Skip to main content

News & Views from Firm Beliefs

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

Featured Post

close

One step forward - and another one back...

Category:
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.

Displaying Posts 1 to 5 of 135

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 |

About Carers Trust Business Mentoring programme

Category:
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 24th of March, 2014

Mentors for the ADVANCE Network Development Programme

 

 

Carers Trust is looking for volunteers to join their small team of high calibre mentors to lead individual or groups of independent charitable organisations through a development programme over the next 1-2 years. 

Here are the details: 

We are developing a highly skilled team to mentor Network Partners who form the Carers Trust network across the UK, to support them in growing the services they offer to carers and the people they care for.  Our aim is to ensure that Network Partners are in the best possible position to survive and grow in challenging local and fiscal environments.

These are the prerequisite qualities for this crucial role:-

  • a track record of achieving service growth through dynamic, senior leadership,
  • an ability to inspire confidence in the people who work with them,
  • an ability to spearhead service development through strategic thinking and to deliver coherent business plans – to enable people identify not only the what but the how that fits their local situations. 

Mentors already represent the private, public and not for profit sectors. 

Background

Carers Trust is now the largest charitable organisation within the UK that is specifically concerned with addressing the needs of carers.  Together with a network of 161 individual charities, we provide support, information, advice and services for people caring for a family member or friend.

Across the UK, together we make a difference to carers lives by

  • reaching carers of all ages and with a range of caring responsibilities
  • helping carers gain access to local services or delivering them ourselves,
  • making carers views heard by opinion formers and professionals.

Together we help carers connect with everyone and everything that can make a difference to their lives.

By working closely with Network Partners, we aim to ensure that one million carers benefit from the provision of comprehensive high quality services by 2018.  We seek to achieve this by working with Network Partners to implement a strategy for growth and excellence, ensuring that there are no geographical gaps in service provision and that all services are delivered to the same high quality standards across the UK.

To encourage and support Network Partners to actively seek new opportunities and develop services, we are setting up a volunteer business mentor programme to support local leaders and their teams to:

ü  Focus on building sustainable organisations, which generate surplus for charitable use;

ü  Support the delivery of seamless integrated services across the UK that focus on the best outcomes for carers and those they care for;

ü  Align national and local strategies to support the push for growth in services and therefore improved outcomes for carers; and

ü  Encourage and support the development of partnership working between Network Partners.

We see the role of the volunteer mentor as a means of bringing different perspectives and ideas to the way that we approach and think about leadership and management of organisations and how they deliver and develop services for the benefit of carers.

 

Mentor Role and Responsibilities

This is a role that requires mentors to support organisations and people to help drive change at two levels:

  1.  At a local level with Network Partners, to support the review and development of their strategies to ‘survive and thrive’ within an environment challenged by austerity measures. 

Discussions will be undertaken on a confidential basis with either an individual partner or a group of partners who are looking to work in partnership in their local area.  The output of these discussions could be (revised) robust business and action plans, and / or a range of working arrangements which take account of the challenges and opportunities present within each local scenario; and  

  1. At a national level, be part of an overall mentor team with Carers Trust’s UK network support team to help us to identify and prioritise where to focus development resource according to need.

We are looking for senior leaders, experienced professional leaders and managers (and organisations) who can commit time across a 12 month period.  You and the organisation will get the best out of the experience if you are able to volunteer and commit to around 8-10 days across a 12 month period to support this programme in its first year.

Ideally, we would look to match you with Network Partners within a geographical area of your choice (i.e. near home and / or work) across the UK, however, this will depend on the take up from our Network Partners and therefore, a degree of flexibility and ability to travel is also desirable.  Carers Trust will cover all travel costs involved with this volunteering opportunity.

Should you be unable to provide this amount of time but still wish to support the programme, we are also interested to hear from people who can share their specialist business skills in workshops, working alongside mentors who have been assigned to a partner organisation or organisations. 

Skills and experience

 A track record/employment history that demonstrates:

  • Proven leadership, management and / or consulting experience in supporting organisations and teams to develop and grow and have an impact in the sector that they serve;
  • Ability to share skills and knowledge, relevant to a diverse situations and personal styles;
  • Experience of working in a service environment with a strong customer service and quality ethos. This could be in the public, voluntary or private sectors;
  • Strong relationship management skills to be able to inspire, support and challenge the people you are working with;
  • Development and delivery of robust and realistic business plans;
  • Ability to identify and assess evidence to inform and support the development and delivery of business plans;
  • Experience of “troubleshooting” and managing key issues as and when they arise; and
  • Time – mentors recruited on a voluntary basis need to have the time to support Network Partners to develop lasting mentor / mentee relationships to create and deliver on their development goals.

Personal attributes

  • Able to make a difference through others by inspiring people to realise their potential and to feel empowered to drive the changes required in their particular context;
  • Empathetic and self-aware, providing friendly, unbiased support and guidance;
  • Act as a ‘critical friend’ by providing honest and constructive feedback;
  • Bring an outside perspective and expertise relevant to the situation that you are working in by sharing your own experiences of both failures and successes and facilitate decision making by suggesting alternative ideas;
  • Listen, confidentially, to the issues that are worrying people and be a sounding board for ideas; and
  • Be self-aware, open to ideas and able to acknowledge when there is a need to seek advice and information from others.

 

For further information, please contact Rosemary Hawkins, Head of Programmes & QA at Carers Trust on rhawkins@carers.org and / or send your cv along with a covering letter setting out why you are interested in becoming a mentor with Carers Trust.

The feasibility study into business courage - thanks to our clients

Category:
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 20th of March, 2014

It started off as a web based get-together about ‘latest techniques for feasibility studies’.  It ended as a discussion about ‘courage in business’.  That is the beauty of getting our clients in a virtual room together to share their thinking and experiences with each other. It starts off in one place and finishes somewhere completely unforeseen!

Yes, we looked at the most useful feasibility techniques used when looking at possibilities of collaboration, joint venture, merger, takeover etc.  But it was the questions, and answers, that gave most insight and shared passion to the webinar.

Questions like:

How do tackle our challenges differently these days?

What aspects of our strategy are we going to drop – whatever the outcome of the feasibility study?

Isn’t culture more important than strategy these days?  Shouldn’t we focus on that before we focus on a future strategy with another organisation?

Will this collaboration beat the market?  Will 1 + 1 = 3 because it has to.

Stakeholders want different things from a feasibility study than they used to.  Do we think they place more focus on that than they do on the proposed business plan for the newly merged organisation?

What do we learn about ourselves even if the merger doesn’t go ahead and what do we do about that?

What are the alternatives to what we are proposing and do feasibility studies cut out alternatives or do they force us to look at alternatives?

And so on…

The answers?  Well – you just had to be there!

Having the time of our lives - Firm Beliefs clients on 'growing with others'

Category:
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 18th of February, 2014

'We're in for the time of our lives' said a CEO. So began our first webinar of 2014.

Can you tell which of the two client sectors that CEO came from? Traditionally, the charity sector (as it used to be called) and the law firm sector (as it used to be called) were seen as conservative, slow to change and risk averse - for the most part. Many would find it odd to hear such a remark from those sectors.

Not any more.

The fact that the charity sector is identified, by us at Firm Beliefs, as just a part of the larger Social Impact sector and that we identify law firms as being just part of the larger Legal Services sector tells you something. 

Competition from others - charities compete with for-profits for funding, social impact, beneficiaries.  Law firms compete with non-lawyers and non-law firm entities for the provision of legal advice. 

This means bigger markets.  It means new types of competitor.  It means more opportunity for growth - with other organisations.  It means those who want 'the time of our lives' can have it.

The focus of our 2014 webinars will explore the practicalities of this with our clients.

Points raised during our first Webinar on the environment for growth - be that joint venture, informal working partnerships, merger - were:

1. an active environment

2. a risky environment

3. a shockingly uninformed environment

4. too many are searching for 1 + 1 = 2 (so consolidation) rather than 1 + 1 = 3 (growth)

5. both/all participants need to be strong - one weak + one strong = ROI from venture is not attained

6. try out first - before you merge.  JV perhaps on a project.  Use it as a pilot.

7. don't just grow by collaboration/merger within  your own sector - cross a boundary or two.

So - a good start to the Webinars!  Clients from different sectors comparing and contrasting. And learning from each other.

Many are now fully booked in advance.  We are re-running them.  For more details.  

 

 

Client Webinar series - details released

Category:
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 27th of January, 2014

This year, we shall be focusing on informal alliances,  joint ventures,  mergers,  cross-sector dalliances,  stakeholder relationships etc.

The webinars enable our clients to talk with other clients about issues which may or may not be on their radar at the moment, whilst updating their knowledge and learning from new contacts.

For more details: http://www.slideshare.net/sarajdixon

We look forward to you joining us!

A summer of love...

Category:
Author: Sara Dixon
Posted: 17th of September, 2013

It isn't often that one equates business meetings with hidden passions,  secret discussions and longing looks across a crowded room.  Well, maybe it is if the figures on office romance are anything to go by!

I am talking about the love of one organisation for another.  I am talking about - mergers... Yes, for some, summer was the chance to have informal chats in cities around the UK empty of colleagues, and safe from the prying eyes of fellow sector participants  or the press.   At one stage, I really did feel that it might have been an efficient use of time to hold one of those Singles Nights where each organisation got a chance of a 5 minute 'do we like each other' chat with another one.

And bringing together our two sectors of legal services and not-for-profits, we might have had even more fun!  Incidentally it was good to see a legal advice charity becoming an ABS. More here, on the website that brings the latest news about the ever-changing legal services sector: http://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/exclusive-legal-advice-charity-becomes-first-not-for-profit-set-abs

So, let's see how many go forth and multiply - if not with each other than with others!  And I hope they are minded to take notice of our last blog (that is if they are not using us to help them down the path towards matrimony!): http://www.firmbeliefs.co.uk/news.php?postId=142 - Magic Merger Moments.

Happy memories of a romantic summer...