Quality – How do Clients Know?

The Law Society urges clients to “choose quality advice”. You spend 3 years on a law degree, 3 more years qualifying as a solicitor, then add several more years honing your skills and adding experience. Then some client complains about the quality of what you do. What do they know?

Unless you client is an in-house lawyer, the answer will be “not that much” even with the internet. After all, that is why they have come to you as a legal expert. This means that they are not able to judge your legal expertise, so they will not. They will take it for granted.

As a result, clients have to judge the quality of what you do by other criteria. This means in particular how you guide them through what is often a scary process. Additionally, do you do what you say you will do, when you said you would do it? Do they know what the process will cost, and if that changes, do you tell them?

In short, can they have confidence in you?

More on this topic in the future.


Slump in Number of Law Students

According to the Lawyer, the number of students applying to study law has gone down by a record 5.2%, using UCAS figures. There had been a sharp increase in applications following the banking collapse in 2008.

In fairness to the Law Society (a phrase not used that often) they have been warning prospective students that finding a training contract is difficult, so not all law students will qualify. And I have not seen that students are suing law schools for misrepresenting the likelihood of a successful career, as has happened in the USA.

Yes, all this is in the context of an overall decline in university applications of 9%, caused by tuition fee increases. It still means fewer lawyers in the pipeline. What students need to realise though is that a law degree is a good stand alone qualification. It is challenging, and trains the mind. And the more traditional understand what it is. There is no necessity to go along the tram lines to a legal career, unless that is what you want to do.

Do we have too many lawyers? That is another discussion.

Do you Need an MBA to Manage a Law Firm?

Article in the Lawyer here.

The short answer is No (and this from a solicitor with a MBA). Steve Jobs did not have an MBA, nor does Bill Gates, and they both built large and successful companies. And if they are too entrepreneurial, Terry Leahy of Tesco did not either.

Yes, lawyers need increasingly to think like business people, but an MBA is not necessary. Instead it is expensive, and a great deal of work. The vast majority of law firms are really small or medium-sized enterprises, and not hugely complicated. A qualification aimed largely at corporates is not a good fit.

Lawyers need to understand how their firms work, and in the present climate particularly the money side, but would generally be better off with a more tailored approach. And few people will be both good lawyers and high level managers at the same time.

On the other hand, if you want to do an MBA for fun, interest and the opportunity to meet fascinating people, go for it!

What is Success Anyway?

Wales finished fourth in the Rugby World Cup, their highest placing since the first competition in 1987. Most fans and players are disappointed not to have done better. However, at the same time, Wales have slipped 2 places down the world rankings to 8th. Success and failure at the same time?

The classic lawyer’s answer to any question is “it depends”, and that applies here. What is the target to measure success? That defines success or failure.

In a legal business the most important target might be set by the bank, with additional targets picked by partners. But assuming you have some scope to pick your own targets, if you decide to grow by 20% in 5 years, and you achieve it, that must be a success. That your competitor grows by 50% in the same period does not change that. Unless you have picked the wrong target….

First 90 Days – Promote Yourself

A classic mistake that many people make on being promoted (whether internally or in a new firm) is failing to promote themselves. That does NOT mean setting up a campaign to tell your employer and colleagues just how wonderful you are, even if it happens to be true. It means internalising your promotion, and recognising that you are no longer doing the old job.

Yes it seems obvious. Yet the temptation for the lawyer who has just made partner by grinding through chargeable hours is to expect to be successful by doing more of the same. The new job might instead require much more emphasis on staff management, client management and so on. By continuing to act as they did in the old job, the lawyer sets themselves up to fail as a partner.

As a business executive once remarked, everybody is more comfortable doing the job one level below their own – that will come more easily, be less stressful, and be less open to criticism. But if you want the promotion, it is the new job that you have to do.


The Law of Rule?

The Government through Ken Clarke has introduced a Green Paper proposing secret court hearings:

“Under the government’s plans, all “sensitive” information held by MI5 and MI6 would be discussed in secret court hearings. “Special advocates”, security vetted and approved by the government, would see the information on behalf of individual defendants or claimants but not would not be able to reveal it to them.

Such procedures, or alternatively vetted jurors, could also be used in coroners’ inquests, the government has said. An alternative would be to vet family members, but the government concedes that “could be extremely distressing for a family grieving the loss of a relative” and that some relatives may not agree.”

Rest of the Guardian’s report here, and one of the cases that prompted the Green Paper here.

Is anyone else as suspicious as I am? The Green Paper starts:

“The first duty of government is to safeguard our national security.” Nothing there about safeguarding the liberty of the people, nor the Common Law.

We have had abusive secret courts before in England, and even more in Wales, in the Star Chamber. I for one do not want them again.

H/T Tim Worstall