Future-proofing your firm requires more than good cashflow – all your staff should be working towards a common goal.
In a constantly changing, highly competitive market, the legal sector is vulnerable like all others to disruption from technologies such as big data, machine learning and new platforms offering legal services. With this in mind, staying up to date with these technologies and being innovative is the key to success. That said, it is paramount that all of this should all be done while continuing to stay true to your core values.
Survival depends on flexibility. Being robust enough to adapt quickly to change has become a necessity rather than a luxury but this is only achievable when everyone in the business is on board, engaged and part of a real team. This keeps people at the heart of the business and in more challenging times this can help bring people together to work towards a common goal.
While we are selling advice, solutions and assistance, we remain a people business. I totally buy into the need to innovate and future-proof the business but having the whole firm on this journey and being as transparent as possible is important for growth.
With the constant changes to legislation across many of our areas of work, we have to provide the same high level of service with reduced margins – and do so by implementing more efficient working practices. This is something which can be in part addressed with a strong IT infrastructure, and commercial and financial structures to suit the business. But it really needs the lawyers to be adaptable and to work together with our support teams to be able to pull this off successfully.
These are our external teams and the organisations which we have partnered with to ensure that we remain a success. Having the right financial partners in place and getting your finances right is not just about getting more cash in the door to meet running costs. It is also about maintaining a good dialogue with your lenders to be able to access funds to develop the business and remain competitive.
Good cashflow is vital, not only to attract clients but also the right staff who share the commonality of purpose to move the business forward. Without that, we cease to exist.
A good, long-term relationship with lenders therefore depends on regular discussions and working with them. Every business is unique. Communicating the nuances is key to ensuring lenders fully understand your strategy and allows them to offer suggestions or different mechanisms to remain flexible and buoyant.
The nature of our work means we are not a cash-rich business: cases can take four to five years to conclude and we are reliant on negotiating costs. Our financial model is also constantly subject to legal and government reform that can suddenly restrict the way we generate income. But again having the right people and partners can make this process slightly more bearable.
There will always be the end-of-year push but again I think this is something which can be much less stressful with the right people on board. Everyone should be working to achieve the figures and provide the growth needed to expand.
Uncertainty is the enemy of productivity. A lesson I have learned, particularly coming in as managing partner relatively unknown, is the importance of communicating your plans with staff and your external partners to make them part of the process. This is particularly important in a challenging period.
Vidisha Joshi is managing partner of Hodge Jones & Allen