Thoughts from a Greek Island – Digital Detox, the Brexit Shemozzle and Exciting Times

Sep 4, 2019

Bennett Briegal is six months old, the school holidays have come and gone, we are busier than with our previous firm and we are now entering into the traditionally busiest period of the year for us.

To be advising other professionals right now is exciting, exhilarating and during a period of intense change is good fun and rewarding. In this blog we explore the current challenges having switched off to gain a new perspective for a few weeks.

 

Challenges for law firms between September to December 2019

Change is a constant and we are all used to it even if we do not like it. Advising other professionals across law, accountancy, financial services and healthcare  though gives us a unique perspective which can help firms step back from things and pick out which aspects will help them the most.  We cut through the noise and confusion to help manage our client’s resources more effectively.

Having seen my girls off to the new school year earlier today this school terms major challenges are:

  1. The Great Shemozzle – Brexit and whatever the hell is happening. What does it mean for your law firm? We are advising firms with EU offices on the risks and implications already and the ongoing great shemozzle (credit goes to Charles Nove on Scala Radio this morning for this perfect description) means firms must be prepared to adopt new methods of working across borders potentially with only weeks of notice. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) often take months to agree to structural changes. The uncertainty cannot continue, and we expect more firms to have to adopt plans in case of either a no-deal Brexit or continued chaos as MP’s remain – deliberate pun intended – deadlocked. We are already helping firms plan to amend their operations to include a European office so if you need support on the legal and regulatory issues involved, get in touch.
  2. The SRA Standards & Regulations 2019 – the new SRA rulebook comes into force on the 25th November 2019. Already we have trained thousands of solicitors in law firms across the country on it already and are available to offer in house reviews, training and support. It is a seismic change as whilst building on the evolved SRA Principles 2011 and SRA Code of Conduct 2011 as amended by version 21 – yes between 2010 and 2019 it changed 21 times! It is a significant rewrite with new rules and different implications. The Standards and Regulations 2019 mark a return to individual accountability and a return to justifying your professional judgment. My book on the changes can help you prepare and is available from Amazon using this link here.
  3. Freelance Solicitors – the gig economy comes to law firms also on the 25th November 2019. In practice this means law firms face losing staff who have the appetite to work for themselves more easily than ever before, naturally increased competition and a new type of practitioner on the other side who cannot hold client money in a client account and who may pose different practical risks to your clients in transactional work given the reduced insurance position required in contrast to law firms. The SRA call these solicitors an “SRA-regulated independent solicitor” rather than freelance solicitors but expect the name to change because the term “independent” is contentious and undermines the rest of the profession by implying established law firms and solicitors are not independent.

These big picture structural challenges are arriving within months of each other. Are you ready? Is your firm ready? What are you going to change? Why? We have been advising on them since 2016 in all aspects so can give you guidance and support to help. The Law Society recently commissioned us to write the first draft of guidance for the profession as a whole in the form of a Practice Note, this will be released by the Law Society in the coming weeks.

 

Technology, people and mental health

Other challenges exist though – how much time to you and your team spend on social media? How is your concentration level? How productive are you and your team? Whilst in Crete I was listening to podcasts involving Professor Cal Newman who has researched the availability to undertake “deep work” i.e. distraction free deep concentration work. As a society it is diminishing due to electronic devices, smartphones and social media and the distraction factor they cause. I have for a number of years switched off email at night and weekends, Newman’s research suggests we all need to focus our businesses on adopting such an approach if we are to protect the deep work which is the asset of the professions.

A digital detox is therefore essential. Silicon Valley titans have a retreat founded by one of the leaders of a key technology business where they can escape all phones and devices and focus on themselves, their physical and mental health and in detoxing from technology. More and more a Silicon Valley leaders are using it to escape the technology they helped develop. If they need it, what about solicitors? It is essential in my view.

Why does this matter to law firms? The recent tirade of mental health regulatory cases a number of which we have advised the individual impacted or the law firm faced with will only increase. The SRA, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) and High Court have heard the tales of poor leadership and management and the tide is turning is our experience due to the reputational impact of the cases which have occurred.

 

Darwinian

As my fellow son of Shrewsbury, Charles Darwin noted in 1836:

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.”

Applying evolution I would say a law firm leader rather than man but that lesson to focus on what is valuable remains key after all these years.

So from my sun lounger my thoughts were:

  • We must be ready to evolve again as a profession
  • Lead using digital detox
  • Ensure you plan and execute your change plan on a regular basis
  • Greek mythology is fascinating and helped me detox for a couple of weeks, so I return to the technological, economic and political pressures focused on helping clients facing those challenges.

If you need help preparing for the changes ahead that is why six months ago Bennett Briegal launched – we are here to help the professions make the most of your investment of time, energy and money into the business you own and run. We have merged multi-million law firms for years most recently the deals announced in the legal press in the last month or two, we have helped manage dialog with the SRA for firms facing investigation and we have help solve practical problems often involving partnership or employment law.

We expect an emphasis on building better places to work, being more flexible and always focused on the challenges ahead.

If you need help get in touch.

 

Paul