Nearly 150 lawyers from Scottish firms as far a field as the Shetland Isles and the Borders converged on Dunblane for the 2012 Connect2Law annual conference.
Now in its third year, the conference brings together the members of the Connect2Law network to discuss the issues affecting them, while providing a useful insight into changes to business structures with the Scottish legal market.
Key subjects at this year's event included the importance of customer service, the changing legal market and how to adapt to meet client needs.
Speakers at the conference included Neil Stevenson from the Law Society of Scotland, Chairman of Harper Macleod Professor Lorne Crerar, Hotel Indigo's General Manager Denis MacCann and Donald MacNaughton, Sports Psychologist, Zoned in Performance.
The event demonstrated to attendees that in this difficult market they must take a more business approach to their firms to overcome the economic downturn. Working with and understanding client needs, while providing excellent customer service were highlighted as essential for the growth of firms, with delegates hearing and learning from experts outwith the legal sector.
Anne Macdonald, Partner at Harper Macleod and the driving force behind Connect2Law in Scotland said 2012 has been a fantastic year:
"To welcome so many of our members to this year's conference was fantastic and shows the positivity with which Connect2Law is held.
"We heard from amazing and diverse speakers and I'm grateful to them all for finding the time to come and share their thoughts and experiences with us and I'm sure all the delegates will have left with some inspiring thoughts on the business of law."
Key themes from speakers
Denis MacCann, General Manager of Hotel Indigo
Denis talked insightfully about his experience in the Hotel industry.
The old adage that if you had a bad experience you would tell five people is no longer true. Through mediums such as Trip advisor/Twitter you can tell hundreds of thousands of people about your bad experience.
Denis advised that he actively promoted and is seeking feedback from clients, a result of their push for feedback, Hotel Indigo is now rated as number one on Trip Advisor.
He illustrated how prompting for feedback shows a dedication to improvement and maintaining high levels of customer service.
Martin Darroch, Chief Executive of Harper Macleod LLP
Martin drew a comparison with the ticket barriers being placed in Central Station and the cost reduction achieved by way of going from five ticket collectors to one. He highlighted the increased revenues and efficiency that had been obtained as a result of the barriers and asked the delegates to consider where they might be able to bring the ticket barriers into their firms.
He used a very practical example of comparing the use of C4 and C5 envelopes and advised that there was a difference of 30p in using each enveloped. He urged delegates to look after the pennies and look at the finer details to increase profitability.
David Calder, The Cashroom
David urged delegates to see the opportunity in challenges. He used his time to reflect on starting up MBM Commercial and what they could have done differently if the opportunities available then, were the ones that are available now.
He questioned the current attitude to outsourcing and urged delegates to ask themselves "do I really need to do that?" He pointed to the changes taking place in the legal market and advised that the availability of external funding could change things further.
His final message was about exit strategies and questioned why law practitioners don't tend to think about structuring their business to cash in on exit, instead of just emptying their capital accounts.
Dorothy Moore, Westfield Consultancy
Dorothy highlight that the front face of business often makes the difference with clients. In her opinion, whilst good service has been a consideration it maybe has not been the focus.
She acknowledged that the present market was taking the profession into unknown territories, but there were opportunities to restructure and look at their service offering. She urged delegates to understand themselves and stay motivated.
She raised the idea of "Brand You" and urged delegates to think about standing out and fighting for business. She advised that it was never too late to reinvent and drew analogies with Coca Cola and how they have gone from just being "Coke" to "Diet Coke" and "Cherry Coke" and "Coke with Lemon" etc
Her final point was on understanding your team and managing it correctly. She highlighted how different generations work and that your approach has to be adapted to suit who you are managing. The end result is to look for employee engagement within your firm and that the best ways of achieving this was by (1) assessing the current mood; (2) playing to your strengths; (3) communicating; and (4) encouragement.
Donald MacNaughton, Zoned in Performance
Donald from Zoned in Performance was our final speaker. He is a sports psychologist that has worked with many high profile rugby and football teams, racing drivers and businesses throughout the world teaching them how to develop the talent within their organisation.
He explained that in Chinese the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity. These concepts are interwoven and it's how we decide to act which can determine a positive outcome.
Donald also talked about how pressure can inhibit your performance. His example was the Scottish Football team's recent game against Macedonia where the home fans were booing their own team. This resulted in the team over thinking every move and not acting naturally. This can easily be replicated in business, with the lesson being to nurture talent in your organisation and be aware of piling on unnecessary pressure.
He said "knowing your strengths and weaknesses" is key to success. Example was that of Steffi Graf's forehand. A deadly weapon on the court which was honed to the extreme while her backhand was good enough to keep the ball in play ensuring she could utilise her forehand to her best advantage