The concept of management is often seen as less of a priority in legal offices where fee-earning is seen as the key to success. But that may have to change with the long-planned – if not long-awaited – revision to practice rule 13.
Following the Law Society standards and guidance committee meeting last week, which approved the change, supervisors will have to retrain to meet the requirements.
For those unfamiliar with this rule – and this no doubt includes the majority of the legal profession – which covers the supervision and management of an office, its objective is to ensure, "in the public interest, that solicitors are prevented from 'fronting' for unqualified persons, and clients receive a competent professional service".
In practice, however, it is argued that numerous anomalies have been thrown up by the existing rule, and many expect this to be the case with its revision – some may see this as lawyers resisting the imposition of even more rules and bureaucracy on an already beleaguered legal profession.
But, as many acknowledge, lawyers may know the law, but they do not always know how to manage. The number of claims on the Solicitors
Indemnity Fund is cited as proof of this. Furthermore, the recent growth in the use of management consultants by law firms suggests they are willing to bridge this knowledge gap, and the majority have done so prior to any such rule changes.
Inevitably, in a profession accustomed to scrutinising the small print, there will be those who argue for waivers or exemptions from this rule. But if the revision results in fewer claims and better management, there are those who may well ask why it has taken such a long-winded procedure to bring this about. Whether it is seen as cosmetic or substantive, the change should mean that those firms which are willing to embrace proper working practices will be the ones which thrive.