Efforts by law firms to stand out by defining their ‘values’ and purpose commonly fail through lack of management commitment, the former head of customer service at iconic department store chain John Lewis has said.  

Andrew McMillan, former head of customer service, John Lewis

Andrew McMillan

Source: Michael Cross

Andrew McMillan, former head of customer service, John Lewis

Andrew McMillan, now an independent consultant, believes that ideally a law firm leader will spend up to half of their time on tasks such as looking after the interests of staff and checking clients are properly welcomed at the firm – all the while modelling the behaviour and values expected of fee-earners and staff.

McMillan was keynote speaker at today’s Law Society Law Management Section (LMS) annual conference at Chancery Lane.

He recognised that many LMS delegates had significant demands to meet from their own clients, but warned that ‘anything less than’ 20% of working time spent by leaders on this side of the firm’s activities ‘doesn’t work’. ‘You’ve got to find time to model and lead,’ he urged.

McMillan, whose clients include professional services firms, quoted the Ritz Carlton mantra: staff and guests should feel ‘welcomed, wanted, remembered, cared for’.

This poses a challenge for law firms, which should reassess the balance of traits and skills they look for when recruiting, he suggested. ‘Hire for attitude,’ McMillan advised, alluding to his own experience of customer service: ‘You can’t teach someone to be nice. You can teach them to sell a computer.’

Recruitment energies should therefore focus on bringing people with the right ‘personality’ into the business. If they provide a poor cultural fit for the firm’s values then they should be removed from the firm within six weeks, he said.

This was vital for firms seeking to differentiate themselves, he stressed, adding: ‘Done with enough conviction, a “halo effect” transfers from [your individuals] to the brand.’

More information about the LMS can be found here.