Very much enjoyed presenting to the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association in Taupo this week-end.
On the topic of ‘embracing the future’ my key message was to prepare for uncertainty, be a voice for change and be ready for change!
Thanks for having me along.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Lethbridge, thank you Stephen!
That was my key message to 250 delegates at Lawfest in Auckland last week.
It was terrific to see so much interest in the impact of technology on the delivery of legal services and to hear a variety of speakers sharing their views on how to to adapt & thrive in a changing market. While the focus of Lawfest is on innovation and technology, my message was simple: we must not make technology our God; people first, digital second!
The sad story of Ernest Quintana, reported by the world media a couple of weeks ago, illustrated my point. Mr Quintana, a 78 year old patient in a Californian hospital, was told he was about to die by a doctor using a robot with a video-link screen. Sadly, he died the next day.
In a statement of apology, the senior vice-president of the hospital said: 'we don't support or encourage the use of technology to replace the personal interactions between our patients and their care teams.'
People first, digital second.
Recent research confirms that human interaction matters, - especially to those that matter most to you in your business, - your clients and to your people.
Finally, I shared this quote that seemed to capture both the theme of my talk and the mood in the conference room:
"Bread is like humanity itself. We come in different shapes and sizes, colours and guises, yet underneath the skin and crust we're all made of the same stuff. The trick of achieving happiness and harmony is surely to celebrate both our similarities and differences with equal vigour." -Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
A firm retreat is a good opportunity for your team to refocus and recharge. A successful retreat can provide breakthroughs you may not even have anticipated!
Here are my 7 tips for running a successful retreat:
1. Be clear and realistic about what you want to achieve in the time available;
2. Consult with those who will be involved beforehand;
3. Do your research up front, e.g., a team engagement survey;
4. Pick a comfortable venue away from the office; stay a night;
5. Have an external speaker, either live or via video conference;
6. Appoint an experienced facilitator to lead discussion;
7. Follow up and implement post-retreat.
Simon has many years experience of speaking at, and facilitating, retreats for firms while bringing focus and fresh ideas to the process. If you are planning a retreat this year, get in touch! Perhaps he can help you?
"After completing his due diligence on our firm to gain an understanding of our culture, value and client base, Simon prepared a bespoke agenda that was superbly tailored, resulting in the output exceeding our expectations. Simon’s role was pivotal and his generous contributions were much valued by all."
- Practice Manager, Rice Speir
Mention the words ‘strategy’ or ‘planning’ to many business leaders and managers and their eyes tend to glaze over. Many I speak to profess their organisation or firm has ‘done it’ but on closer inspection, in reality, they have not, or at least, not that effectively. For many, setting business goals is akin to making New Year’s resolutions, - aspirational but with (some) goals rarely achieved. Often this can be due to a lack of consensus or commitment within an organisation, especially at the top. However, this can also be as a result of the organisation failing to define its business first.
By ‘define its business', I mean gain clarity around some key drivers of the business; for example:
- Our purpose – why are we in existence?
- Our vision – what are we trying to achieve?
- Our values – how should we go about our business?
- Our value – what is it that our clients really buy?
- Our services – what do we offer?
- Our philosophy – what drives us?
- Our style – how should we present ourselves?
- Our point(s) of difference – what sets us apart from our competitors ?
Often, finding consensus to these questions can be hard and can result in semantics and verbosity. It needn’t be this way. Recently, I refined a one-page strategy statement (see below) that I have used with some clients who report that the the process has some real benefits:
- it creates a sense of common enterprise;
- it provides clarity and gives confidence;
- it sets boundaries, and
- it motivates people.
As a rule of thumb, your strategy statement should be BRIEF, literally.
B = believable (by the team)
R = realistic
I = inspiring (to the team)
E = easy to understand
F = focused
Once you have defined your business, you will find it is easier to manage, to make decisions, and to attract the right people.
While out on a walk in beautiful Hanmer Springs, New Zealand today, it dawned on me that 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of my working as an independent consultant, speaker and mentor to professional services firms, (notably law firms!). I reflected on what I had achieved in that time and began to wonder how it had all passed so quickly. Since I went solo in 1994, I have met some really great people and have had the privilege of working with clients in 13 countries across 5 continents. My thanks to all of you for the opportunities wherever you are. It has been quite a journey.
As you might imagine, there have been many stories along the way. Most recently, towards the end of last year, I was approached by a 4 partner law firm in New Zealand to help with some partnership and management issues. I proposed an internal review of their governance, strategy, management, team engagement levels and Partner aspirations. My review culminated in a one and a half day retreat/meeting with the Partners. The end result has been clarity and consensus around where the firm is now and where it wants to head in the future. One of the Partners has since kindly described my help as 'invaluable'.
I am sure there may be a few more success stories like this to come in the next year or three (not twenty five!). If your firm would like to be one of them, why not call me for a no-obligation, no-fee initial consultation. Or maybe you know of a firm who might benefit from you passing on this update?
All the best for 2019!
The Future Firm Forum for lawyers and law firm leaders was held at Millbrook on 19/20 October. Delegates enjoyed inspiring presentations from national and international speakers including Erin Ebborn and Jarrod Coburn (NZ), Katherine Thomas (Australia), David Sharrock (Australia), Simon McCrum (UK) and Te Radar (NZ). The event was capped off with a great dinner at Amisfield vineyard. As usual, we gathered for a team photo before dinner! Special thanks to our sponsors ASB, Automio, AllProcure, Legal Personnel and Voice of the Client.
I was honoured to give a keynote address at this year’s HRINZ conference in Auckland on 4 October. My talk, - ‘But I’m not a Robot’ examined the likely impact of technology on the workplace and human relations. Great people there.
Recently, I was interviewed by Lawtalk regarding the future of legal services in New Zealand. Here's my take:
What are the biggest changes you think New Zealand legal services providers need to make to remain viable?
There are effectively two groups in New Zealand who provide legal services: law firms and in-house counsel. The latter group is gaining ground and learning fast about how best to add commercial value to their clients and how to operate most effectively and efficiently. For this group, I think the challenge will continue to be how best to resource their departments, and how best to exert influence on their CEOs and boards so that they are perceived to be much more than lawyers managing reputational and legal risk. The growth of in-house counsel augurs well for their future.
Law firms on the other hand face much bigger challenges which will require them to completely re-think how they operate if they are to remain viable. The fundamental difference today compared with 10 years ago is that legal services has become a buyer’s market. Clients call the shots not the lawyers. Law firms have to understand and be prepared to meet new criteria for purchasing legal services such as pricing, convenience, and overall commercial value. Time, and billing by the hour, has already become irrelevant. Increasingly by their numbers and assisted by social media, the new generation of employees are calling the shots when it comes to the conditions of their employment. Employers need to shape new vibrant workplace cultures that breakaway from the traditional structures and offer a whole new way of flexible working, autonomy, high-trust and motivation. Numerous studies and ‘best employer’ benchmarks show that those organisations who invest in their people are more productive and profitable.
There will be some casualties as the progressives take on the conservatives, but it is both inevitable and imperative if firms want to stay ‘ahead of the curve’. This will require visionary leadership, something that has been as scarce as hen’s teeth in the 30 years I have been involved in the ‘profession.’
What do you see as the major developments which will happen in the delivery of legal services in New Zealand over the next five years?
I think legal services will become much more accessible and affordable with solutions available for straightforward work at the push of a button on an I-phone. Buyer sophistication will force legal service providers to meet the market by embracing technology and redesigning their business models. In the process we will see new structures, new automated processes, and new styles of law firm emerge to take advantage of a latent market for legal services.
In-house counsel will continue to grow in numbers and influence, offering better career options than private practice.
Traditional law firm structures (partners, senior associates etc) will disappear to be replaced by more agile, accommodating and innovative models. Law firm personnel may reduce with only the essential workforce retained full-time; the rest of the work will be contracted out to specialists in their respective legal or operational fields. Firms will be populated by more non-lawyers with new skills essential for service delivery. Traditional offices may be a thing of the past as progressive firms scale down, work from home or use hubs to carry out essential work. Increasing emphasis will be placed on making law businesses great places to work by adopting a ‘one team’ inclusive approach and by providing sufficient inspiration to engage the team. To facilitate all of this, I believe it would help to de-regulate the legal services industry in New Zealand so as to allow non-lawyers to be directors of law firms and to allow for alternative service providers similar to the UK and Australia. Failure to do so could prove to be a hindrance for incumbents and start-ups looking to make the most of the brave new world! It could also be the final nail in the coffin for the New Zealand ‘legal profession.’
Do you think the New Zealand legal profession in 2028 will be very different to the profession in 2018?
Yes. I think the ‘legal profession’ as we know it will become increasingly irrelevant and will eventually disappear to be replaced by a competitive ‘legal services industry’, one full of opportunity and one that is already taking shape thanks to some fundamental events and changes in our society. Generational change, technology and globalization are just three of the major triggers of change that are revolutionizing the world of business, not just the legal profession. For decades, lawyers and law firms have had a monopoly on the delivery of legal services but not anymore. Buyers of legal services no longer need to consult a lawyer or a law firm to access legal services, thanks to deregulation (overseas), the emergence of law firm/lawyer substitutes (accountants, online documentation, expert applications that automate traditional tasks), and ‘NewLaw’ innovation start-ups such as Riverview Law (UK), Hive Lawyers (Australia) and Valorem (USA) who have taken real steps to meet the needs of a buyer’s market. through specialization, restructuring and automation and in the process, are redesigning the DNA of ‘legal market’.
These trends are not temporary fads. You cannot put the genie back in the bottle. There is no going back to ‘the good old days’. Firms that ignore the trends and their ramifications do so at their own peril. It was Professor Stephen Mayson, former director of the UK-based Legal Services Institute who stated as far back as 2007: “The profession would be well advised to lose its current tendency to equate the legal services market with the legal profession. The market may grow and prosper; the legal profession may not.”. Take note.
To read the full article, click here.
On April 27, Simon spoke to members of the Whitsunday Chamber of Commerce. Thanks to Allan and the rest of the team for having me. Met some great people.