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“Competition, compliance, clients demanding better service – firms are facing more change than ever before.”

Professional Choice Consultancy Director, Bill Kirby, talks to Moneypenny’s Bernadette Bennett about his thoughts and predictions for the year ahead.

1 – What is your main focus for 2012?

My principle activity is as a consultant to the legal market, specialising in a number of key areas. These provide my principle focus for 2012:
  • Business strategy in a very changing legal world with the required organisation and accountability changes needed to change the firm into a business
  • The effective use of IT to support the business strategy and in depth consideration of hosting to meet compliance needs and allowing IT resources to focus on added value for the business and clients
  • I also advise a number of suppliers and potential suppliers to the legal market and this forces clear segmentation of the legal market by size, location, work type and even aspiration. It is a very clear way of benchmarking the sector which needs some brutal honesty in some quarters.
2 - What are the main trends / talking points for 2012?

The main issues facing the sector are;
  • The results of the Legal Services Act which became real in October 2011 and despite four years’ advanced notice the level of preparation from most has not been of the right standard. There are already new entrants such as the highly successful Co-Op well used to selling to consumers and with a trusted brand. Alternative business structures are promising to abound, although if their business strategy doesn’t demand it there is no reason for a law firm to join in. The biggest surprise to many is those previous friendly firms down the road who are getting very aggressive with their marketing and have pride in their customer experience.
  • Financial strength – many firms are under a great deal of pressure with a major reduction in fee income – activity, price, competition – and are suffering from cash flow challenges. Many know what they need to do but are struggling for the funds to do it.
  • Pressure of compliance – Legal requirements, SRA, quality standards, Lexcel standards, business continuity, disaster recovery and pure demands from clients – much of this can be dealt with using existing systems effectively and perhaps getting IT hosted (no capital involved)
  • Clients are demanding much better service and value for money. I don’t think any of us are frightened of our suppliers any more (including lawyers)
3 – Fast forward to 2013 – what words do you think you will you be using to describe 2012?

Shake Out – Rationalisation – Professionalism – Change

Bill Kirby is a director of Professional Choice Consultancy and Management Services Consultancy offering advice to firms on all things IT from strategy, planning, effective use and outsourcing continuity and DR. He can be contacted at billkirby@professionalchoiceconsultancy.com. Can be read regularly in the Manchester Law Society Messenger Magazine in the management matters column.