The X Appeal

As I walked through the happiest place in the UK and observed all the wannabees queueing up to sing in a tent it made me think about what makes a solicitor or costs lawyer stand out from the crowd.

 In a solicitor’s case, it maybe the ability to make sense of the most complicated case and win. The ability to build a relationship with clients. I was interested to read that firms are not automatically recruiting trainees with the highest grades, but are looking at graduates with business acumen and other qualities such as marketing, client care and those able to generate new business for instance.

So what makes us stand out from the crowd? Traditionally, costs draftsmen only became involved at the end of the case to draft the bill of costs and negotiate settlement.  However, we prefer to start off earlier than that. By drafting the retainer, being involved in file management and in-house training we go further to maximising your firm’s profitability. By identifying alternative business opportunities and working in conjunction with business consultants, we help your business grow – not just survive. By highlighting changes in law as soon as they come out, we help your firm react and where necessary adjust to the new opportunities that we can create.

In the current climate, doing what you did last year, does not keep you ahead of the game. Give us a call and see what difference we can make. Call 01228 63 55 45 now.

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What is your time worth?

Some time ago there was a TV ad featuring BT and Gordon Ramsey (neither of which top my favourites list); which spelled out with fantastic accuracy the small-business dilemma. You might recall; it showed Gordon lying on the floor opening the back of his computer with a carving knife.

So, hands up – which business owners are guilty of doing something similar to this? I know I am.

In the ad, there is a great compounding of errors which includes ruining an essential business tool (the carving knife) and ruining another essential business tool (the computer) as well as the absurdity of the kitchen running out of control whilst Gordon messes up the computer.

It’s OTT, but it is also very real.

Most small-business owners, asked to put a value on their time, will come up with a reasonable figure – say £2 – 500 a day – yet most of us will happily spend half a day doing what a professional could do in an hour – without collateral risk.  In the case of solicitors, the billable hour is rated at £111-500 or more in some cases. So why would a solicitor want to spend time on non-chargeable work?

To an extent this approach is encouraged in business literature; Duncan Bannatytne, for example states that the first thing he did was learn accounting ‘to save paying for an accountant’. Thinking this through, why do you pay an accountant – there are basically 3 reasons:

1. As bookkeeper. So Duncan values his time less highly than the cost of a bookkeeper? Unless you genuinely enjoy pumping in figures whist Songs of Praise is on telly (and some people do), then this cannot constitute good use of time.

2. As auditor. This is not optional and has to be undertaken by an unrelated party so is not relevant.

3. As advisor/consultant. The results from this should be quantifiable, so there is a clear business rationale to employ or not employ the services of an accountant.

Additionally, amateur accounting, like opening a computer with a carving knife, can produce misleading – or just plain wrong – results, which in turn can lead to bad business decisions.

Don’t get me wrong; it is an excellent idea for a business owner to understand accounts – they aren’t just for Companies House and the Tax Man – management information (MI) is invaluable for business; learning accountancy will help you to understand and interpret the information which is provided.

But to save money on accountants – sorry worst reason ever.

So, in summary, solicitors should restrict their activities to profitable fee earning work.

Non-profitable work should be outsourced to someone who can do it cost effectively. I would suggest costs falls into this category. Our work is generally costs-neutral in that it generally costs you nothing to employ us. We can do the work quicker and more profitably, in general, than solicitors can.

Non-fee earner work should be outsourced to experts, such as accountants, practice managers, business development managers etc. Being in the legal sector for a number of years, we can certainly help out also on the business development front.

Coaches

Coaches & managers are in the news at the moment, particularly with regards to England Football and England Rugby. For what its worth, my view is that England Rugby set up has it right with appointing an overall head coach, with a Defence coach, forwards coach, attack coach – experts in the relevant field. Looking at the football side, why not have a central figurehead, with coaches such as Southgate and Pearce, not just training England as and when required, but then going to clubs up and down the country preaching the England way – how England want to do things, getting the message right and inspiring players to develop.  I adopt the experts method when coaching my under 11s rugby team, with a fitness coach, forwards coach and backs coach and someone overlooking to ensure that all players develop equally and to the best of their ability.

It is clear that having the right support, expertise and coaching is vital in business as well as on the sports field.  In order to survive over the next few years, law firms need to surround themselves with the correct support team. The most important is someone concentrating solely on funding, profitability and costs. It still surprises me how many solicitors only think about the client’s interests. This is admirable, but you cannot support/protect your client with nothing in the bank. However, not all firms can employ someone full time to do this, so why don’t you outsource to the experts?

We have 10 years experience in doing exactly what all firms need to concentrate on – money. Let us ensure that you can protect your clients knowing that your cashflow is secure, that someone is protecting your interests, that your retainers, funding arrangements, costs recovery and reputation are preserved, protected and underwritten by the best provider – Carlisle Legal Costing.