News & Views from Firm Beliefs
We will be posting articles on a regular basis - so check back regularily for updates.
Displaying Posts 1 to 5 of 129
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 13th of May, 2013
There are plenty of opportunities for an organisation to ‘ruin its brand’ from within. We are all trained in that fine art of using social media - carefully.
But what about this one? Somewhat old fashioned - the 'face to face' risk.
You know - the moment when a colleague opens his/her mouth in an interview with an external person to choose a new business partner, a new employee, a new consultant. You have no worries about what comes out of that mouth usually but on this occasion... Those words begin a slow/fast attack on the value of your brand. From somebody who you normally expect would protect that brand.
We have all been in internal meetings where a full and frank discussion takes place amongst colleagues. We have all been in external facing meetings where a full and frank discussion takes place with others about our organisation. But the extent of the "full and frank", and its impact, is in reality quite different when external individuals are involved.
I am talking about external meetings where you and your colleagues think that you are the ones in power - the potential new owner, the potential new employee, the potential new consultant will be so desperate to work with/for you that you can say what you like about your organisation - they are the ones under scrutiny, not you, you imagine.
How wrong. How risky.
Examples we have come across recently:
1. The job interviewee who is told by the interviewer "Our directors are all a bit antiquated but we are hoping to get shot of them soon so you would be working for a far more dynamic organisation then. But just keep that under your hat right now". The potential employee tells the recruitment agency that the organisation doesn't respect normal HR/Legal principles. The recruitment agency has concerns about putting forward others for the role (yes - there are some agencies who take a view on that and do conduct their business accordingly!) Meanwhile the potential employee takes a job with the competitor and that information is used very nicely thank you!
2. The charity head of fundraising tells the potential consultant 'Don't break our project into small chunks if you think we can't afford to run the entire project - we get stacks of cash from donors and don't need to worry about the risk of not having cash over the next year or so'. The consultants, who also sit on donor funding boards, will think carefully about recommending the charity for funding in the future - on the basis of an irresponsible management of the funds they do have; as well as a possible lack of awareness of the risk of funding suddenly not being available.
3. The partner in a firm tells somebody up for partnership "Well you know the problems we've been having so you are aware of the risk of this opportunity but don't worry with your investment in the firm, we can change things'. Would you buy into that approach?
None of these statements is factually incorrect. None would be inappropriate in an internal meeting. But in a meeting with external individuals, they are dynamite.
Why would an individual make these statements? Usually from an over-optimistic sense of their power in the conversation - who cares what the potential partner, employee or consultant thinks about your organisation? You are the ones in control of whether they will work with you.
Wrong. All 3 could be rare commodities in today's world. There is a shortage of capital into businesses; employees with the right skills; consultants with the right approach. They can choose to say yes or no to the opportunity of working with you.
And all 3 will walk away and, amongst their own networks, are advocates or otherwise for your organisation. And its brand and its reputation..
So be realistic and frank in meetings BUT remember that the power also lies with those who are external to your organisation. So realism and frankness needs to be carefully agreed beforehand. Be careful who you allow on your interview panels! One misjudged sentence by somebody who misunderstands where the power lies could cost you dear.
2,793 law firm partners moved firms in the London market 2005-2012. 32% failed. So far…. Failure meaning the partner has already left their new firm since joining it. Voluntarily or “Involuntarily”. Could be worse .... there are no statistics available on those still with a firm but not achieving expectations [“drizzlemakers” according to one managing partner].
Those are the headlines coming out of the “Sum People” Report by Mark Brandon in The Lawyer. Mark Brandon has been around the legal marketplace for a long time. He knows his stuff. It is well worth a read - and a long ponder - for any managing partner in any firm anywhere.
The Report is a mine of statistics such as:
- 33% of employment partners failed versus 22% of regulatory partners
- 80% of property partners hired in 2005 failed
- 65% of 2007 litigation hires failed
- 41% of in-house to private practice moves failed
As with statistics of any kind, the more there are the more complex the game of picking out conclusions that no-one can argue with. The deeper you dive into them the less apparent can be the lessons and the greater the potential for some to use rogue results to muddy the water. Probably a bit like wading through the treacle of the NHS really.
Particularly with lawyers where the ‘devil in the detail’ provides an opportunity to argue the ‘it’s not too bad’ line. For instance 32% failure means 68% success and that sounds really good doesn’t it? So aren’t we doing well? Errrr …. No.
The Report is well worth a read for any managing partner anywhere, not for its statistics alone, but more for the qualitative hints at where all firms and partners can focus to beat the failure numbers down and down. It would make sense – anything to keep the risk of failure, partnership stress levels and big number costs down - surely.
It is even handed. It makes clear that the reasons for failure lie in less than smart selection (bad match either way) to start with, the effort or lack of by the incoming partner and inadequate support by the firm itself. At worst, taking on a warm body, letting it do what it wants and leaving it to its own devices is not the most advisable route in the world.
Some teasing extracts then.
- A hiring strategy with too many compromises, too many income guarantees, a failure to integrate hires and a wilful blindness in the hiring process can lead to disaster.
- Firms need to do more thinking about whether their platform represents enough of a difference for the incoming partner to get over the ‘better the devil you know’ factor [when trying to win new clients].
- Candidates need to put a lot more work into explaining their move to clients rather than simply assume they will move across better the devil you know factor’.
- Firms need to think more carefully about whether the [candidate’s] promised pipeline they are relying on exists in reality.
- Candidates who can demonstrate a good degree of portability can just as easily up and leave a couple of years down the track.
- Partner candidates in the process need to think more carefully about where they are ending up and what they may have to do differently [in the new firm].
The outcome statistics seem to back up these points.
The summing up in the Report is spot on. Ultimately this year’s figures are no better than last year’s. Until we see some changes in how partner lateral hiring is conducted, it will continue to be hit and miss, to the detriment of the client and candidate alike.
For myself I believe this picture is no less representative of medium sized and smaller firms anywhere than it is theLondonmarket or the Top 50 or the Top 100. So don’t go saying that! The only difference is that for the most part the big firms have deep enough pockets to at least afford the failures however embarrassing whereas many smaller firms cannot.
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 14th of March, 2013
It is well-known amongst clients that one of our roles is to introduce them to others with whom they can share experience, skills, knowledge and opportunities. This is more vital then ever, given the current economic environment. We do the same for some of our contacts. We thought it worth reminding you about what you can do to help us to help you:
- Make sure we are on your mailing lists - take this as agreement to be so included!
- Let us know your twitter address/es so we can follow you
- Invite us to events which demonstrate what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it. And the impact it makes on others.
- If you are a client, we don't invite you to LinkedIn (we respect the often confidentialial nature of the relationship) but we will accept if you invite us. If you are a contact then invite us to LinkedIn.
- Be prepared to explain the value that you might add to a project, a business relationship, an organisation.
Recommendations are based on trust. Help us to get to know you enough to establish that trust. There will always be something going on in a client's or contact's organisation with which we aren't familiar. That could just be the trigger to help us to help you.
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 14th of March, 2013
We put the needs of the panel first.
We draw on our own collective market knowledge to draw up the criteria for the search.
We do NOT only put our clients and contacts on the first major list - but it does help if we already know what the strengths of the clients and contacts are as they will find themselves quickly on the major list if they meet the needs of the panel.
We always state, when compiling the short list, our connections with those on that short list.
Ultimately it is up to the panel to decide who wins the day.
The Firm Elite dinner at the Caledonian Club on the 20th February was a very timely reminder that no matter how diverse our business sectors or personal lives we will all experience some very common and very powerful themes. One day we will all be either carers or indeed need caring for ourselves.
The FE guest speaker was Kim Britten, Director of Fundraising at Carers Trust. The glamorous and charismatic Kim had flown in from California to speak with passion and intelligence about the care challenge facing the UK, her own organisation and indeed every single one of us - whether we think of ourselves as an individual, a managing director or a member of the world’s population. This will be a critical manpower planning focus for businesses in the future. We needed to know what the issues will be so that we can plan on a personal and business level.
After Kim’s very insightful opening talk –rather to the detriment of her main course (sorry Kim) –our discussion evolved rapidly into many different themes - in true Firm Elite fashion. The impact of caring on our own families, our businesses and indeed on the key support mechanisms that exist nationally led us into many new areas for discussion.
There are massive challenges facing the UK and the world as a whole - but they are challenges and problems that are all solvable - given good planning, passion and astute solutions. Certainly Kim has the leadership expertise and passion to drive caring in one organisation to new heights- despite the obstacles at local, regional and indeed governmental levels. As Kim wisely pointed out some charities are established to “end” a problem – caring however will always be a continual challenge that any progressive country must be equal to look after its people.
As ever there were a number of key discussion points that will stimulate all the guests and their future discussions with their own networks for many months to come. The impact of caring on business productivity as well as on the individual carer. On the national scale the need for intelligent, forward-looking planning to examine the resources required when there are 9 million carers needed in the UK (Figures for the year 2037)
Serious issues needing big picture thinkers. Firm Elite brings together the better thinkers with the greatest passion but also those who understand that the best discussions include a sense of irony and humour to make sure everyone can think creatively.
After hearing Kim speak with such eloquence, passion and charm we were all prepared to pack up our oddly shaped vegetables (not a comment on the evening's fare) climb into our camper vans and head for the California coast – at least until the weather in the UK becomes as warm as the Caledonian Club's welcome………………
Our as-ever insightful guests on the night were: John Kennedy, Kim Britten, John Wood, Sara Dixon, Andrew Hillier, Deborah Jeff, Ken Cohen, Christopher Jackson, Kehrela Hodkinson, Xenia Murray and Kathryn Haigh.