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Whatever the climate, people are the greatest challenge

Management and People | Pro-Tem Executive Connect - Blog

Bill Kirby reflects on the possible effects of a new normality with many people continuing to evaluate their working environments and work-life balance.

People are without doubt the greatest challenge – some firms are already struggling with the departure of legal resource and the inability to find replacements. They may have been unhappy with the management methodologies of the last year or so, want to work in a different environment and/or delaying decisions on where and how to move. It is also very volatile with offers outstripping offers – not necessarily the right home for the candidates – bit like the Premier League.

Ensuring the right environment for the development of the business, it’s client management and people management – has to start at the top. As well as the rest of the population, Partners, Directors and Senior Managers have all faced challenges through the lock down and many will have considered their personal circumstances and if they haven’t yet – they should do.

It is essential in the interest of the business that they should be honest and up front and this will range from retirement in n years-time through to selling their interest in the business – this affects individuals but also the whole firm.

Management buy outs will have been affected by younger lawyer’s views of management and ownership and merging or being acquired by another firm is much more successful if done in a controlled manner rather than a forced sale because of financial or insurance shortfalls. How well this activity is done can have a major impact on more junior but very loyal staff and of course the customer/client base and of course the value of the transaction.

Putting ownership aspects on one side, we also have to look at management. Just because someone is a partner/director and the largest fee earner in the business does not make him the best manager. Management requires planning, relationship and giving of one self as opposed to other focuses. It means getting the best out of team members, developing them and making them feel part of the operation. The rest of a team will also look at how the manager deals with poor performers putting effort in but then justifiably making the appropriate call. It also requires strategy, a plan and measured action and review.

It is also important that succession is a planned thing, not just for the in house working but also for client relationship management and hand overs. This covers management, top level skills and relationships and motivation.

All firms will have skills shortfalls in just about every business area so as well as part timers, consultants and the like it is also time to consider Non Exec Directors for skill shortfalls, coaching and mentoring.

Once the business owners and seniors have effectively positioned their roles and time frames – and it needs to be done very quickly then the management methodology for staff has to be put in place – recognising, work-life balance, shared home and office working, perpetual supervision, connectivity, people development, skills transfers, varying generations – some of that has gone missing to the detriment of clients and performance with security and efficiency. Add to that the needs for diversity and equality expectation.

Where and how we are going to get the skills and staff volumes needed to meet current and future client demands – needs immediate consideration. Utilising outsourcing, part-time or consulting across the full staff activity range with multiple skills.

Not forgetting that with flexible working that the right and secure infrastructure has to be in place.

Extracted from article by Bill Kirby, available at: