A few weeks ago I was privileged to speak at leading solvency & forensic accounting experts Worrells 2017 VIC State Conference.(great event Worrells put on by the way)
If being given the graveyard shift (immediately after lunch) and also being last presenter for the day (standing between professionals and the bar/18 holes of golf) was not bad enough but a baby boomer like me was also following the amazing millennial that is Holly Ransom.
Now I don’t know how many of you know of Holly-I had certainly heard of her ( hard not to notice a 20 something with a CV that includes the youngest person to be named Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women, Chair of the 2014 G20 Youth Summit and the world’s youngest-ever Rotary President) but had never met her nor heard her present.
Wow! Holly’s keynote about our changing world and in particular the role millennials now, and increasingly in the future will, play was at the same time inspirational, exciting, challenging and scary. As Holly pointed out and challenged the audience in her keynote:
“50% of the world’s population is under 30, and within the next decade this millennial cohort will grow to comprise 75% of our workforce. Mix in that 42% of jobs are due to be automated within the decade and suffice to say that the nature of work and leadership is changing on us- will you be leading or bleeding?”
Looking around the room full of mainly middle aged, predominantly male accountants and lawyers, as expert and skilled in their crafts as they are, I couldn’t help but sense that many were feeling decidedly uneasy or unsure about whether they will in fact be leading or bleeding in the not too distant future.
At least, as they say, forewarned is forearmed and Holly made sure the audience understood the future is going to look very different from the present and bear no resemblance whatsoever to the past.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Holly briefly before her keynote and was surprised to find out she actually studied law-but not surprised to discover she never actually practiced.As she was speaking I kept wondering to myself what if Holly Ransom had have joined a law firm-would she have enjoyed her experience? Would she have been satisfied to be part of the Oldlaw business model (which leverages people x time x hourly rate)? Would she have been able to change some of the things she might not have liked about practising law? Would she have been content? Would she have been able to make an impact anywhere like she has done with her own business?
It also got me thinking as to where are all the Holly Ransoms’ in the professions? Why can’t we attract them and then the few we do attract, why is it we can’t we retain them? Why predominantly in the professions, instead of breeding our own innovators, change agents and disruptors do we buy in or rent the Holly Ransoms‘ of the world externally?
Why can’t, as Steven Johnson so persuasively points out in his masterful book “Where Good Ideas Come From?” and expertly summarised in this video clip, the professions breed a culture of innovation from within instead of going external.
As Steven Johnson says “chance favours the collective mind” and after all professional firms are built around smart, intelligent, social people working together many hours per day, so surely they can all get together and maximise the sum of their individual parts to come up with some amazing innovative thoughts and ideas?
But we know that is not how it works in most professional firms don’t we? As I (and many others) have written about before the structure, the measurements and the rewards in most professional firms do not engender a culture of collaboration, trust and connectivity necessary for innovation to even get a foothold-let alone survive & thrive.
But back to Worrells 2017 VIC State Conference. I challenged the audience and asked them
“where are the Holly Ransoms’ in your firms?And if not, why not?
If you are in a professional firm I ask you the same questions.
Handy Hint: If you don’t have any Holly Ransoms’ in your firm do the next best thing-get her in to speak to your people-she may actually help you uncover your hidden Hollys’.
@ChisConsult Influencing motivated professionals to make a difference.
I was fortunate to be invited to a lunch a couple of Wednesdays ago in Sydney at The Swinging Cat (so good you could have sworn you were in a Melbourne speakeasy!).
While the only problem for me was I had to sing for my lunch (well thank goodness for everyone there not literally sing but speak), it was great to mingle with many professionals from the Sydney legal scene. I was so impressed by what a great initiative this is for lawyers (and anyone in any way connected with the legal profession) who wish to socialise, share war stories, network, and learn about business, management & leadership over some good food and wine in a very informal atmosphere.
I am not sure how regular they hold these luncheons but if you are in the legal profession in Sydney you could do a lot worse than subscribe to Lawyers Lunch and head off to their next lunch. You won’t be disappointed.
Melbourne Lawyers Lunch next please?
@ChisConsult Influencing motivated professionals to make a difference.
I recently posted about the clients of professional firms that play the Billable Hour Scratch and Lose game.
Like most addictions, gambling is hard to beat, and despite clients rarely winning it seems that game is still pretty popular-at least in the legal profession. The timekeeper aficionados’ delight in posting surveys to show that still something like 75% of all law firm fees are based around time. (I personally believe it might be more than 75% as I suspect some portion-maybe most-of the remaining 25% is classified under that meaningless term “Alternative Fee Arrangements” (“AFA’s”) which, dependant upon what survey you read, usually includes capped fees, quotes based on time, blended rates, etc all which still use time to calculate a fee.)
No real surprises there and as I have said many times before, while firms cling to the Oldlaw business model of leveraging people x time x hourly rate it is going to be very difficult, take a very long time or be impossible for many firms to really offer up fee models based on anything other than time estimated in arrears or time estimated in advance.
Funny thing about time though. Theoretically, conceptually and scientifically time is a constant for all of us. My time is no different to your time and last time I looked the world over there were always 60 seconds in 1 minute, 60 minutes in 1 hour, 24 hours in one day, and 7 days in one week (exception might be North Korea as I am unsure what their Supreme Leader might have decreed about time this week).
Time doesn’t “stand still”. I can’t go back in time and I can’t go forward in time (yet). Despite the claims made by practice manager vendor spruikers no one can actually “capture” time. And being human beings we never accurately record our time spent on anything.
But if all time is the same why is it then that we use phrases like “where did the time go?”, “time flies”, “time is dragging”, “I wish I had more time” etc.
Actual time of course doesn’t vary but our experience of time does. Our perception of time is always, always inextricably linked to what we do with our time:
- Is it enjoyable time?
- Is it dangerous time?
- Is it sleep time?
- Is it creative time?
- Is it boring time?
- Is it valueless time?
- Is it meaningless time?
- Is it time that made a difference to someone or something?
- Is it valuable time?
- Is it meaningful time?
If all time is perceived as being different dependant on what we are doing with our time, it must follow that our customers too have different and very individual experiences of the time they spend with us and particularly the time that they pay for.
How then as professional practices do we monetize the experience of time our customers get from us?
For starters it makes no sense at all for professionals to have a single hourly rate to try and monetize our clients experiences of our time. As Matt Homann author of the 10 Rules About Hourly Billing says:
“When you bill by the hour, your once-in-a-lifetime flash of brilliant insight that saves your client millions of dollars has the same contribution to your bottom line as the six minutes you just spent opening the mail.”
“There are 1440 minutes each day. How many did you make matter? How many did you bill for? Were they the same minutes? Didn’t think so.”
One possible way of getting around the “all time is the same” mentality of course is to charge different hourly rates depending on what you are actually doing for your client. For instance for your flash of brilliance in the shower you would charge out a higher rate than when you are correcting your grammar in a letter. Of course this might make your finance manager’s annual budgeting fairytale more of a nightmare and would further add to the administration time of entering different default rates but, hey, as law firms spend something like 10-15% of their gross feeding the time machine at the moment anyway what is a little more effort in an endeavour to more properly monetise the value you are providing to your clients?
It’s not that Oldlaw firms are not used to having all sorts of different hourly rates on their system. Some have default rates dependant upon what particular clients insist on and all have different hourly rates dependant solely on the seniority of the lawyer (in the somewhat time honoured mistaken belief that if I am a senior I am automatically worth more-even for my grammar corrections).
Or you could just drop the time charade completely and do what most of the business world does. Agree your scope of work and your price(s) up front.Make your clients experience focus on the results and outcomes you have helped them achieve-not on your time spent or to be spent.
As human beings we use time to measure many things-especially physical activities.(swimming races, foot races, horse races, public transport timetables, etc).
But there are plenty of things time cannot measure (heat, height, weight, smell, joy, love, for example).
Other things time cannot measure include quality, satisfaction, rapport, likeability, feelings, convenience, success, experience, intellectual capital, and solutions. Strangely enough these are all things your customers measure about about you.
So what does your firm measure? Thought so.
When are the professions going to stop measuring & selling something our customers do not measure and buy? While Karl Marx might be resting soundly the late Peter Drucker would be turning in his grave wondering why Knowledge Workers measure themselves, and the value they provide, by time.
For the time being unfortunately for Oldlaw and many other professional firms, “it’s just time”-and therein lies the problem.
*since starting this post I have become aware of a book by Alan Burdick titled “Why Time Flies” which examines the concept and perceptions of time-which I have not had time to read yet!
@ChisConsult Influencing motivated professionals to make a difference.
Senior Associate/Future Leaders Program: Melbourne 12 May 2017.
Join Andrew Barnes, Kate Chisholm, Andrew Clarke and me for this very popular high level, practical workshop that provides valuable insight into the essential qualities needed to enable lawyers to progress further in their firm. Designed specifically for lawyers at or near Senior Associate level, this program will outline the practical skills and knowledge necessary to deliver the outcomes that many firms expect now or will expect in the future.
Being a technically good lawyer is only the first step to success. The key is knowing what it takes to make it as a leader in a law firm. Gain inside knowledge and give yourself a competitive edge by attending this Workshop.
Topics covered include:
• Common attributes of the more successful law firms: why some firms succeed and others do not
• Trends, challenges and opportunities facing the legal profession
• How to build and maintain a sustainable client base, differentiate yourself from the competition & stand out from the crowd
• Why understanding and being able to utilise technology is essential to your tool kit
• Firm profit drivers and what financial reports tell us and don’t tell us
• Billing and Pricing options for progressive lawyers
• What law firms look for in their leaders
• Motivating and inspiring your team
• The future of the profession – how it will affect you and how you can help shape it
My guest presenters:
Previously Financial Controller, Andrew Barnes is the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Lantern Legal Group Pty Ltd, which incorporates the legal practices of Harwood Andrews and Sladen Legal. Andrew is also the National President of Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA), having previously served as Treasurer.
Patrick has almost 20 years’ experience within professional services, primarily 15 years as IT Director at national law firm Maddocks where he was key to how the Firm conducted its business, risk profile and operational relationships with clients. He has also consulted to manufacturers, educational institutions, retailers, property developers and tech firms and has been a guest speaker on legal tech on many occasions.
Previously People & Culture Advisor at Maddocks, Kate has been with international law firm Pinsent Masons since mid 2015 shortly after they opened in Australia. Reporting directly to Head of Australia, Kate is responsible for all Pinsent Masons Australian HR needs including recruitment, career advancement, ongoing training and education.
Andrew has been working with law firms for more than two decades with firms such as (current names only) Ashurst, K+L Gates and Aitken Partners. His work has been multi-dimensional, including areas of strategy such as branding to basic media profiling, as well as the basics of task such as door signage. At Aitken Partners, where he currently works, he looks after the management of client events, web and social media, tenders and media relations, as well as brand and business strategy.
Total CPD Units: 6.0
Practice Management & Business Skills: 3.0
Professional Skills: 3.0
Click here for registration