Law firms embraced new services and become more entrepreneurial

Birmingham Post President’s Column
November 2014

BY EILEEN SCHOFIELD

In the face of a changing marketplace and changing client demands many law firms have embraced new services and become more entrepreneurial.

Shortly after I set up my own firm I was fortunate enought to be accepted onto the Goldman Sachs 10,000 small businesses programme.

The programme honed my skills in developing and growing a business and also taught financial risk management. To date I believe that I am the only lawyer accepted onto the programme.

What the course taught me was the importance of treating a law firm like a business, rather than a traditional practice. This is the only way to survive in a global, competitive and commercial business world.

There are many pressures on legal businesses. The market has become overcrowded with far more lawyers than there are jobs available. Lawyers not only need to be able to practice the law and reassure clients and speak their language, but they also need to be more commercially aware and innovative in the way in which they offer services to clients. For example, many law firms no longer charge on an hourly rate but provide a fixed fee or retainer arrangement, as clients value the opportunity to manage their own cashflow.

Law firms are also evaluating the needs of their employees and with previously London centric law firms setting up satellite offices in Birmingham regional law firms are now more alive to the issue of staff retention.

Even students are becoming more choosey. Whilst there are fewer training opportunities, students are widening their search for careers to firms offering a strategic career plan and a wider scope of opportunity to develop in ways other than simply being seen as competent lawyers.

More firms are striving to achieve a better gender balance and are offering flexible working and new career structures to meet the work/life balance needs of employees.

In my role as President of Birmingham Law Society I come across many law firms around the country. The profession has faced seismic changes in the last few years, but on the whole I am encouraged that whilst these challenges remain, many law firms have grasped the nettle and reinvented their businesses.

Birmingham Law Society has teamed up with Aston Business School to promote a free one-off event: Transformation for Growth – Positive Psychology in SMEs. Speakers at the event include top international performance psychologist Jamil Qureshi, who coached Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood. To sign up visit: http://t4gpositivepsychology.eventbrite.co.uk/ 

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