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The Law Management Section Annual Conference 2021

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The Law Management Section Annual Conference 2021

The Law Society’s annual Law Management Section Conference is designed for leaders in law firms and legal businesses. The event boasted a mix of plenaries and panel-session discussions, with opportunities for questions and networking. This year’s conference focused on the experiences of law firms during COVID-19 and what the post-pandemic future looks like for them. This included hybrid working, changing law firm roles and adequate professional indemnity insurance.

If you missed the annual conference or want a refresh on what was covered, here are some top tips and key takeaways from each session.

Keynote Address

Stevie Spring – MIND

The keynote address for the LMS Conference 2021 was delivered by Stevie Spring CBE. The chairman of MIND since 2018, Stevie is well honed in heading up numerous organisations and is no stranger to the demands of a high-powered role. Given the events of the past year and the subsequent impact on our working lives, the appointment of Stevie as keynote speaker was especially fitting.

A leader throughout the Covid-19 crisis herself, Stevie is passionate about creating fairer, kinder, and more productive workplaces. Whilst this may appear to present itself as a challenge in the legal sector, Stevie was clear in highlighting that regardless of industry, overworked and undervalued employees simply leads to inefficiency and quite possibly, burnout.

Key Takeaway: The events of the past year have highlighted that wellbeing is paramount. For employers, this means creating an environment whereby employees can strike a work-life balance.

Looking to the New Normal

Clare Murray – CM Murray, Susan Glenholme – Debenhams Ottaway, Chris Hart – Wollens and David Pester – TLT LLP

One of the big questions we’re asking, as restrictions continue to be lifted is – what is the new normal going to look like? This panel discussion focused on the experiences of COVID-19 from four law firm Managing Partners and some post-pandemic advice that can be put into practice.

Initially these firms saw a huge disparity in employees’ ability to work from home, this meant a rush to get the right equipment in front of the right people. However, one of the positives to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant a development in the trust, confidence and partnerships staff have with one another. Weekly team meetings were key to making people feel included in a completely remote environment and communication needed to be regular throughout. Strong communication with all teams will continue post-pandemic.

Marketing has changed. These firms noticed that it was time to pick up the phone again but also focused on their digital marketing. This was implemented via the website and social media so information could be easily accessed. One law firm hired a Digital Marketing Manager to focus on LinkedIn strategies and personal Social Selling Index (SSI) score, with quarterly prizes for the people who increased their SSI score the most. A digital marketing strategy is paramount for the future.

Key Takeaway: Strong communication internally and externally needs to continue. Digital marketing strategies are key for the future.

Benchmarking – Why is it important and how can your law firm benefit?

Trish Kinahan – Hazlewoods LLP

Benchmarking is important for law firms because it helps to plan for the future and ensures your firm stays on track. It is essential that law firm’s keep reviewing and checking it. Trish recommends a 3-year strategy which includes a 1-year detailed forecast and a 2-year outline forecast to ensure law firms are adequately prepared for the future. Flexible working will be a key area to include in your benchmarking strategies.

 

Key Takeaway: Benchmarking is essential, start planning your forecasts now and remember that flexible working will be a key area to include.

What have we learned about business development since March 2020?

Bernard Savage – Tenandahalf and Sinead Sopala  – Ramsdens

This session focused on what Bernard and Sinead have learnt from their experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, and useful advice law firms can implement post-pandemic.

The phone

At the beginning of the pandemic, we went back to basics and again, the telephone was promptly rediscovered! Calls were important for checking in on clients and employees.

There will be a place for face-to-face meetings, but there is no rush to re-introduce them.

Marketing

Marketing collateral needs to be focusing on compelling communications internally and externally. The future looks like video, infographics, podcasts, and authenticity over a mix of channels.

Presenting better virtually

  • Webinars should be a maximum of 45-60 minutes long.
  • Must add value to the audience.
  • People’s cameras should be on.
  • A competent chairperson is essential.
  • Be clear about the outcome of the session, webinars and meetings are not the same.
  • Don’t assume that what is done in person will work online.

Key Takeaway: There is no rush to get back to face-to-face meetings so embrace virtual presentations, social media and picking up the phone.

New roles for the new normal

Chris Bull – Edge International

Chris discussed how the law firm environment is changing and what roles we can expect to see post-pandemic.

He suggested we could be seeing roles such as:

The Digital Lawyer

Hybrid working, evolving roles and multi-disciplined.

The Legal Engineer

Legal solutions architect.

The Legal Project Manager

Fast-growing over the last 10 years. This is how a lot of firms work. Improves efficiency. Not just for large firms.

The Chief Pricing Officer

This role is a response to intense price pressure and the rise of corporate legal operations.

The Legal Support Executive

The end of the traditional legal secretary role. They are now a specialist, not a generalist. In short, they can be described as a ‘digital super user’.

The Lawyer

Solicitor apprentice/paralegal and CILEX route.

The New Legal C-Suite

Chief Operating Officer/Chief Innovation Officer/Chief Diversity Officer/Chief Risk Officer/Chief Information Security Officer/Client Experience Officer.

Key Takeaway: The law firm environment is changing and so are the roles within them, so be ready to take advantage of the opportunity.

Finance – Building resilience post COVID-19 and Brexit

Andrew Allen – PKF Francis Clark

Andrew reflected on some of the hard realities and economic consequences that have impacted on the legal sectors financial state.

  • For many, there was a 9–10-month year because of furloughed staff.
  • Family teams and probate have performed well.
  • There was minimal growth in the commercial property sector.
  • There was a decline of 10-15% in revenue due to limited cases.
  • There were fewer matters started in the lockdown period in clinical negligence sectors.
  • There was minimal growth in the civil litigation sector.
  • Massive reduction in office running costs and travel.
  • Balance sheets are looking healthier this year than they did in March/April 2020.
  • Fixed assets will increase due to an increase in investment to facilitate a hybrid working policy.

Key Takeaway: Law firms have overall, been successful. Ensure investment in facilitating a hybrid working policy is considered for the financial year.

An insight into the current professional indemnity insurance market for law firms

Jake Fox – J.M. Glendinning Professional Risks

Professional indemnity insurance is key for all law firms. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way law firms need to do things. With remote and hybrid working on the rise, law firms will now need to consider the risks posed by this, for example, a cyber breach.

Employees have also seen a higher workload throughout the pandemic and have been dealing with more complaints. This can subsequently lead to more insurance claims which are something law firms will need to consider too.

Jake’s top tips include:

  • Preparing for a tough market, which means when renewing law firms should act early, so they are not left exposed!
  • Go with a trusted broker to get the best value for money.
  • Firms that leave it last minute will end up with bad deals.

Key Takeaway:  The working environment is changing, be prepared and go with a trusted broker.  

As a newbie to the legal sector, I found the sessions particularly informative and loved hearing how firms are responding and evolving to the unprecedented changes we have all been facing.

If there was anything that you read that has sparked an idea why not reach out to us so we can discuss how your firm is responding the changing landscape?

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