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News & Views from Firm Beliefs

We will be posting articles on a regular basis - so check back regularily for updates.

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One step forward - and another one back...

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 24th of April, 2012

I nearly stood up and shouted 'I told you so' I was that pleased to see the line up at yesterday's Legal Futures Conference (if you only go to one legal services sector conference a year, this is the one). Hopefully my fellow attendees and new best friends won’t realise how close I was as the day got underway to standing up and shouting ‘I told you so!’ to all those in the legal profession who have been saying for years ‘it will never happen’.  

What, you may ask, did they think would never happen? 

Well dear Reader, take a breath and imagine... Non-lawyers providing legal services to consumers,  or customers, or purchasers.  Yes, folks, no longer will qualified solicitors charge clients by the  hour, for ‘perusal’, 1/L in, 10/R etc.  No longer will a lawyer be able to blame a difficult client if the bill is queried.   And hopefully no longer will the word 'sell' and 'services' be a dirty word in some parts of the profession.  At least, not without some competition from others who won't show the same disregard for the needs of those  purchasing their services.

Take yourself back to 1989 = when I was a lowly articled clerk and my Principal asked me what I was in the building to do, I answered ‘sell our services to people who need them’.  Huge intake of (his) breath followed and he boomed ‘young lady we do not sell…  we are good enough to provide our professional knowledge to those who are in need of it in return for some recompense’.   Huge intake of breath by me  for all those years afterwards as I thought ‘lordy, what have I done entering this world of never giving a price that is fixed; never providing a service which can be productised; never being encouraged to get excited about thinking and asking what the clients really need’.

Thankfully for those in the room yesterday there were very few of the naysayers attending – most there were either non-legal professionals or, if they were, they were the ‘savvies’ as we at Firm Beliefs call them.  (We stopped categorising lawyers years ago along the lines of magic circle, national, high street etc and started to use ‘savvy’ and ‘non-savvy’. Or even 'going places and investor ready' or 'wouldn't want to invest in the firm myself, bless them'. And a few other descriptors that a professional consultant ought not really to reveal… Our clients naturally are all savvy.)

I recalled the scene some years ago now when I attended the Law Management Section conference at which ‘the men from the RAC/Co-op/large non law firm corporate’ stood up and said ‘We are coming and we will take your business – we are more in touch with our customers’ needs than you are; we will employ  your professional staff; and we will take your clients’.  The ex-solicitor in me shivered slightly at the time. I remain very fond of those in my old profession and I felt major concern for them.  But the management consultant in me, the business person, the entrepreneurial spirit was completely aghast at the majority of the audience who said ‘it will never happen and if they try it they won’t even get it off the ground’.  Even then, the words ‘heads in sand’ sprang to mind. 

I do not know if the Law Management Section of the Law Society still attracts the same proportion of non-savvies – certainly others used to tell me that the same old names seemed to attend, same consultants seemed to speak the same old warnings, the same words and questions seem to emanate from the same old attitudes. One would hope not by now.

So yesterday, to attend Neil’s Legal Futures event, see the ‘ABSers’ as they are known by some; to see the traditional  law firms that had made the changes to move forward in full gung ho energetic flow; to hear the insightful questions and chat going on during the day made me realise even more than before that yes life as we had been told would never happen is indeed happening.  Exciting times.  Great opportunities.  There are legally trained folk out there who can actually be good business people and who can meet head on those who are from other sectors in this new market place – a market place which is bigger than before.  Because those  who think that law firms retain their traditional market, and that ABSers are entering that marketplace, are wrong – we are  now in a whole new market place.  A place for all to shop and all to serve. And the non-savvies must compete in that marketplace.

So a step forward.  And then… a step back.  Yes, the Bar… (by which I mean Barristers, not the venue at the end of the conference where further chat and jollity took place…)

During February 2011 I heard Peter Lodder, Chairman of the Bar, speak at a conference.  Although he very much took the trade unionist approach overall – stating his aim to protect his union members from changes afoot (again, slightly concerned at that was I) – he did in fact outline the opportunities, albeit difficult ones involving change, for his members.  The Bar could seize opportunities and  harness change.  So imagine my sadness yesterday when, impassioned advocate for justice and the rule of law ‘which must come first before consumers’, Baroness Deech, Chair of the Bar Standards Board, described a profession (the Bar) in a manner which simply doesn’t ring true any more with those who use the services (sorry – skills and professionalism) of the Bar.  There are of course those who will defend the duty to the law and advocacy best practice to their dying day – but most want to make a buck or two and have interesting cases. The fact that, through her illustrations of what she felt ‘the ordinary man’ would require in terms of legal advice etc (how to leave their holiday home in Marbella, sorry Benidorm, in their Will), she demonstrated a woeful lack of understanding of ‘the ordinary man’ and what services he might need which simply detracted from an admiration of her gusto in the face of attack from the Ministry of Justice (‘We must avoid control of the legal profession through the Ministry of Justice).  I admired her passion to protect a world gone by – but had to keep reminding myself that she is the Regulator of the Bar not even the Union Rep!

So, all in all, a very good conference.  Others have written far better summaries of the day, the ABSers, the speakers, the strategies, than I can and I suggest you read this one in particular:

 View from Row 3 #lfconf

 In the meantime,  I shall focus on the steps forward, not the ones back.

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We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 22nd of December, 2016

Our office will be closed from 5pm on Friday 23rd December 2016 until Wednesday 4th January 2017.  We hope that all our clients and contacts and friends of the business will have a good rest, a happy time, and renewed energy for 2017. And thank you very much for your support for our business over the past year.

Sara and Sally

What should we drop? What should we keep?

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 24th of May, 2016

Life and business has dramatically changed for many of us over the past decade. As we lead into celebrating a decade of Firm Elite dinners, guests will share what has worked for them, what hasn't and what will be the skills, techniques and attitudes of the future.

Join Firm Eliters for dinner on Thursday 16th July to share and learn from others.   We look forward to seeing you!

Contact to find out more.


We're all set for our next Firm Elite dinner - with George Bull

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 13th of April, 2016

Baker, Beekeeper, Media Commentator, Photographer, Purveyor of his Life Experiences... and senior tax partner at a major accounting firm, join George as he leads the conversation about 'My Career as a Verb!'.

At the beginning of our working life, we see it as a linear path, each step building on the one before, leading to a point roughly appreciable at the beginning.  The reality, We career from one path to another.  Career becomes a verb! Sometimes leading to the last place we ever expected. And yet we still deem that place as a success.

As usual, a select band of dinner guests come together for an evening of new folk to be met, new topics to be discussed, new ideas to be exchanged and a thoroughly relaxing evening.  Tuesday 19th April 2016.

Seeking Interview Board members

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 16th of February, 2016

Would you be interested in sitting on the Interview Board which interviews those who want to take part in our Skills Development programmes?

We provide two types of programme:

(1) delivered in-house for organisations,  arranged by organisations for those who wish to keep up to speed withe latest thinking, skills and techniques for business and management skills.

(2) delivered to individuals who wish to keep up to speed with the latest thinking, skills and techniques outside the arrangements made by their organisations. 

It is the second type for which we seek Board Interviewers. We take on a limited number of individuals each year.  We always have more on the waiting list. This year, we are doubling the numbers we accept, to 20 people.

The Board Interviewers help us to make the final decision as to whether the individual is 'up to the task ahead' in participating in the programme and then helps us decide on who has priority.

Board members need to:

(1) be an advocate for constant business and management development, especially when in leadership positions,

(2) demonstrate that by taking part themselves in structured learning to support on the job learning,  and encouraging their teams to do so,

(3) have undertaken themselves learning 'in addition to the demands of the day job' so that they can assess whether the individual is up to the task of putting their own time and energy into the experience. It doesn't matter whether the learning has been business, how to fix a car, or a new language!  The point is to understand the need to be motivated enough to keep learning something new when the day job has ended yet there is more to be done...

(4) come from any sector. We have board members from sectors other than legal services, charity or social enterprise, as well as those ones.  The sector does not matter.

You can see the types of programme that individuals follow here:

For those in the legal services sector/social enterprise sector

For those in the charity sector/social enterprise sector

If you are interested in  finding out more about joining the happy band of Board Interviewers, contact Sara.  Full training will be given.  Much wine and chocolates provided in appreciation of contribution!


The road less travelled

Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 15th of February, 2016

Our excellent dinner, with Sarah Frost as our conversation leader, led to a few requests for the poem and the sayings that she used. Here they are:

"Sometimes the right path is not the easiest one."  Pocahontas

"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness." Seneca

"Do not go where thepath may lead. Go inestead where there is no path and leave a trail." Ralph Waldo Emerson

"The obstacle is the path."  Zen proverb

"Paths are made by walking."  Franz Kafka

"True morality consists not in following the beaten track but in finding the true path for ourselves and fearlessly following it."  Mahatma Gandhi

"A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who hve been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it."  Machiavelli

"Of all the paths a  man could strike into, there is, at any given moment, a best path...  A thing which, here and now, it were of all things wisest for him to do.  To find this path, and walk in it, is the one thing needful for him."  Thomas Carlyle

"A black cat crossing your path signifies that the animal is going somewhere."  Groucho Marx


The Road Not Taken - by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And still be one traveller, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth:

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear:

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves  no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads onto way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less travelled by,

And that has made all the difference.