That is the strong conviction of Simon McCrum (pictured), now managing partner of consultancy McCrum & Co, whose CV includes spells at Cobbetts and Pannone.

‘All now gone,’ McCrum reminded delegates at the Law Management Section annual conference. Cobbetts went bust and Pannone is now part of Slater and Gordon.

McCrum recalled year-on-year growth rates of 35% as ‘figures we celebrated’, but said they distracted attention from the task of ensuring sustainable expansion.

He contrasted this with the model he adopted as managing partner at Oxford firm Darbys, which turned the failing firm’s fortunes around. There McCrum introduced a system of regular client feedback, under which clients gave a ‘mark’ every two weeks to each lawyer, including partners.

Even partners were ‘proud of an “A”’ and ‘concerned by a “C”’, he said. Bad scores were addressed and frank conversations ensued with colleagues who were not supporting efforts to turn the firm around using these and other techniques.

McCrum recalled conversations that required him to say: ‘I’ll give you a chance to channel your[negative energy] in the right direction.’

Prioritising ‘profit, cash and developing our army of fantastic people’, were prerequisites to growth, he stressed.

Darbys was later sold to Knights, a firm backed by private equity nvestors.