The Lawyer Management: Cripps Harries Hall

Adrian Jennings is head of finance and facilities at Cripps Harries Hall. His previous roles have included assistant director of finance at Denton Wilde Sapte (now SNR Denton) and group accountant at Markel Insurance. He trained at Grant Thornton.


 

What are the key elements of your role?

I have departmental responsibility for finance and facilities. I work with a senior management group heading each of the other support departments (HR, IT, marketing and business development and quality and information). My key responsibilities include: board level commitments; assisting with development and evaluation of business strategy; financial systems, processes and controls; financial accounting and tax; management information; budgeting and cashflow forecasting; revenue and expenditure management; banking, treasury and insurance; working capital management; staff development.

What’s in your in-tray?

There’s a new contract with our file storage providers, a business case for reverting from leasing PCs to purchasing, a 2012-13 budget for presentation to the board and a financial ­report on the last calendar month.

What was the most pressing item you faced last year?

A challenging business environment meant cash inflows began to fall below budget. Most cash outgoings are fixed in the short-to-medium term so we dipped into cash reserves and delayed partners’ profit distributions. Cash inflows have improved and profit distributions have been made and cash reserves restored.

What have been the key ways in which you have improved the efficiency of your firm?

Some of my biggest successes have been: selecting and installing the Elite practice management system; developing a culture for putting the bottom line before the top line through a programme of tutorials; rolling out a matter profitability model and leading pricing decisions; facilitating the firm’s conversion to LLP status; transferring staff into a service company for tax efficiency; centralising production and mailing of all invoices from finance; removing the need for a bank overdraft facility through prudent cash management; reducing lock-up to under 110 days; and making financial information more accessible and understandable to partners and staff.

What are the primary ways in which you source suppliers?

We consult with our peers from other firms on best practice and reputable suppliers. Where possible we favour local ­suppliers.

What are the most significant external issues that currently have an impact on your role?

At a macro level, the euro crisis. At a micro level, over-capacity in the legal sector and competitive pricing.

What impact are the structural changes to the UK legal market having on your firm and your role?

It’s difficult to differentiate the impact of structural changes from those of current economic/market conditions. Time will tell.

How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?

There are 10 in finance and seven in facilities.

Which board/s do you sit on?

The partnership board, the management board, the service company board, the senior management team, the IT steering group and risk committee.

Who do you report to?

Managing partner Jonathan Denny.

What problem would you most like technology to solve?

Lawyers’ poor project management. The automation of certain tasks would deliver more consistent advice at a more predictable cost.

What’s the most important lesson your role has taught you?

Keep finding different ways to express your message. Lawyers are very bright but they don’t all ’get’ financial management, so messages have to be presented in different ways to different people. Face-to-face works best.

Firm facts

41 Partners

95 Lawyers

143 Fee-earners

2 Offices

Financials

Turnover: £18.7m
Revenue per partner: £456,000
Revenue per lawyer: £197,000

Financial management

During the 2010-11 financial year Cripps saw a 2.6 per cent dip in revenue, from £19.2m to £18.7m, and a 6.2 per cent drop in net profit to £5.3m. Average profit per equity partner stood at £225,000.

The firm remains prudently managed, however, with no bank loans last year, while Cripps’ tight control over discretionary spend and billing helped it beat its 100-day lockup target by a day, with work-in-progress of 27 days and 62 debtor days at 2010-11 year end.

Technology

CRM: LexisNexis InterAction
PMS: Thomson Elite Enterprise
DMS: DeskSite
Other: Microsoft Office and others