Lawyers years behind accountants on process and BD, The Lawyer research reveals

People management, process efficiency and business development are the highest priorities for improvement among the UK’s top 200 law firms, The Lawyer’s exclusive research into change management has found.

Trevor Faure
Trevor Faure

The research published today and contained in a new publication, The Lawyer Management: A Guide to Change, is based on a survey of top 200 partners who were quizzed earlier this month about a range of operationally focused topics under the umbrella subject of managing change.

“The general consensus is that the ‘Big Four’ professional services firms are between five-to-10 years ahead of ‘Big Law’ in their operational sophistication and integration; one demonstrable example of this is in client business development,” commented Ernst & Young legal services head Trevor Faure, writing in A Guide to Change. “Most encouragingly, [firms’] highest priorities for improvement are people management, process efficiency, business development and marketing.”

When partners were asked to name the single area of business management in their firm they would like to improve, people management and process efficiency tied for first place with 17.5 per cent of responses.

Elsewhere firms were asked to name the most challenging change-related projects over the past year. The top answer with nearly 50 per cent was ‘IT system/software upgrade’, a response that underlines the increasing significance IT is playing in the delivery of legal services in the UK market.

Less encouragingly, when partners were asked how effective they believed the changes they are making to their firms have been in terms of improving service levels to clients the results were less impressive.

Forty-five per cent remained neutral, an indication of an underwhelming return on investment.

The Guide to Change is aimed at the key business support aspects of running law firms including finance, HR, IT, business development, facilities management and risk.

The results appear to confirm that in many cases, the UK legal market is lagging behind its rivals in other professions services sectors.

As well as highlighting the results of The Lawyer’s research, A Guide to Change also features seven articles from leading US and UK firms on critical aspects of legal business.

They include the importance of post-merger training by Carolann Edwards, the director of learning and organisational development at Norton Rose, new financing models, by Slater & Gordon Corporate Development Manager Matt Jackson, and how risk can be an opportunity, by Olswang’s general counsel Simon Callander.