to charge more for that work) but also contribute more completely to the overall capacity development goals of the country in which they practice.
To see the ways in which you or your lawyers may improve your legal practice and abilities, please view the list of Angaza Africa Law Training’s current courses at https://www.angaza.africa.com/content/Course-Descriptions.aspx. Click here to contact us at Krescent for advice on your law firm's training program.
Krescent's Client Acquisition and Retention Strategies: What General Counsel Look for in Outside Counsel: Tip 1
Many African law firms serve as local counsel to international firms, providing expertise on local law matters in their jurisdictions. To assist these law firms with their client acquisition and retention strategies, we asked the general counsels at two fortune 500 companies several questions surrounding what they looked for in outside counsel. This week, we will provide the answer to the following question: "What are some things that once hired outside counsel can do to make general counsel particularly happy?"
When asked this question, our first general counsel responded: “Clear communication. If I ask a question over email, I expect a response over email that addresses my question. I'm generally clear about whether I'm asking for strategic or specific advice. It's important that responses address my stated question. That may seem obvious, it isn't so obvious to everyone. I've gotten strategic responses to specific questions. If outside counsel can anticipate issues or offer to advise on related items.”
The second one stated: “Proactivity is key. If the firm is doing more than simply responding to questions or issues that I raise and instead is attempting to issue spot and come up with creative solutions, the firm is making me extremely happy.”
Three elements are central to these general counsel responses:
1. The first is listening. Attorneys must listen to what the client is specifically asking for and provide that to them. Although your off-topic advice might seem, or even be, valuable, if you give your client something other than what they've asked for, they are unlikely to be satisfied. Listen first, understand the request and respond to that. If there is room for elucidation on a particular point or points you can do so following your having provided the initial requested response.
2. The second is anticipating. Beyond responding to a client's specific request, attorneys need also anticipate ancillary and related matters that might impact the client or the client's business. This is not only a benefit to the client from a strategic perspective, but it also affords you the opportunity the showcase your own capabilities and breadth of expertise.
3. The third is understanding. In order to effectively and fully serve your clients, you must have a thorough understanding of the matter (i.e. the deal, transaction, litigation, etc.), client specific issues and the law that supports the client's and opposing parties' positions. Understanding is also an essential component to anticipating and will help ensure your clients' ultimate satisfaction.
In our next publication, we will share insights on what outside counsel can do to make general counsels unhappy.
For help with your law firm's marketing strategy, please contact us.
As the results unfolded in the early hours of November 9, many people sat in shocked horror at what was happening. Reality TV star and real-estate tycoon, Donald Trump, was to be declared the next president of the United States of America despite many peoples’ belief that this would be an impossible feat. So, what happened? How did Donald Trump, a man with zero political experience, win the arguably most powerful political position in the world?
There are several political and social lessons to be learned from Donald Trump’s winning the 2016 U.S. election, but only one will be discussed here: the benefits of effective marketing. In this article, we will outline 7 key marketing lessons learned from soon to be President Trump’s political campaign to win the White House:
Lesson 1: Give your customers and clients exactly what they want. Donald Trump’s marketing brilliance came largely through thoroughly understanding what his potential constituents wanted and promising it to them. He had determined early on that two issues at the core of his constituents’ concerns were illegal immigration and domestic terrorism. As a result, he came out very strong in favor of the deportation of illegal immigrants, the building of a wall along the Mexican border and the denial of entry into America of Muslims. Notwithstanding being critiqued for veering too far from political correctness, in so doing, he provided his constituents with what they wanted. In fact, he was the only one who really heard what this group of people was asking for. Responding directly to their needs initially created loyalty and eventually completed the sale. In your business, you must also determine what exactly it is your customers and clients really want. To determine what that is, ask: What are they missing? What gaps in the market can you fill? What do they care about? What will drive them to purchase what you are offering? Once you find the answers to these questions, simply give it to them, even if (or arguably especially if) it’s never been given to them before.
Lesson 2: Find an untapped, possibly, niche market and cater to it. Part of the reason that people did not think that Donald Trump could win the presidency was that he preached non-mainstream ideologies. Yet, on November 8, a large group of individuals came forward in support of the man who came to represent such ideologies. Why? Donald Trump had found a smaller, largely unrepresented (or at least underrepresented) niche and unwaveringly catered to it. In doing that, he ultimately turned this niche into a pro-Trump movement that gained enough traction to win a U.S. presidency. The takeaway from this is to look at the portions of your potential clients and customers that are not being adequately served and serve them. If done correctly, this niche market can gain enough momentum to eventually become a non-niche, large client or customer base.
Lesson 3: Have a consistent, memorable and focused marketing message that speaks directly to your clients and customers’ wants and needs. Donald Trump determined that his constituents, a large portion of Americans who felt disenfranchised, craved a positive political change that would directly assist them and improve their social and economic situations. Using the brand, “Make America Great Again” as the backdrop for every marketing message he delivered, he was able to propagandize and reinforce a uniform and unforgettable campaign message that made it clear what he stood for (indeed, to the point that he never had to explain his plan for the presidency). In your business, whether it is a start-up or established, you need also consistently communicate your marketing message at every possible opportunity so that your potential clients and customers know precisely what they would be buying in your services or product.
Lesson 4: Make a clear distinction between you and your competition. In marketing and branding terms, this is called differentiation. Donald Trump spent much of his campaign driving the point home that he was simply just not Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. And despite his lack of clear vision for the country, this worked. Like Donald Trump, you too need to be visibly and clearly different from your own competitors. This differentiation not only lies in the product or services you are offering, but also in the branding and messaging of the company or firm that provides them.
Lesson 5: Rebrand yourself in the image of what your clients or customers are looking for: Donald Trump was once upon a democrat and apparently switched allegiances in 2008 when he endorsed John McCain in his bid for president. Could it be that Mr. Trump, in advance of running for president himself, determined that his best shot at winning was on a republican ticket? If we assume that this is in fact what happened, we can learn the lesson from his rebranding effort and subsequent win that clients and customers are indeed more likely to ally themselves with and buy products or services from an individual or entity whose brand they believe in. In your business, you must also brand based on what your target clients and customers are looking for.
Lesson 6: Show people that others love your product or services. Donald Trump did exactly this in his presidential campaign by making sure he showed and spoke about how many people loved and followed him. He even audaciously stated that he could go on to New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters (and he might have been right). Beyond showing that he was a “tough guy” (another part of his marketing strategy), this language also told people just how much others loved him and what he was offering, and made many ask themselves whether they should like it too. Clearly when several people asked themselves the latter question, the answer was yes, as evidenced by Trump’s ultimate win. It’s understandable that this worked, however. We’re human. And as such, very few things are as compelling as “other people are doing it”. In your business, find ways to show how much people like your product or services through tactics such as testimonials and watch the number of people who agree with those who like those offerings grow.
Lesson 7: Find ways to obtain free marketing. Being controversial got Donald Trump a lot of extra free advertising space. He was constantly “trending.” By dominating the online social media conversation, he was able to promote his message in many cases for free. In fact, it is said that Donald Trump generated about $5 billion in free media. We believe the takeaway is that you and your business must determine ways to be part of the social media conversation. And to the extent possible, you should find ways to lead the conversation. In order to get free marketing, get on line and speak up.
(See the following chart below to get a sense of what Trump accomplished in terms of free marketing by using his voice, speaking up and giving people what they wanted).
In conclusion, popular vote loss or not, Donald Trump remains the President-elect of the United States and in January, he will be sworn in. Rather than remaining depressed as many people justifiably are, we should start taking away valuable lessons for our own businesses.
For help with your business or law firm’s marketing, please contact us.
Many interesting, and completely viable, marketing ideas circulate in the law firm marketing world. Nonetheless, whether the marketing idea is to host a conference or publish a weekly blog or e-alerts for clients, law firm managers and firm marketing experts need to know whether their marketing efforts are indeed working. In other words, they must determine which of the firm’s marketing activities are actually yielding positive results - new, valuable, clients for the firm.
The key to understanding what’s working and what might be a waste of time and money is to calculate your marketing conversion rates. A marketing conversion rate is the ratio, usually expressed as a percentage, of people (or entities) who become firm clients or, in some cases, request a proposal for services, out of the number of people (or entities) who participated in or were exposed to your marketing activity. For example, from a conference you hosted, the marketing conversion rate would be the percentage of attendees who ultimately became clients or out of the number of people who read a blog entry, how many later became clients.
This marketing metric is one of the most important metrics that help law firms understand whether the money and time they are putting into various marketing efforts are increasing the law firm’s clientele. Marketing activities with low conversion rates need to be reviewed, but reviewed with an open mind.
It might be that such marketing activity is not what your clients or potential clients are interested in. However, it could also mean that it is not the activity or the subject matter that’s the problem, but rather the specific content. Whatever the case, law firm managers will need to carefully assess what changes need to be made based on further market research, such as surveys and other forms of follow-up with participants in the unsuccessful marketing attempt to determine whether the problem is topical, format-based or you are simply not using the right venue or medium to reach your target clients.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned, it is important not to get too carried away by blindly basing marketing decisions exclusively on your conversion rates. Three points are relevant here. The first is, marketing activities might have other benefits outside of new client generation. It is possible that participating in certain marketing campaigns results in the overall improvement of your brand and standing within your legal community by showcasing your law firm’s voice and expertise in a certain area or areas. The second is, it might be that rather than producing clients immediately, some marketing efforts result in clients much further down the line. It is therefore essential that you track all marketing activities to know who has participated so that if later in time it has been converted into a sale, you understand the marketing related genesis of that work. Third is, conversion rates are only part of the story. Firms also need to ensure that its marketing-related undertakings are increasing the number of valuable target clients. In other words, even if your marketing efforts are resulting in high conversion rates, if the type of clients that you are getting are not the type of clients that help you improve your bottom line, you still need to have another look at your marketing efforts to see where changes should and can be made. We will address the return on investment metric in a later post.
For help with your law firm’s marketing, please contact us.
Lawyers, even founding partners, cannot remain at their law firms forever. Legal careers can wind up at retirement, appointment to government office and for other reasons. Many African law firms will one day find themselves having to answer the worrying question of what happens after the principal attorney leaves the firm. In this article, we will discuss the four main ways of ensuring a law firm’s continuity following such departure.
1. The Establishment of “Core Values” and Proper Law Firm Branding: Both the establishment of core values and branding relate to determining and advocating who a firm is and how it wants to represent itself both internally and externally.
· Core values: Core values are a firm’s sustainable and long-term shared principles, beliefs and philosophies that guide how the firm will operate and be managed. These core values should be clearly documented and articulated and inform all management decisions and firm strategies.
· Branding: Branding is the process of determining what a firm represents and how it will communicate that to the world through words, actions and visual presentation. A firm’s brand should also be well documented and articulated and be taken into consideration in all firm decisions and strategies.
· Key to Succession Planning: The firm’s core values and brand should be laid out to and internalized by all members of staff, both legal and non-legal, such that all individual contributors to the firm are aware of and may promote these principals internally and externally. Both core values and brand are important to succession planning in that they relate the firm’s identity to the firm as an institution rather than to any individual therein. If a brand is effectively established and the core values are ingrained into the fabric of the firm, the absence of the principal will not be as detrimental.
2. Recruitment and Hiring Policies: Firms must recruit and hire in a manner that ensures that the firm is attracting talent that not only suits its current needs, but also both enhances the firm’s professional standing and is consistent with future firm leaders' requirements. In other words, firms must guarantee that the attorneys that start at the firm can move up the firm’s ranks and eventually be successful, profitable and well-respected firm owners.
· Policies and Procedures: To safeguard ongoing effective and strategic recruitment in the absence of a founding principal, firms must set up policies and procedures to support recruitment and hiring that clearly outline the academic, experiential and personal qualifications an attorney must have to join the firm and the precise procedures one must follow to intake new attorneys. These policies and procedures are most effectively recorded in the form of a hiring manual.
· Key to Succession Planning: Policies and procedures ensure that when the principal has departed, there remains a pool of talented and qualified individuals who will preserve the continuity of the firm, including the firm’s core values and brand. Such policies and procedures also make it more likely that this pool will continue to grow and develop over time even in the absence of the principal.
3. Training: Training is one aspect of firm management that is often overlooked by law firms and senior attorneys. Once the firm has hired talent that has the potential to lead and grow the firm, it must provide these potential leaders with proper training to turn them into effective leaders.
· Policies and Procedures: Every firm should put into place a structure and policy for training its attorneys. This training should include both practical, on-the-job training, as well as technical skills based training in practice areas and non-practice areas such as business development, sales and professional development.
· Key to Succession Planning: In the context of succession planning, training is not only important to developing leadership skills for future firm leaders. It is also important for retaining the best talent. The firm’s attorneys will value receiving good training, and assisting them to attain such training will not only create better lawyers who will enhance the firm’s brand and product, but also produce lawyers who are more likely to be loyal to the firm.
4. Attorney Incentive Structure and Policy: Incentives typically relate to bonuses, raises and promotions, including promotion to partner.
· Policies and Procedures: Having clear policies and procedures relating to incentives, including under what circumstances they will be granted, is vital in terms of talent retention. In a law firm where fairness and the perception of fairness have been established and where individuals see a clear path to advancement, such individuals are less likely to depart. Compensation and clear and uniform rules regarding promotion, raises and bonuses are essential to retaining the talent the firm has acquired and developed in accordance with points 2 and 3 above.
· Key to Succession Planning: Like training, an appropriate incentive structure, and policies and procedures to support it, are crucial components to attracting and retaining the best talent who will eventually manage and own the firm.
Fundamental to each of these categories is the concept of decentralization. In other words, it is important to avoid concentrating a firm's expertise, reputation, etc. in a single founding partner such that when that partner departs, the firm collapses.
The principal (or you as principal) might not be considering a departure/retirement for many years. However, it is imperative that the firm be proactive and have values and systems in place such that when the principal does move on, the firm can successfully continue. Further, the sooner these systems are put into place and the longer they are established and operating, the more central they will become to the law firm’s business and thus the more likely they will be able to stand on their own. The occasion of a principal’s departure is not the time for succession planning. Planning needs to be done on a long-term sustained basis starting now so that a culture of continuity is established for the firm.
The aforementioned are typical succession/legacy planning related concerns. However, it will be necessary for each firm to independently identify its specific succession issues and plan for them.
For help with your succession planning, please contact us.
At Krescent, we emphasise the importance of law firm managers thinking like business people in addition to like lawyers. You didn’t get to your position without being good at what you do - that is being a lawyer. However, law firm managers need to also see themselves as business people in order to run a successful legal business. After all, your law firm practice is, and therefore should be run, like a business.
Last week, Stephen Fairley of the Rainmaker Institute wrote an article entitled “How to Run Your Law Firm Like a Business.” In it, he outlined 10 major contributing factors to law firm success. While we think his points are all valid, we have created our own list more applicable to African law firms, in particular newer African law firms:
1. Focus on Marketing: Law firms must have a good and implementable marketing plan. Start with what has worked for you in the past and duplicate and magnify that. In addition, reflect upon what’s not working and stop that immediately. Finally, look for new ways to reach target clients. Don’t be afraid to try a variety of things to see what works such as writing articles, speaking at conferences or becoming more active on social media.
2. Increase Sales: It is not enough, however, to have an effective marketing plan. You need to also spend time closing the deal and increasing your number of clients – in other words, converting potential clients into paying clients. One key aspect of this conversion is following-up. Create a potential client follow-up schedule and stick to it.
3. Perform the Services Well: If you’re doing it right, your marketing and sales efforts will lead to an increase in requests for your services. You want to make sure that you perform the requested services to the highest degree of quality possible. Otherwise, those clients will fall prey to other law firms’ marketing and sales efforts. Ask for feedback from your clients to make sure you are getting this one right.
4. Hire the Right People: As your work load increases, you may need to hire more attorneys to do it. That is the situation you want to be in. However, you need to focus on smart hiring. That is hiring attorneys that will contribute positively to your firm’s culture, maintain and enhance your law firm’s brand and eventually enhance the reputation of your firm. These additions should lead, in turn, to a better product to market (i.e. your firm’s services) and increased sales - a virtuous circle. Smart hiring requires a specific plan for identifying and attracting the right individuals. Know your market, create a plan and stick to it for success in this area.
5. Implement Firm Policies and Procedures: Like any business, law firms need policies and procedures to ensure effective and efficient operations and profitability such as hiring, training, client intake and/or collections policies. Not all firms will need every policy. You should choose policies and procedures based on your business’s needs and goals and make sure everyone who works for you has received, understood and bought into them.
6. Find the Right Office Location: You must situate your office and design a space that reflects your brand, but also realistically reflects your financial situation and location of your clients and potential clients. These choices speak volumes about you and your business. Think wisely about your office location.
7. Understand your Finances: This is a factor often missed by attorneys. You need to understand the finances of your law firm business in order to effectively manage your business and to find success. If numbers are not your speciality, hire someone who knows the legal business and can advise you.
8. Understand your Law Firm’s Performance Metrics: You need to gain a full understanding of your firm’s health and profitability, including what’s working and what’s not. Law firm performance metrics are one way to measure these. Key law firm performance metrics for African law firms include:
- Effective hourly rates
- Utilization rates
- Profit margin
- Return on investment
9. Be Forward-Thinking: Assuming that you have followed the above advice, you are now running a successful law firm. However, do not rest on your laurels. As law firm managers, you must always stay in front of change and anticipate new areas for growth and development.
10. Remain Educated: You are your law firm business’s product, so you need to make sure that you are selling the most updated version of that product. In addition to staying active with client work, you should keep yourself up to date with the best, most recent legal knowledge.
To read Stephen Fairley’s article, please go to http://www.therainmakerblog.com/2016/10/articles/law-firm-management-2/how-to-run-your-law-firm-like-a-business/
In his article, entrepreneur, angel investor and self-made millionaire, Gerard Adams recommends all entrepreneurs skydive more than once. While we don’t necessarily promote skydiving itself, Mr. Adams makes several excellent points:
1. Entrepreneurs must learn to face their fears. Mr. Adams advocates that entrepreneurs reframe their mind set such that rather than fearing the unknown, they fear “never knowing.” We couldn’t agree more. Your business idea could be the next great one and one that contributes positively to the development of the continent. If you don’t try it, you will never know.
2. Although, as a general matter, entrepreneurs typically jump without a parachute, they must still “put on a brave face, look over the edge and jump.” In other words, it is great to have an idea for a new business venture, but without action, it is just that, an idea. When you have that great idea, look over at what lies below, but then do jump.
3. In comparing skydiving to entrepreneurship, Adams observes that both activities require one to analyse whether one is living life to the fullest. He suggests entrepreneurs need make sure they are doing so. If you’re reading this, it is because you have a concept that you are thinking of or are working on. If you leave that behind, you have to ask yourself “am I living my life to the fullest?”
4. Mr. Adams emphasizes the importance of building a team that believes in your mission. You will need a group of trustworthy individuals to aid you in your new venture. Choose wisely, but do choose as acting alone is often the more difficult path.
5. People have been defying the odds long before you started your business. You can do the same through “willpower, faith and drive.” Don’t be afraid of your good idea. Even when it seems difficult or complicated. People have successfully completed difficult tasks before you.
6. As entrepreneurs, we must get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order to find success. This is very true. Once we remove ourselves from the model of having a steady income or accept that we might have to go into a room of people to ask them for money, we are freer to find success.
7. Mr. Adam’s final point is that entrepreneurs need to have fun by celebrating successes and wins. We believe that you should learn from mistakes, but that it is equally important to celebrate the successes.
To view his complete article “7 Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Should Go Skydiving More Than Once,” go to https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/283138