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Regulation and risk - the good, the bad and the ugly

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Saffery Champness and the ILFM recently collaborated for our inaugural law firm survey.

We gathered thoughts and opinions from a wide range individuals working within law firms, including partners and non-partners. We were especially pleased to be able to include input from employees working day to day in financial compliance roles, including financial controllers, accounts managers, COFAs and cashiers.

The survey didn’t focus solely on financial statistics and addressed many of the key operational and strategic issues facing law firms. We were also interested to find out what motivates employees in law firms, especially ILFM members, and to also try to understand areas where perhaps their talents could be better utilised.

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that SRA Accounts Rules compliance, as well as interpreting SRA guidance, sits top of the list of challenges facing ILFM members, but many were also keeping one eye on the threats posed by cyber security breaches and the importance of keeping on top of working capital management. 

With GDPR now well into its second year, mitigating risks around data use and protecting the large amounts of sensitive information held by firms continues to be a key priority.  

Most of our ILFM member respondents felt they could contribute more to their firms, with the majority feeling that their untapped abilities sit at a managerial, and sometimes strategic, level. Clear progression and, of course, a competitive remuneration structure is therefore crucial for many, but the need for a good work / life balance, coupled with flexible working options was a clear message.

The primary message from the partners who took part in the survey is that there is something of a “war for talent”, and the vast majority of those partners put staff retention at the top of their list of concerns. However, the focus of staffing strategies tended more towards fee earning staff and so it seems there is still some way to go before the full potential of support staff is realised.   

Overall though, the survey points to some encouraging signs across the sector. Average revenues of firms increased in 2019 and most firms surveyed could report growth across multiple work types. 

A full copy of the survey is sent to participating firms, while everybody can read a short summary of the findings at

If anybody would like to read a free copy of the full report, please contact Ian Johnson at and he will be happy to share it with you.