A Legal Practice Manager must be an all rounder - hot on finance, compliance, HR, general management, IT, facilities and change management. Recruiters aren't asking for a lot!
A strong practice manager is paramount, especially in smaller firms; there are so many responsibilities, which don't change upon the size of the firm, however, in a larger firm there tend to be more managers. In a smaller firm, there will likely be just one. It's a get-your-hands dirty kind of role and responsibility. Commercial awareness has become more important than ever - as a LMP this should be something you know in your sleep.
What training does a Legal Practice Manager need? Qualifications for a Legal Practice Manager
A Legal Practice Manager must haves:
- Solid accounts experience
- Hot on bookkeeping
- Billing account reconciliation and debt recovery
- Specific knowledge of case management systems and Lexcel and SRA
- Top knowledge on compliance also gives an edge.
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Qualifications certainly count, but recruiters are looking for more than just a degree! It's about the person. From our experience and working with many LPMs, we know that when hiring a manager, HR and law firms look for impressive track records in top-notch legal firms, but solid accountancy experience within a pacy professional services business head also places you firmly in the running. The key to recruitment within the legal practice is someone who can demonstrate leadership, adaptability and commercial vision - it's not all about ticking boxes!
At ILFM, we offer training for:
- Leadership and management
- People (often forgotten!)
Our seriously cost effective training, delivered from leaders in this field certainly pays off! Kieran Egan, Practice manager Adkirk Law said of our training:
"I would highly recommend the ILFM interactive introductory online sessions. They are fantastic and really get you thinking about your very duties and responsibilities from new angles for your personal and teams development."
Our training is designed to provide practical advice, tools to handle the most difficult situations and the opportunity to discuss challenges. It equips the best leaders with the most important skills for a progressive Legal Practice Manager:
Development as a Legal Practice Manager - it's all about the people!
Many plates spinning at once - a person has to have exceptional cognitive abilities and emotional intelligence. It is not a 9-5 role.
Practice managers have responsibility to manage and maintain their solicitors and staff of all levels. Firms, as well as individuals failing to comply, can face significant problems from being targeted by criminals, to receiving fines and perhaps even worse - being struck off all together! Not to mention the shame and bad reputation that accompanies these mistakes - we all know consumers are savvy!
The most common issues within the legal practice are:
- Failure to meet deadlines
- Maintaining client relationships
- Handling client monies
The best way in which to deal with these issues is to have an individual who oversees everything, hence the need for a Legal Practice Manager. Communication has and always will be the key to a strong practice manager as long as you are authoritative, and compliance savvy together with having emotional intelligence and an understanding of your fellow colleagues and staff.
The impact a legal practice manager has on the recent tightening of compliance regulations
The demand for creating and maintaining a robust compliance programme for any law firm is critical. Compliance in any business, especially the legal practice, is about managing and avoiding rise whilst complying with applicable laws and regulations. Specifically for legal firms, as you readers will know, the necessity for security and integrity of information run across all aspects of their operations.
Over the past year, we've seen the number of people working from home has vastly increased, proving a further challenge to be more vigilant in compliance policies - don't be fooled!
Policy changes within compliance such as working from home, alongside GDPR legislation have really highlighted the need for compliance to protect your firm. A Legal Practice Manager is at the forefront of creating a well-oiled machine! Without one it can negatively impact your firm because of poor management. It is therefore vital to train and recruit Legal Practice Managers.
With constant changes to regulations you need to be on top of it! Did you know that if you have a pooled client account, Regulation 37(5)(b) requires the holder of the account to provide information on the identity of the persons on whose behalf monies are held in the pooled account on request by the bank. The guidance for banks suggests they may test the ability of the firm to comply with this. Have you covered this off with your client in terms of confidentiality? Banks have been requiring firms to confirm they would provide this information for a while, but it's rare we see it dealt with in the engagement letter/terms of business. There's nothing to say you can't get consent at the time the bank asks you.... but what if you can't get it?
Coronavirus and Legal Practice Management
There is plenty of research suggesting a large percentage of legal firms believe that their compliance systems are less effective than they should be, creating a deficit in financial return. Although the coronavirus is slowing certain processes down and causing problems, it's important to remember we're all human! People are understanding (well not all)! However, emerging articles have explored the possibility that the coronavirus is no longer an excuse for slow or poor service. Hence, the Legal Practice Manager's responsibility is greater than ever - managing bodies can really boost your firm's credentials. Which, by the way, is exceptional for search engine marketing (SEO)!
Knowing you're right for the role - don't get caught up on a one way path!
The stigma that you must do a law degree and become a solicitor is just not the traditional route anymore. Becoming a Legal Practice Manager is a different path in the legal world, it's about people and management. Of course every job is about the people you recruit, but an LPM is much more than 'knowing the law', it's about spinning as many plates as you can at once, and this is why they are so in demand and need training.
As always, if you’d like to know more, our doors are always open and you can get in touch with me or any of the ILFM team. My email is email@example.com and our phone number is 020 8302 2867.