BY Michael Fleming

DATE: 07 FEB 2014


For this post I thought about going for my slot at a large law firm's partners' conference at the Excel in London: challenging but fun.  Or the huge client conference for one of the Big Four, but that would just have been because it was in Barcelona. I've settled on my annual slots at the Law Society of Scotland's Practice Management Conference, which is funny given that most of my work is south of Scotland or outside the UK.

Locations can be glamorous: nice golf hotels, not that I play but the scenery tends to be nice; Cumbernauld, near Glasgow not so much.  The location is not what makes it. Let me explain what makes these gigs so special.

Picture the scene.  It's mid afternoon.  In the room are over 100 lawyers. They are there because they have to be.  The Practice Management Conference is compulsory for all lawyers in Scotland who have made partner or started their own firm. This is not the hallmark of a good gig: A room full of hostages.  Folded arms.  Hostile expressions.  I suspect that some of them have been tied to their chairs to stop them running away.  And it gets worse...
By the time I get to them they've had sessions on: ethics; complaints; money laundering; accounts' rules and partnership tax.  At pre-dinner drinks, I spotted someone dousing himself in Sambuca and asking if anyone smoked.

You may now be wondering why on earth have I chosen this as my favourite large audience event. Simple, because I know I have got something really useful and relevant to say to these poor sods about how they can get more business: I know I'm going to nail it, their arms will unfold, ears will prick up and the pyromaniac will stop looking for matches.

How do I know this? I’ve been there.  Fifteen years ago I made partner in a mid-sized Scottish law firm and had to attend the PMC.  It ranks as one of the most boring and depressing events I have ever attended (though it has come on a ton since then…).  I can still remember a session on partnership accounts and listening to delegates whispering that they'd not been shown the accounts. And remember back then we had no mobile on which to check our emails.

For me what’s wonderful about this conference is the chance to tell my profession something genuinely useful.  To talk to them about something that I really wish someone had spoken to me about fifteen years ago: how to improve your business development skills.  It is a great buzz to get to share ideas gleaned from being lucky enough to train over 10,000 lawyers and other professionals in this stuff over the past seven years; from working on talent development programmes where star business developing partners come and share all their secrets to helping pitch teams win beauty parade pitches.  It's not rocket science  but for some it's the first time anyone has sat them down for an hour and laid it all out in front of them. And given them practical ideas that they can go away and start implementing immediately.

The sign of a true win? When I'm told that some of the Friday afternoon delegates decide to sign up for the optional session on Saturday morning. An intensive half day covering everything that you ever wanted to know about business development but were afraid to ask. Now that's really good fun and incredibly challenging, Not least because it's a sure bet that at least half of them will have been up to the wee small hours putting the world to rights over a dram.

But then, as you've gathered by now, I do like a challenge!


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about the author

Michael Fleming is our Head of KWC Legal. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.

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