Spring and early summer are often times for reflection, and I have been reflecting on my time in practice as a solicitor, and the fact that I never came across many deliberate and detailed plans for career development. Sure, there were appraisals and performance reviews which set goals, identified areas for improvement, but they were concerned more with performing better in your current role, rather than planning and preparing for future roles, and areas of interest.

This is something we spend a lot of time on at Amiqus, and I know from experience that Cashroom does too, through their extensive training programmes for their ‘Rising Stars’ and ‘Future Leaders’.

This initiative is aimed at identifying key people for the future success of the business, and to start developing them to ensure they can perform and thrive when the time comes to step up the ladder.

At Amiqus, our benefits package includes 12 Development Days a year, where staff are encouraged to spend time on their own career development interests and requirements. We are each allocated an annual budget for that, so that we can get proper training, attend events, or purchase things we may need. We also have different career pathways within the business, so that individuals do not have to necessarily go down a route of managing other people in order to progress their career. Not everyone has the right skills to manage other people, but we believe that shouldn’t prevent career progression. There will no doubt be senior roles within your business that do not require a person to manage others to be successful.

We also have many opportunities to receive leadership training, to try new things,  and other initiatives to help people progress and develop the skills they may need or want to use in the future. This all helps to develop our people so that they want to stay with the business, that they feel they are progressing in a direction that is of interest to them, and that we have staff ready to step up to help the business thrive as opportunities arise.

Have a think for a moment – does your firm have a plan for developing its key people for the future?

Law firms must plan for the future ownership of the business via the next batch of partners, it is crucial that you plan for key staff, and older partners too. The partnership agreement may provide a set retirement age but retaining people as consultants or ambassadors for the firm beyond that may be crucial for retaining certain longstanding clients who have worked with that person for many years. Equally, Paralegals or support staff may have the deepest understanding of certain clients or may be the ones who are in regular contact with them on an ongoing basis.

When developing these key people for the future, is it also crucial to find out what they want and aim for in their working lives. When was the last time you asked your staff what their career aspirations are? There are many reasons to do so – for starters, if you can’t offer what they are aiming for, they will leave at some point, and you need to know that. Secondly, the future wellbeing of your firm will need people to take care of the different areas of the business – not just practice law – so you need to find out if you have people who have an interest in being, for example, ‘Business Development Partner/Manager/Director’, ‘Client Relations/Complaints Partner’, ‘Cashroom Manager/COLP/COFA’, or ‘Managing Partner’. It is important to find and develop these people over a period of time, and also to think about these role specifications clearly so you are not setting people up for a fall. All too often, particularly the role of Managing Partner, is given to somebody without enough regard for whether they are the best person for the role, what the firm expects of them by way of splitting their time between fee earning and management commitments and, crucially, any sort of plan as to how they would return to a full-time fee earning partner thereafter.

So, perhaps there is some food for thought here for discussion at your next Partners meeting. Do you have the same people in mind to take over the reins, and how are you going to equip them with the skills to do so?

I would suggest putting a realistic plan together, with clear and achievable objectives, put in to practice as soon as possible, and keep in regular dialogue with the people involved. They will likely be motivated by the opportunity, bringing better engagement immediately, and more seamless business continuity and succession into the future.

Gregor Angus, Senior Business Development Manager at Amiqus (www.amiqus.co)

About Cashroom

Cashroom provides expert outsourced accounting services for Law Firms including Legal Cashiering, Management Accounts and Payroll services. Our mission is to free lawyers from the complexities of legal accounting by supporting the industry with accurate management information and allowing lawyers to do what they do best – practice law.

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We’ve been with Cashroom for quite a few years now, and I would never go back. In any business, and particularly in times of uncertainty, it’s important to control your costs, and that’s exactly what you help me do.

Sharon Needle
Sharon Needle
Managing Partner, Needle Partners
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