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Every now and then an article jumps out at you… admittedly, when you’re reading Managing for Success, published by the Law Society… it’s more “then” than “now… but in the August edition an article called “Due care and attention” really stuck out.

Featuring Philip Hyland, Managing Partner of PJH Law Solicitors (http://www.pjhlaw.co.uk/) it addressed his views on “how client care can have a real impact on the bottom line, and why increased competition in the market is a good thing for a law firm”.

PJH Law have taken an innovative route, and it hasn’t gone un-noticed, bagging them a number of awards including the Excellence in Client Care award at the Law Society Excellence Awards 2008.  According to the judges, what set the firm apart and helped land it the prize was the extent to which the partners and fee-earners went the extra mile for their clients.  Reading on through the article it seems clear that it is Hyland’s clear vision on “how they do business” that has created a culture where employees feel they want to “go that extra mile”.

Some of the sections that I found inspiring were:

  • Examples of their innovative service include client training facilities, online education tools, and an employment law e-wizard and blog to provide up-to-date information – together with offering an annual retainer with discounted rates.  Free podcasts are also available to download.
  • Their “fair billing policy” has had a big impact on their objective of keeping complaints to a minimum.  The two key principles on which the policy is based are as follows.  First, would the fee-earner be happy to pay that bill?  Second, have the benefits of the work done exceeded the legal costs? Has the fee-earner added value?  In light of the recent move by CMS Cameron MacKenna to “invite clients to pay what they think it’s worth” perhaps this is a move we should take note of…
  • Solicitors who join the firm have to educate themselves away from the tramline of the hourly rate, and towards the guidelines of the fair billing policy.
  • Hyland adds, “if you focus on non-financial targets, like excellent client care, the profit will follow… Get teh behaviour right, get people billing fairly, then the targets will follow.  I could not tell you how much each fee-earner has billed each month, quarter or year, as that’s not something we measure.  I could tell you whether they’ve had a complaint. I can tell you what the team has billed on a monthly or quarterly basis.”
  • Small changes like opening from 08:30 to 18:00 have had a disproportionately positive effect.  Similarly, the firm has an absolute ban on voicemail.  Hyland says, “Employment Law advice quite often can’t wait.  The client needs someone on the phone there and then.  We found that clients are frustrated at the non-availability of lawyers.  Barring voicemail and opening outside core office hours has addressed this.”

As well as discussing the firm’s response to the recession and how they manage complaints more specifically, the article ends by talking about Hyland’s vision for the future… as well as a bit about the professional path that he has walked so far.

Hyland states, “Competition should be welcomed, as it raises standards and allows those competing to differentiate their offering from their competitors.  Competition breeds innovation, as the process of differentiation instills a requirements to innovate…”

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