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Sector trends

Checklist: is your law firm future-proof?

Firms in the legal sector face a number of opportunities and challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the eighth edition of the Royal Bank of Scotland Legal Report, author Robert Mowbray focused on firms operating at the SME level across England, Scotland and Wales. Understandably, the pandemic generated a surprising and highly valuable set of insights into the inner workings of the sector, separating it from reports produced in previous years.

David Weaver, Head of Professional Services at the bank, says: “This edition differs from its predecessors because it is important for us to fully understand how the legal sector performed and how firms behaved during the pandemic. With this in mind, we’ve included a future-proof checklist, which we hope will give firms a useful framework to help navigate challenges and leverage new opportunities to pivot, innovate and grow."

The following questions are featured in the report to help firms decide for themselves the solutions that are needed for their business.

Staff engagement: mental health and well-being
  • What improvements can be made to our processes so that we better understand what our staff want?

  • Should we be identifying measures so that we can track mental health and well-being over time?

  • Do we need to think again about rewards and benefits to ensure that we can retain and accommodate a wider and more diverse employee group?

  • Are we as good as we should be at attracting the best possible people to work with us?

  • Do we invest enough in the development of our staff?

  • Do we have clearly identified and communicated career paths that are open to everyone?

Client attraction and engagement
  • How is business development going to change with agile working?

  • Is it time to review again the clients that we’re looking to target?

  • Should we be looking to offer new services to clients to increase fee income and improve client loyalty?

  • Are we good at understanding what our clients value and ensuring delivery of such value to all clients?

  • Should we think again about the way in which we quote for work? Are there changes that could be made which would result in more profitable work being won?

  • Are we good at talking to clients at the outset about estimates, money on account, billing frequency and our credit terms?

Productivity and agile working
  • What do we see as ‘normal’ being in the future for the number of days worked in the office each week?

  • Do we need to stipulate any core hours of working?

  • What further investments are needed to hardware, software and home office kit to ensure remote working is both a productive and comfortable working environment?

  • Have we adequately adopted the use of AI or automation?

  • Do we have the breadth of skill sets and specialisms within the firm to take advantage of the digitisation trend and new ways of working?

Making best use of the office
  • How much office space will we need as we embrace agile working?

  • Is our existing office space constructed to facilitate the way in which our staff will want to use the office in the future?

  • Is there an opportunity now to become completely paperless?

  • Are our offices an attractive place for our staff to come into, collaborate and be productive?

  • Have we got the right people dealing with cyber security and is this group properly resourced?

Firm finance
  • Does the firm have adequate capital so that it could face a future crisis and survive - even without emergency government support?

  • Are the necessary banking facilities in place and are we clear about the levels of debt with which the firm is comfortable?

  • What further steps can be taken to accelerate cash flow and reduce lock-up?

  • Have we got sufficient finance in place for the capital investments that the firm wishes to make?

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of the NatWest Group Economics Department, as of this date and are subject to change without notice.

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