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Bookmark the benchmark

20 March 17

Financial benchmarking is the new “cost of time”. This Society article explains how an online financial reporting system will enable you to generate a valuable health check on your practice

Solicitors can take part in the Law Society of Scotland’s new online financial benchmarking survey to assess how well their firm is performing in Scotland’s legal market.

Launched this month, the survey will replace the annual cost of time survey. The new online reporting system will offer additional benefits to firms by allowing them to assess their own financial performance and benchmark against others, in addition to generating a report on the health of Scotland’s legal profession as a whole.

The interactive online benchmarking tool has been developed by leading technology systems and services provider, Tribal. Its functions include the ability to view and compare:

  • income and costs by the size or location of a firm;
  • a breakdown of the firm’s total costs;
  • profitability of different work types;
  • cashflow management; and
  • the relationships between the different results, for example plotting staff costs against profitability.

Your figures in context

The Society’s Vice President, Graham Matthews, who as former convener of the remuneration committee, oversaw the cost of time survey for more than six years, is encouraging firms to take part in the benchmarking survey.

He said: “I’ve always found the cost of time survey to be a hugely valuable management tool which was unique in its coverage. This new online financial benchmaking survey has the potential to be even bigger and better, so it’s a really exciting and practical development for the Society. Various new measures have been added that will be useful and interesting for firms, and we have changed the name to reflect that the survey is now much wider than simply the cost of solicitors’ time, but provides financial benchmarking of Scottish law firms as a whole.

“The new survey will harness technology to bring your financial data to life. Using an online, interactive platform, solicitors can input their own data and will be able to access reports assessing the financial health of their own firm year on year. The system will also allow firms to compare how they have performed in the wider marketplace, and assess how profitable different parts of their business are, to provide context to staff about the firm’s progress or with the firm’s bank manager or accountant.

“The more firms that take part the better the outputs will be, so please look out for an email from Tribal to cashroom partners inviting them to complete the survey. It’s online, designed to be easy to use and all data is completely confidential.”

Nick Pidgeon, managing consultant for benchmarking at Tribal Group, added: “We are delighted to have been able to work on this project and collaborate in designing a new financial benchmarking survey specific to the Society’s membership. It has been built to suit firms of all sizes, from sole practitioners to those with offices across Scotland, the UK or further afield. We hope the online questionnaire will help firms to pull out the information they need to run their businesses effectively – and we are very open to feedback on this year’s survey to help tailor how we do things next year.”

Flexible completion, confidential data

Completing the survey, which contributes to CPD, will help the Society to negotiate court fees and legal aid in addition to assessing the overall financial health of the legal profession.

Reports will be available in late spring or early summer. Firms will be able to access their own online reports but, to ensure confidentiality, the financial data provided will be held by Tribal and collated and anonymised for wider reporting. General, profession-wide survey results will be published on the Society’s website.

The survey can be completed on a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone, with hard copies also available on request.

The option of a similar, tailored benchmarking tool for in-house teams – using the same interactive, online technology, to allow them to compare their progress – is also being explored for the survey in the future.

More information, including a short video and FAQs about the new system and its benefits, is available on the Society’s website at: www.lawscot.org.uk/members/member-services/business-support-resources/financial-benchmarking-survey/

Members can also contact the Society if they have any questions at profprac@lawscot.org.uk

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