It was good to meet the private client lawyers – some recently promoted to head of department – for a workshop on “Managing and growing your private client practice” earlier this month. This post summarises the key themes discussed, provides an additional learning resource for the delegates and includes further information – as promised – to some of the questions posed by delegates. Private client management and marketing: Business plans, recruitment, assessments and automation.
Core challenges for private client law leaders
The core challenges identified throughout the day were the interlinked topics of business plans, recruitment, assessments and automation.
Surprisingly, none of the delegates’ firms had a business plan to drive the growth of the private client team. And 90% didn’t have a marketing plan for private client. Developing a business plan was seen as a priority for those who were new in leadership roles in their firms as well as established leaders looking to drive development and growth (see delegate top takeaways below). One delegate’s firm had recently merged and integration was a priority.
We spent some time on mission and value statements (looking at examples from other private client teams) – and how they are formed through analysis and discussion with stakeholders. Two tools were provided to assist with this. The need to include purpose (i.e. ESG) principles was especially important for younger generations.
(Naturally, if you’d like assistance in conducting the analyses to support business planning and strategy development or in facilitating strategy and planning workshops for your partners or teams, please don’t hesitate to give me a call).
We looked at the importance of addressing capacity planning (manage your talent pipeline) and recruitment in a structured and long-term way as part of an overall human resources strategy. Issues of recruitment are often linked to organisational culture, training and development and HR policies and procedures.
Top tips for recruitment include:
Shape your overall HR strategy to support your firm’s ambitions
Ensure your recruitment process is flexible and fast
Create an accurate and exciting job description
Benchmark salaries and (innovative) benefit packages
Develop processes to consider encouraging employee referrals
Explore non-traditional recruitment channels and methods (e.g. apprentices, social media)
Monitor recruitment metrics to focus and refine your campaigns
Sell your firm and the learning/career opportunities
Act proactively if you find strong candidates for whom there is no current position
Take care of biases if you use AI to help filter applications
Use trusted specialist recruitment/headhunting consultancies
Recruitment was also linked to another key issue for private client teams – automation. Using technology to remove routine processes which frees up lawyers to spend more time in client and referrer relationship management and high value advisory work. Delegation was another topic discussed with recruitment and learning and development.
Assessment of private client lawyers
I was asked about the value of assessments in the recruitment process. Despite being a accredited provider of the British Psychological Society’s NEO “Big Five” (sometimes called OCEAN – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) personality assessment. I have mixed views on their value in the recruitment process for professional practices.
My main reservations are around what firms are trying to learn from assessments and how they will use them. Do they know what profiles or attributes they are particularly keen to recruit or avoid? This suggests that you will need to have completed assessments of your successful employees to develop ideal profiles. However, I do use a number of assessment tools in my coaching and development work.
If assessment tools are used you should stick with those that are highly regarded for their validity and reliability and use qualified people to support their use. Amongst professional practices, the assessment tools I have found to be most commonly used include:
A key challenge for some of the delegates was deciding what automation to introduce. Automation might also be a solution where there are recruitment issues – to do more work with less or the same number of people. And to ensure that any new systems were adopted by employees and embedded in day to day practice to ensure consistency of service.
The Law Society provides some helpful information on automation (LawTech), for example
However, choosing the right technology can be the least of your concerns. We explored concepts from change management, project management and employee engagement to ensure new technology is implemented and adopted:
With so many delegates taking on a leadership position for the first time there was a natural interest in this area. We considered the task versus relationship model and more recent developments. Interestingly, the delegates were focused on the relationship aspects of leadership (consistency, leading by example, supportive, encouraging and creating a positive environment and culture).
Alternative business structures and online offerings
Cost of living crisis affecting clients’ willingness to pay
Many threats identified not least AI
During the session we looked at the need for more analysis of the external environment, future changes and taking a “helicopter” view. Horizon scanning, weak signal detection and strategic, market and competitor analyses are key here.
All delegates had strategies that focused equally on generating new clients and developing existing clients. 67% felt that marketing (generating enquiries) and 33% felt that existing client development was the area requiring most attention.
17% had plans to introduce new private client services and 67% had plans to develop new markets.
The main observation about pricing in the market was the need for fixed fee proposals.
67% felt that social media was reasonably effectiveness and 33% didn’t know whether it was effective or not. This suggests that marketing, business development and social media strategies should be reviewed. Social media use amongst firms varied:
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