Ian Beattie, chief operating officer
The Lawyer Management: Lindsays
5 March 2012 | By Matt Byrne
Ian Beattie, a chartered accountant and former finance director at Scottish firm Brodies, has been Lindsays’ chief operating officer since November 2007. He focuses on the firm’s financial and operational performance and ensuring that its recent growth is managed effectively.
Beattie is also vice-chair of Sport Scotland, the national agency dedicated to helping increase participation and improve performance in Scottish sport.
What’s in your in-tray?
As normal, it’s fairly full. We’re approaching our year-end so there’s a lot of work getting everyone focused on that, making sure all their time is recorded, that everything is going to be billed at as high a recovery level as possible and that focus is maintained on cash collection.
There are a few CVs in there from applicants interested in running our estate agency business too, and we’re also looking at a couple of opportunities for smaller firms to join us, so there are various papers relating to that.
What impact are the changes in the legal market having on Lindsays and your role?
We’re seeing more opportunities for mergers with smaller firms. They recognise that things are going to get more difficult in the market in the years ahead and have concluded that there are advantages in being part of a larger entity that has the scale to invest in quality people, technology and marketing.
What is Lindsays’ management structure?
Managing partner Alasdair Cummings and I manage the firm and are the two executive members of our board, although the managing partner also does a small amount of fee-earning work.
The board has two other non-executive members elected by the partnership. It meets weekly, so decisions can be taken quickly. There are eight departments and the managing partner and I meet each department head monthly. We also meet each partner twice a year to review their performance. The full partnership meets four times a year, but this is more in the nature of a forum for sharing information than decision-making.
How many people do you have in your core team and who are they?
My direct reports are the head of finance, the IT director, the HR director, the director of risk and compliance and the facilities manager. The director of marketing and business development reports to the managing partner and me.
What are the most significant external issues that have an impact on your role?
Like almost all firms, generation of work in this economic climate is a major focus. There’s no doubt the reduction in bank lending and the difficult property market are having an impact on our clients, with a knock-on effect on us.
What problem would you most like technology to solve?
There’s still a long way to go in most legal firms to understand pricing
and how this links to profitability. Although there are a number of products that purport to address this, I still need to be convinced they provide the answer.
What are the most important lessons your role has taught you?
The importance of quality communication across the firm. The managing partner and I have just been around every office in the run-up to the year-end talking to the staff, and we recognised the need to do things such as this more often. It helps to create much more engagement.
It’s often easy to forget that the partners and staff don’t have the same knowledge and understanding of what’s going on as those in the management team, and there are significant benefits to be gained from keeping the main stakeholders in the firm informed.
This sort of thing doesn’t come naturally to most lawyers and accountants, but it’s worth the effort.
Revenue per partner: £400,000
Revenue per lawyer: £141,000
Revenue per fee-earner: £97,000
Lindsays has invested heavily in technology in the past few years, primarily to help fee-earners do their job as efficiently as possible.
“We’ve recently finished a root-and-branch review of our secretarial model, and made a number of changes to improve the quality and efficiency of delivery,” says Beattie. “We also spend a lot of time looking at the most appropriate structure for our teams, to ensure we can
deliver work to clients in a cost-effective way.”
Practice management system: Pilgrim’s LawSoft (which includes an integrated document management system)