One of my lawyers’ office was closed by auctioneers after he forgot to pay rent for over six months. A few years ago, another lawyer was disbarred for mismanaging client money. I stopped dealing with another lawyer because he had so much work, he couldn’t attend to mine.
Another top law firm is losing its junior lawyers because the managing partner and owner of the firm often withdraws large sums, and his workers’ salaries get delayed. You might be tempted to tell me my choice of lawyers is poor, but the irony is that I personally know all these lawyers and they are all brilliant people and excellent in their areas of competence. So, why do their firms fail?
Many professionals do not realise that running an office like a legal firm is not the same as being a good lawyer and requires a different skill set. They evaluate their professionalism using the criteria of their respective professions therefore, if I am a good lawyer then I am automatically a good manager.
The biggest failure with most professional firms is poor financial management. The biggest blunder is not separating the owners’ personal finances with the firm’s. It is common for the owner to call the accountant and withdraw cash on a Friday.
The idea of paying yourself a salary and using only that amount is difficult for many business owners – and it is a fundamental keystone of proper controls. Many professionals are unable to properly project their monthly revenues and end up operating without a budget.
This often leads to a situation where staff are paid erratically. Worse, the end of the month comes and there are no salaries because the boss withdrew cash for a long weekend or bought a “cheap” property. The second challenge is proper human resource management.
Many professionals underrate this critical role and often see it as an unnecessary expense. Human resource is not just keeping track of leave days, it is the maximisation of the value of the people working for you and making sure they achieve their maximum potential.
If your employees feel they are not treated professionally, then they will leave as soon as they get the next opportunity.
Your biggest risk is that you lose your best staff, and this ultimately affects your growth, both as a firm and financially. Why would a top lawyer lose clients because he is too busy? Even a matatu driver knows that when his matatu is permanently full that it’s time to increase the number his matatu.
So why don’t senior lawyers know that when they are overwhelmed, it’s time to hire younger less experienced lawyers to support them? I am told a junior lawyer earns around Sh250,000.
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Don’t these senior lawyers realise that this is the fee from a single client that can be passed down to this junior lawyer?
If the recruit is of any value (and this could have been assessed by the human resource department), then the new lawyer can start generating his own client base.
The salaries of these junior staff would be less than the fees that they would generate and would lead to greater client satisfaction. Those of us in business call this the cost-benefit analysis. Analyse whether increased costs will generate enough revenue to justify the new costs. I am amazed that so many professional firms keep losing records.
If you can’t even save my papers properly, can I trust you with more important things? If you run a professional firm and you are facing management challenges, then it is time to stop and analyse where you are going wrong and perhaps hire a professional consultant to review your operations and give you some management advice.