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Business Development for Consultant Solicitors, Lawyers and Their Firms

Business Development for Consultant Solicitors, Lawyers and Their Firms

Is there a way to maximise business development for consultant solicitors in a post COVID world? I think it’s an even better time to be thinking about marketing your legal practice, because technology is giving you and your clients more opportunities to solve legal problems!

How to get clients (Business Development for consultant solicitors)

Gone are the days when you could qualify as a lawyer, get a full-time role with a firm and live out your days earning a crust for doling out legal advice without ever needing to bring in business.

In truth, I’m not sure those days ever really existed, and if they did it was for those lawyers who might well have been just as happy sitting in any office that was willing to pay them a wage.

The lawyer of today has to have as keen an eye for business development as managing partners do. We are all in this together, is a phrase that speaks to making profits as much as it speaks to pulling together to get through a crisis.

What’s in it for you?

Whilst business development might be being touted as a hip way to appeal to prospective employers or to secure a promotion, it’s worth considering the other more relevant long term reasons why a lawyer would actively engage in this everyday business activity. For example,

  • Every employee can create a more secure future for themselves (and their employer) by actively being the face of the organisation simply as a matter of course. After all, if your employer has a secure financial future, so too do you.
  • Networking is a key personal skill that outlasts any one job. If you can get business for your current employer, then you can do the same for someone else or even yourself if you find yourself looking for a new opportunity!

Is business development hard?

It’s as hard as you make it. Some people find networking hard and uncomfortable but I’ve not met a single person who didn’t come to like it with a bit of practice. It’s like most things; at first it’s new and might take a bit of getting used to but it doesn’t take long to find your feet. If you can get through a law degree, secure a training contract and qualify into the legal profession then trust me, you can definitely network and engage in business development!

Business development for consultant solicitors in an online world

With the arrival of COVID-19 we’re all facing new ways of working and securing business. You may have tried face-to-face networking events, or business related social gatherings where you’ve been able to engage with prospective clients and would-be referral partners, but the online world is making it even easier.

You REALLY can work from anywhere with just a laptop, a smart phone and the internet! Your clients might even prefer the ease with which you do business in an online environment. There are lots of software platforms out there that will allow you to work remotely and stay in touch with clients all from one secure app on your phone or computer.

I’ve been working remotely using online meetings for about 10 years now, and I love it. With technology as a tool in my business I’m able to serve more clients better than ever before. It always struck me how many law firms were so stuck in their ways that they rejected remote working as an option for growing their business. But like lots of people, law firms aren’t always wiling to embrace change.

Change takes effort and a leap of faith. It requires belief and vision. It shouldn’t require a global pandemic…

I want to market my law firm or my consultancy, how do I start?

  • Attend online networking events
  • Join conversations in LinkedIn, leave comments and ‘like’ those of others
  • Increase the number of connections you have on LinkedIn by sending new requests every single day
  • Share great articles, posts and content that others have written
  • Have 1-to-1 conversations with people that you know you could help by introducing them to others in your network
  • Commit to being the face of your firm or your business and provide value to the people in your network
  • This list could be much longer, what examples can you think of? Start writing your own list now!

Key Points:

  • Networking and business development don’t need to be “taught”, they can be learned with practice and improved with experience.
  • Business development is about getting to know people, it’s about being curious enough to ask questions and to be interested in what someone else is saying. It’s about building relationships that might lead to business.

Key Resources:

Law Society Article: Business Development For Law Firms

Lexis Nexis Article: 7 Business Development Tips Every Lawyer Should Know (You’ll need to register for a free account to read the full article)

How Can I help YOU?

In addition to being a UK solicitor working as a consultant solicitor I’m also an ICF ACC level certified business and personal coach. If you’re a new consultant solicitor and you’d like help getting your practice off the ground, please contact me via email or phone (contact details are at the bottom of the page!). You can also book a FREE 30 minute consultation with me to discuss how I might be able to help you develop your consultancy practice by clicking HERE.

Can I sack an employee?

Can I sack an employee?

Did you Google “can I sack an employee?” and are you wondering if you can, and how you do it without ending up in an employment tribunal? Want to know the answer?

YES! You can sack an employee fairly and safely.

But before you go all “Alan Sugar” on me and start pointing your finger and shouting “you’re FIRED!”, read on:

Employers have the right to dismiss any employee. However, it’s not as simple as just telling someone “you’re fired”.

This post deals with dismissal best practice and how to avoid a claim for Unfair Dismissal.

What does the law say?

The relevant law is the Employment Rights Act 1996, which affirms that employers can dismiss employees (not workers – see my post on “worker or employee?”) with 2 or more years continuous service if they can show that they have done so fairly and for good reason (subject to certain exceptions e.g. pregnancy, trade union membership etc).

How long has the employee worked for you?

To bring a claim for unfair dismissal, an employee must have been employed for at least 2 years. This is called the Qualifying Period. It’s fairly safe to dismiss employees who don’t meet this qualifying period requirement (subject to the exceptions referred to above). You must give them proper notice and pay them any monies that they’re entitled to. If you gave the employee a contract (or written statement of particulars) when their employment commenced, the notice period and holiday entitlement should have been set out in that document. You must comply with this.

So, what is “FAIR“?

The Employment Rights Act sets out five potentially fair reasons for dismissal. It’s important to ensure that any dismissal falls within one of these.

Even if the dismissal appears to be fair, an employment tribunal will still have to decide if the employer acted reasonably in all the circumstances. It’s therefore essential to follow a fair procedure when dismissing an employee. Hopefully, you have the procedure documented (if you don’t have policies, procedures, staff handbooks etc please contact me today to see how I can provide you with any or all of the documents you need).

The five potentially fair reasons are:

  • Capability
  • Conduct
  • Redundancy
  • Illegality
  • Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR)

  1. Capability

    this is is concerned with an employee’s ability to to do their. Capability is often used in cases of long-term sickness absence or poor performance. When trying to improve capability, you should consider one or more of the following: training, development, coaching, mentoring, performance management, occupational health.

  2. Conduct

    this is concerned with the behaviour of the employee and includes what is termed “gross misconduct”. There are many examples of conduct that may render a dismissal fair including, but not limited to: sexual harassment, being rude or offensive to colleagues or clients, refusing to follow a senior colleagues instructions, failing to adhere to Health and Safety requirements, fighting in work, stealing at work.

  3. Redundancy

    this is currently top of most employers’ minds at present. Redundancy might be an option if your business is closing down, moving to another location, or changing what or how it does what it does. Essentially, there is a diminished need for employees to perform their duties.

  4. Illegality

    this is is where the employee would break the law in performing their role e.g. someone employed as a delivery driver who is subsequently banned from driving.

  5. SOSR

    Some other substantial reason is a catch-all sweep giving employers the opportunity to cite a variety of potentially fair reasons, e.g. commercial needs.

Did you follow a fair process?

Just because the dismissal is for a fair reason, doesn’t mean that you can get away with not having a fair process for investigating and conducting your dismissal. To sack an employee fairly you have to follow a fair process. Ideally, you will have a robust set of policies and procedures in place, one of which will set out how you conduct investigations and dismissals, along with employees’ rights of appeal. If you don’t, please get in touch today to find out how I can provide the policies and procedures that your business needs.

Would another reasonable employer make the same decision?

This is an important step! If the main reason for dismissal is fair, your final hurdle is to show that it was a decision that any reasonable employer might also have made. The decision must fall within a band of reasonable responses. You may be surprised to read that employment tribunals are not meant to substitute their own views on this. So even if they think your decision to dismiss was harsh, they cannot overturn it or deem it unfair if it is a decision that another reasonable employer might also have made.

See this case, HERE where a long-serving member of staff with a clean record was dismissed following a derogatory post on Facebook.

Here’s a step by step look at Unfair Dismissal:

Following these steps will help you to conduct a fair dismissal, thereby reducing employment tribunal risk. If you’re wondering if you can sack an employee, keep this step-by-step list in mind and use it help you through the process.

  • Has the employee brought a claim within 3 months, less 1 day from the effective termination date?
  • Were they an employee, not a worker
  • At the time of the dismissal, did they have 2 years continuous service
  • They were NOT within an excluded class (e.g. pregnancy, trade union membership, etc which would render the dismissal automatically unfair)
  • They were dismissed (actual or constructive)
  • You (the employer) can give the main reason for dismissal
  • That reason falls within one of the five potentially fair reasons
regular employment law updates for employers

This was a quick run-through the topic of dismissal, and as an employer, how you might reduce tribunal risk. I hope it answered your questions if you can sack an employee. If you have any questions, or would like help with any aspect of today’s topic, please get in touch. If you are in the process of dismissing an employee and want to know if you’re doing it fairly, I am here to help.

I can be contacted on 020 3004 5484 or email: help@janerapin.com

While you’re here, why not sign up for my regular employment law updates? Every month I send an email setting out recent tribunal decisions, providing a tip to help employers manage their obligations and encourage you to interact with me on social media. I always try to add some fun and humour to the emails too, so if you’re having a grey day, rest assured there’ll be something to make you chuckle. To join the other employers who are benefitting from these emails fill in the box below and hit the send button.

Holidays and Furlough: How do I manage this?

Holidays and Furlough: How do I manage this?

HMRC has just released the hotly awaited update on holidays and annual leave for furloughed employees! Great news.

Holiday entitlement is to be paid at 100% to all furloughed employees. Employees will also continue to accrue holiday entitlement while furloughed. In practice, this means that an employer will need to top up the furlough payment for all holidays taken during furlough.

Furlough and annual leave can run simultaneously; therefore, an employee can be furloughed at the same time as being on annual leave.

Can an employer force employees to take annual leave?

There are competing views on this question, some experts saying yes but others no. In respect of YES, the Working Time Regulations 1996 are being cited as giving the right to do so long as double the amount of notice is given in advance of the request. For example, if an employer wants an employee to take one-week of annual leave, they would need to give two weeks’ notice of this.

In respect of NO, it is suggested that the purpose of annual leave is to take a period of rest and relaxation away from work. Barrister, Adam Willoughby writing for ThriveLaw compares furlough to sick leave, arguing that furlough is tantamount to being at home sick (see Stringer, citation below) in so far as an employee is unable to leave the house or enjoy the freedoms associated with annual leave. I find this argument very compelling and am inclined to agree with him.

Perhaps the key to this question is the fact that employers cannot force employees to take annual leave while they are on sick leave? Notwithstanding the fact that employees can take annual leave while on sick leave their employer cannot force them to do so because the purpose of sickness absence is to recover from sickness. In addition, the employee must be given an opportunity to take the accrued annual leave upon their return to work.

Can annual leave be carried forward as a result of coronavirus?

Yes. Up to 4 weeks annual leave can be carried forward up to 2 years, meaning that employers and employees will benefit from not having to cram in annual leave.

Why might a business want furloughed employees to use their holiday entitlement?

Some employers may wish to ensure that staff are not all trying to take holidays at the same time when the business reopens. It could be argued that asking employees to take holidays now will lessen the impact going forward. However, the government has made provision for annual leave entitlement to be carried forward (see above) thereby lessening the impact of this, especially given that employers are not obliged to approve every single holiday request without question.

The downside to requesting employees to take annual leave is that any furlough payment will need to be topped up to 100%. For businesses facing an uncertain financial future, it may be more prudent to keep cash reserves and do a more thorough job of managing holiday requests when the employees return to work.

For more detail on Furlough, please see my earlier post HERE

Cases referred to above:

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs v Stringer [2009] UKHL 31, HL

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