I recently read a post on the Law Gazette’s blog entitled ‘Professional managers must be accepted into law firms, and fast’. I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.
The results of a 2008 survey by Managing Partner Forum showed that 50 per cent of Finance Directors are not on the firm’s board, and 70 per cent of partners do not consider the FD an equal. Presumably the same sort of attitude would extend to the Marketing Director, and even more so to other non-lawyers in the firm.
In our previous posts we have underlined just how much the legal market is changing. In a nutshell, there is no longer room for firms that consider management as an aside to their legal work. Simon has already outlined how Business Development and Marketing professionals can benefit from the recession. The same is undoubtedly true for FDs, and for firms who properly value their finance staff.
The pressure on law firm managers couldn’t be greater at present – and there are two sides to this coin.
The onus is on partners to include their senior finance staff in the ongoing management of the firm, requiring regular and easily comprehensible financial information and cash flow forecasts which they can then use to drive change.
At the same time, quality Finance Directors will take the opportunity to impress upon the partners just how important they are – and to demonstrate in concrete terms exactly how they are helping to keep the firm on track while so many are straying badly off course.
Management in law firms may be well behind other sectors at present, but this will not be the case for long. So it’s time to let the non-lawyers in, and give them the support they need to excel at their jobs. Otherwise there may not be much more legal work to be getting on with.