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Top Tips for Managing Partner and Finance Directors

In this article, Ian Hopkins Senior Associate Consultant at cpm21 gives his Top Tips on what Managing Partners and Finance Directors should be thinking about currently.

1.     Cash has always been king and remains so

The economy is declining and cash tightening. Lockup is increasing and firms are not as focused on lockup as they should be. Firms should regularly review their time recording procedures, ensure that staff are fully trained and understand how to record time accurately. WIP levels and WIP days need to be reviewed with lawyers given SMART targets to drive down the days WIP remains unbilled. Firms need to actively manage debtors. A robust credit control procedure is key to any successful cashflow initiative and a good credit controller worth his/her weight in gold.

2.     Profit Margin

It’s predicted that profits for 22/23 in the legal profession will remain static or reduce to 18/19 levels. Payroll costs are likely to increase substantially, with increases of 8/9% predicted or even higher. Law firms should review their charging rates and pricing policies. Law firms should also think about the cost of the work produced for certain clients and critically question the profitability. There is no point in acting for unprofitable clients.

3.     Recruitment and Retention

Churn and a high turnover of staff is expensive and unprofitable. Retaining good staff is not necessarily about throwing money at lawyers to keep the recruitment consultants at bay. Firms need to build engagement with their staff. Involve staff in business decisions where possible and offer additional responsibilities. A transparent career framework is crucial, so fee earners and support staff know where the goal posts are and what they must achieve to be promoted.

4.     Funding

It’s inevitable that some firms will not survive the coming economic downturn. However, for those firms that are ahead of the curve, well financed and strategic thinkers there will be opportunities to pick up teams. Such firms will have the funding in place to take advantage of the opportunities that 2023 will present.

5.     Succession

Succession of equity partners wishing to retire is a major issue for many law firms. 16% of small firms surveyed in the recent LexisNexis Bellwether report said that merger was something being actively considered, with succession being a major driver. Robust due diligence in selecting the right merger partner is a key part of any successful merger project. Managing Partners should not underestimate the importance of a good cultural fit when attempting to put 2 law firms together. As one of my former Senior Partners used to say “act in haste, repent at leisure” 

If you would like advice regarding any issues raised in this article please contact Ian Hopkins, Wayne Williams, or Paul Jones of cpm21