A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Superannuation A Long Term Engagement

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

By Andrew Proebstl, Chief Executive, legalsuper 

A new report by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has highlighted the need for more work to be done to increase member engagement with their super funds.

The ASIC “Member Experience of Superannuation” Report (Report 529) released on 30 June is well worth a read as it presents both challenges and opportunities for employers.

You might be thinking: why is a report on the need to increase member engagement with super of interest to employers?

Financial stress is bad for business

For most Australians, their quality of lifestyle in retirement is largely dependent on how much super they have accumulated (along with owning one’s own home).

People with lower super balances are more likely to fear retirement and, over the course of their working life, be subject to increasing levels of financial stress.

Financial stress among staff in the workplace can lead to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, depression, risk-taking, illness, absenteeism, reduced productivity, poor decision-making and more.

This is concerning not only in terms of the impact such behavior may have on individuals and their families but also in terms of the potentially adverse impact on the business for which they work.

A report released last year by The Centre for Social Impact revealed that 2 million Australians are experiencing a high level of financial stress or vulnerability.

Similarly, the Australian Psychological Society’s series of “Stress and Wellbeing” surveys concluded that financial stress is felt strongly by a “concerning” number of Australians.

In addition, a lack of financial preparedness for retirement can also lead to staff who would otherwise have retired, and who want to retire, feeling they have no other choice but to stay on at work. Employees who find themselves in this situation are often less enthusiastic and productive.

The ASIC “Member Experience of Superannuation” Report maps three stages of the superannuation lifecycle – joining a fund, ongoing membership of a fund and changing or leaving a fund. The balance of this article considers how employees can be encouraged to better engage with their super in each of these three stages.

Joining a fund

An important threshold question for employers here is: why they have chosen their existing default super fund and whether or not it remains the most appropriate fund for their employees?

Usually employers choose a default super fund based on factors such as past performance and competitive fees and charges. How long has it been since you benchmarked the performance of your default fund, its fees and charges and its level of service and support provided to your employees with that of other super funds?

Most employees do not choose their own super fund which means their super will be paid to the default super fund chosen by their employer.

Also, unless members choose otherwise, their super will be invested in the fund’s default investment option, plus they will be provided an automatic level of insurance which may or may not suit their particular financial goals.

Employees can also make decisions about whether or not to make voluntary contributions to their super. Sadly, many people realise too late in their working life that if they had made additional contributions to their super (which are subject to caps) they would have been more likely to have accumulated sufficient savings to fund the retirement lifestyle they want.

In relation to insurance, super fund members have options to take out death, total and permanent disability insurance or income protection insurance, and to do so at different levels of cover.

The appropriate level of insurance for a person will depend on their individual (and family) circumstances. A one-size-fits-all approach is not optimal. Members who do engage with their super and make informed decisions about the appropriate levels of cover will not only benefit from having cover that better meets their needs, they will benefit from the confidence and sense of well-being that flows from knowing they have cover that provides increased peace of mind.

The most important decision members of super funds can – and should – make is how their super is invested.

As the ASIC Moneysmart says: “With super, it's easy to set and forget. But choosing a suitable investment option will have a major impact on how your super performs.”

Members of super funds can typically choose from a number of investment options – for example a Growth, Balanced or Conservative option. The Growth option is likely to aim for higher average returns over the long term whereas a Balanced option aims for reasonable returns, but lower than those of a Growth option, while a Conservative option would typically aim for lower risk and a lower return over the long term.

Typically, younger people, who will not access their super for some years will benefit from a Growth option. As members approach retirement, they may switch to a more conservative option. Of course, the appropriate investment option depends on individual circumstances and the role super plays in an individual’s overall financial planning.

Employers can encourage their staff to take an active interest in and ownership over these important financial decisions by:

  • Asking their super fund to run information sessions for staff and management,
  • Ensuring their super fund has useful and well-presented information on its website including easy to use calculators, and
  • Checking their super fund provides high levels of customer service and support for member inquiries.

ASIC’s report deals at length with the wide variation in the quality of super fund websites (including the reliability of the information contained therein) and the impact this can have on fund members.

Ongoing membership of a fund

One very good time to encourage staff to engage strongly with super arises each year when funds distribute their annual member statement, usually between August and December.

The statement will contain important information including the individual’s super balance; levels of insurance cover; investment option/s selected; and fees paid. Funds will often also indicate how the fund performed against various independent industry rating agencies medians.

At this time of the year, employers seeking to increase their staff’s engagement with super may consider the following types of strategies:

  • posting short notices in the staff newsletter or on the company intranet encouraging people to make the time to read their annual statement and consider contacting their super fund for an annual ‘super checkup’. Your super funds can provide you with suggested wording, and
  • inviting your super fund to conduct a workplace seminar for staff.

Another time of the year that lends itself to encouraging staff to engage not only with their super fund, but their own overall financial planning is when annual staff appraisals are held.

While not all businesses tie staff appraisals to salary reviews, many do and staff who receive a pay increase may be more receptive than at other times of the year to pay additional contributions to super with their increased salary.

Changing or leaving a fund


The factors to be considered, continually reviewed and acted upon, when joining a fund and participating in a fund also apply when changing or leaving a fund.

Is the fund performing well compared to the industry median? Are its fees and charges value for money? Does it provide high quality member service and support?

As well as these areas, the ‘Changing or leaving a fund’ section of the ASIC report covers topics including lost super and the consolidation of super accounts.

According to the Australian Tax Office, as at June 30, 2016, there was more than $14 billion in unclaimed and lost super waiting to be claimed.

The 2016 Westpac Lost Super Report found that almost half (48 per cent) of Australians do not know if they have lost super and more than four in five (83 per cent) are unlikely to do anything to find their lost super.

The Westpac report found that respondents put looking for lost super in the same bucket as smoking or exercise – they know they should do something but they just do not get around to it.

In relation to multiple super accounts, it is still often the case that when people change jobs they join a new super fund and do not close their previous accounts and consolidate them into one account. This proliferation of multiple accounts is one of the key reasons why so much super ends up becoming lost.

As a result of having multiple funds, people typically end up unnecessarily paying fees and charges on multiple accounts. They may also miss out on the full benefit of compounding interest working on a single larger amount of money in one account.

ASIC has provided a very timely reminder to individuals, employers and super funds that more needs to be done to encourage and foster member engagement.

From an employer’s point of view, the business case for doing so is strong.

The business case for super funds being more proactive in this space is equally strong.

Now may be the time to contact your super fund and ask about the types and levels of support they are willing and able to provide to improve overall member engagement with super as part of supporting your staff to better secure their financial future.

As the research shows, employees free of financial (dis) stress are far more likely to be more productive and happy in the workplace.

About our Guest Blogger


Andrew Proebstl

Andrew Proebstl is chief executive of legalsuper, Australia's super fund for the legal community. legalsuper is an ALPMA Australian Corporate Partner.

Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant while working with Arthur Andersen, Andrew has broad experience across the superannuation industry with fund administrators, investment managers, custodians and other superannuation funds.

Andrew is a member of the Policy Committee and former Director of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. He is also a former member of the Victorian Executive of the Associations of Superannuation Funds of Australia. He regularly presents at superannuation industry conferences and writes regular superannuation columns for law societies across Australia. He can be contacted on ph 03 9602 0101 or via aproebstl@legalsuper.com.au





Incentivising the New Normal

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Costs Cover advert

By Timothy B. Corcoran, Principal, Corcoran Consulting Group, LLC


Businesses that don’t merely endure but thrive over extended time periods tend to attract and foster leaders who establish and maintain tight alignment between business strategy and business execution. Unfocused businesses with unfocused leaders generate sub-optimal financial performance even when things are going well. But when permanent market disruptions occur, a certainty in every market segment, unfocused businesses with unfocused leaders tend to flail until they’re acquired, dissolved, or relegated to a shadow of their former strength. This is a lesson that many law firm leaders have learned.

As law firm leaders valiantly struggle to overcome the consequences of market changes and maintain market share, they face several obstacles: Law firm partners don’t enjoy losing the autonomy to run their practices as they wish; most firms take an undisciplined “whack a mole” approach to driving change, responding primarily to variable client demand; and there are minimal rewards for partners to change behaviour. We won’t address the discipline of change management here, other than to say this: Leaders can’t drive change if they lack a comprehensive understanding of their law firm ecosystem and how each business function connects and interconnects with others. Without a multi-faceted and multi-year master plan, the odds of landing on the appropriate formula are significantly diminished. But let’s assume such a plan exists. Now what?

Follow the Money


If we hope to thrive in the new normal, we need to know how we make money, and how this has changed given the market disruptions. Law firms tend rely on a scant few performance metrics, most of which are focused on production, most of which are wholly internally-focused, and most of which are inefficient proxies for what we really wish to measure: profitability. For our purposes, profitability isn’t a crass or one-sided measurement. It’s a scorecard that reflects how well the law firm has deployed its unique assets to meet a market need in a way that’s mutually beneficial to the buyer and seller. Calculated properly, profits are a measure of long-term client satisfaction, not of “beating” the client in an adversarial game.

So we must understand the building blocks of our business, working ever backward from aggregate results, to the practices and offerings generating those results, to the matter types and activities contained therein, to the efforts necessary to win more of these activities. When we truly understand all that we do, and what we do well, and where we can improve, we can start to identify the critical behaviours necessary to generate greater success.

Acknowledge Different Contributions


Many law firms were built by exceptional lawyers who were as accomplished at generating business as offering legal advice, who were exceptional mentors and coaches, who were as adept with strategy as with operations. This is not most of us.

A successful law firm is comprised of different roles, different skill sets, different contributions. It’s necessary to understand the combination of contributions that generates success. Otherwise we risk the false assumption that “Success is primarily driven by business generation” or its opposite fallacy “We’re successful because we have top practitioners.” Of course these are true, just as a dozen other factors play a critical role. Only by understanding the unique combination of contributions by different lawyers with different skills can we establish a roadmap for replicating our success. However, we must acknowledge a fundamental truth: some contributions are more valuable than others, and this value may differ by practice, by matter type, by business cycle, by client industry, by year. Our objective in identifying critical behaviours is to maximise the contributions of all lawyers, rather than dilute our performance by asking, or allowing, lawyers to pursue that which is not their highest and best use.

Drive and Reward


Law firm partner compensation schemes, whether lockstep or eat-what-you-kill, subjective or formulaic, open or closed, tend to share one overriding flaw: they fail to proactively and clearly define the behaviours expected of partners in order to drive such behaviour. Instead, rewards are issued at year-end, in a process oft-shrouded in mystery, to partners who may not know what specific actions were valued, and how their specific contributions were valued relative to their peers. Changing lawyer behaviours requires leaders to set expectations in advance and to identify the rewards associated with the desired behaviours. Lawyers, generally acknowledged as averse to risk and uncertainty, are more likely to be dissatisfied when the incentive scheme is opaque rather than transparent. Managing expectations in this manner also helps to reduce feelings of inequity, because partners know the rewards associated with various behaviours and those willing to adapt can access different rewards.

There’s an old saying: If your compensation plan and your business strategy aren’t in alignment, then your compensation plan is your business strategy. This isn’t a reflection of selfish partner behaviour. In fact it’s the opposite. Sensible partners trust that their leaders have established an incentive scheme that rewards lawyers for activities that are beneficial to the firm. When leaders expect partners to act against their economic self-interest “for the good of the firm,” this isn’t boorish partner behaviour. This is simply inept management. It’s the leaders’ obligation to create alignment. The goal: What’s good for the partner is what’s good for the partnership. Settling for anything less than that outcome, and what’s good for the partnership might be better leaders.

Editor's Note

2017 ALPMA SummitTim Corcoran is a keynote speaker at the 2017 ALPMA Summit, held from 13-15 September at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. His presentation "Incentivising the New Normal: Linking what's good for the partner to what's good for the partnership"  covers the importance of communication and how to embrace a collaborative approach. This year's Summit theme, Sailing the 4C's, focuses on the critical 21st century learning skills of Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Creativity. Registration is now open for the 2017 ALPMA Summit, and there are great savings for those who register early! Register now!

About our Guest Blogger


Tim Corcoran

Timothy B. Corcoran is a New York-based management consultant with a global client base. A former CEO and corporate executive with several multinational businesses, his specialty is helping law firm and law department leaders adapt and adopt time-tested business practices in order to profit in a time of great change. Tim is past president of the international Legal Marketing Association, a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, faculty and affiliated consultant with Legal Lean Sigma Institute, a member of the Association of Legal Administrators, a regular keynote speaker at legal industry conferences, and author of the widely-read Corcoran’s Business of Law blog. He was recognised by LawDragon in its 100 Leading Consultants and Strategists for 2016.


Should I stay or should I go?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

By Michelle McColl and Maura McConnell, Co-Proprietors, In2view Recruitment


There are promising signs that the employment market is picking up in the legal sector.

According to the results of the latest ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey, an increasing number of Australian and New Zealand law firms plan to hire new staff in the next twelve months.  In Australia, this number has jumped by 20% - with 51% of firms indicating they plan to recruit new staff in the next 12 months, compared to 31% last year.


For the first time since the survey commenced, the number one HR issue identified by Australian firms was employee retention and talent management, closely followed by 'finding good staff'.


A more buoyant employment market obviously presents both an opportunity for those who are considering changing jobs and a threat to employers.

Counter Offers


As recruiters, we are seeing an increase in the number of counter offers offered to employees who have been offered a job elsewhere to encourage the staff member to stay.  Counter offers can be presented in a number of ways, such as a salary increase, promotion, opportunity to earn a bonus or other incentives/benefits.

 

Managing Counter Offers

 
If you find yourself in this position, there a number of things to consider:


Counter offers add a layer of complication to the recruitment process, and leave you wondering whether maybe you owe something to your current employer, and that maybe things will improve if you stay.


Consider why?


The first thing you should do is consider why the offer has been made by your employee.


Typically, counter offers are made because:


  • replacing you will be an expensive and time consuming exercise;

  • your employer will lose all your knowledge, experience and expertise;

  • your employer requires you to complete the project on which you are currently working;

  • your employer does not have the time and resources to re-train a replacement;

  • losing staff may reflect badly on your manager/employer.

Consider what next?


You need to consider that now your employee knows you have been considering leaving, relationships may be strained moving forward.  Following your resignation, your loyalty and commitment to the business will be in question, and you may be treated differently. 


Your employer may begin seeking a replacement, regardless of whether you stay or leave.


Also consider why you are being offered this new package now, rather than prior to your resignation?


It is also important to reflect on why you felt motivated to move in the first place.  In what ways is your new employer an improvement on your current employer?  Why do you want to work for them?  What opportunities does the new position offer that cannot be matched by your current employer?


Finally, research reveals that most people who accept a counter offer are likely to leave their job within six to 12 months in any case. 


Are you just deferring the inevitable if you accept the counter offer?


In the end, the decision will come down to what is best for you and your career moving forward.  Good luck!


Editor's Note

ALPMA 2017 Salary & HR Issues surveyIf you would like to learn more about the 2017 legal employment market, salaries offered for legal, management and administrative roles at Australian and NZ law firms, bonuses and benefits paid and the biggest HR challenges facing law firms, then purchase the 2017 ALPMA Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey Report.  This survey is available for $550 (incl GST) for ALPMA members or $2,200 (incl GST) for non-members.  If your firm participated in this research, you have received a complimentary copy of the report.





About our Guest Bloggers


In2view
Michelle McColl and Maura McConnell are the co-proprietors of In2view Recruitment, which opened its doors in 2008.  Between them, they have in excess of 40 years’ experience in the recruitment industry, gained across many industry sectors.  In2view are ALPMA SA Corporate Partners and the SA State Partner for the 2017 ALPMA Australian Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey.







Developing an effective remuneration strategy for your law firm - a mixed bag of lollies!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

By Emily Mortimer, ALPMA Board Member


Rewind back to when local shops sold mixed bag of lollies – remember the excitement of not knowing what you were going to get for your hard earned dollar? Will you get what you want – or will your friend get all the good ones? Well fast forward to the 2017 remuneration landscape and this is shaping up to be that exact same feeling.

Let’s look at why this is occurring. There has been limited movement in the market when it comes to legal remuneration recently. According to the results of the 2016 ALPMA salary survey, wage growth for the previous 12 months was 2.8%, down from 4.6% the previous year. This sluggish wage growth is consistent with the Australian economic climate and the changing legal landscape in which we work, so a sound and sensible approach to remuneration was appropriate. But are we ready to move on?

The Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 still looms as a hangover, we have lost a booming resources industry to a scaled back model, ‘new law’ is challenging the traditional law firm model and overheads and the costs of doing business are being very tightly managed by law firms. These are all realities to consider when preparing the remuneration strategy for your firm. However, whilst it is important to know what is happening in the market we all operate in, the real driving force in change in the 2017 remuneration strategy must be securing the talent your firm needs to operate effectively and profitably.

Again, take a trip back to 2011 (ish) – the year the industry battened down the hatches – some reduced graduate intakes, some scrapped clerk programs and there were a large number of firms who froze salaries altogether. Now return back to 2017 and the job boards are filled with lucrative offers for certain classifications of lawyers at 4-6yrs post-qualification experience some with some fairly hefty lures of high remuneration not seen since well before the GFC. 

How do you deal with sections of your firm which are underperforming due to tough market conditions but where you need to retain key talent? Think your standard 2%-4% pay increase is still going to cut it? The legal landscape continues to change but we need to respect this is the norm and standard remuneration models cannot continue as they always have and data driven decisions have become key when preparing for remuneration forecasting. 

The salary surveys, and particularly this year’s ALPMA Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey, provide a solid foundation to building your remuneration strategy - but what can you do between now and when the results are released?

1. Budget Forecasting


As the person who will drive the remuneration process, have early discussions with those in your firm who are responsible for the budget forecasting. Where is your firm revenue forecast for 2017/2018? What overheads need to be managed? What are charge-out rates going to be set at?

2. Do your homework


What are your firm’s current salary ranges? Are your salary bandings sitting in the low, mid or high percentile based on last year’s survey results? How does this align with your firm’s market positioning? Where can your firm afford to sit with its 2017/2018 remuneration strategy? Spend some time on job boards and talk to specialist legal recruitment agencies to see what talent is sought after in the market.

3. Risk Manage


Remuneration strategy has a strong element of risk management. You want to ensure your best talent is rewarded for their contribution - you don’t want your best talent looking on those filling job boards - but do you know your risk ratio by mismanaging your remuneration strategy? What about those who have the potential to be top talent…those in the middle? How do you stop them from going elsewhere for being overlooked for not being there quite yet?

4. Get the low down


Employees will tell you what they expect. Some will have done their homework (or some will have had recruiters tell them what they are worth!) and present solid business cases for their remuneration expectations to be met. Others will pick the top of the band and hope for the best. Whilst others may just sit back and hope for the best. So you need to ensure that your development discussions hold the opportunity to find out what employees expectations are. Some firms have a hush-hush policy on remuneration being discussed in a development review – don’t make life hard for yourself. Arm yourself with as much anecdotal and empirical data as you can, and you will find yourself having less discussions post distribution of remuneration outcomes.

5. Be realistic


Start discussions with partners and employees as early as possible. Firms can only afford to pay so much before they start to have to look at reducing overheads, which can lead to unwanted redundancies. If your remuneration process is going to struggle to keep up with what the market is showing through job boards and anecdotal conversation, then explore and communicate your firm’s strategy early so there is no surprises. Are there signs of improvement - just not enough confidence to know the good results are staying? 

One approach to all this could be to consider a partial remuneration review for July and another in January 2018. What are the benefits that your firm offers that those with high salaries can’t emulate? Money isn’t everything and sometimes we need to remind employees of the non-monetary advantages that we have in our individual firm environments.

So will your firms be handing out fantales or will it be the disappointment of a bag of black cats you give away this year….only time will tell?

Editor's Note

2017 Salary Survey imageThe 2017 ALPMA Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey is now open for participation by all Australian law firms. The survey provides a comprehensive, independent review of salaries paid for legal, management and support roles at Australian and New Zealand law firms, broken down by location and firm size so you can compare compensation strategies with like firms.  The survey also reveals the hottest HR issues and challenges for the legal industry in Australia.

This year's New Zealand Survey is proudly supported by McLeod Duminy. The Australian survey is proudly supported by In2View Recruitment, IPA, Kaleidoscope Legal Recruitment and KBE Human Capital.  

It is free to participate, and all firms that complete the survey will receive a complimentary copy of the research report, valued at $550 for non-participating ALPMA members or $2,200 for non-members. The survey is open until 5pm, Friday 31 March.




About our Guest Blogger


Emily Mortimer
Emily Mortimer is an ALPMA Board Director and member of the board’s Salary Survey Sub-Committee, along with Emma Elliott (ALPMA WA) and Mark Beale (ALPMA NZ). In this role, Emily has provided significant input into the questions covered in the survey, drawing on her extensive legal industry and HR experience. Emily also currently serves as the Chair of ALPMA’s SA Branch, and has been a long-standing member of the ALPMA SA Branch Committee.


The Other 50%

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

By Kirsty Spears, Specialist Legal Recruiter for McLeod Duminy 


The picture of US President Trump signing an Executive Order that will largely affect women, without a single woman in the room has become infamous and highlights why achieving gender diversity remains an ongoing problem.


The 2016 ALPMA/ McLeod Duminy Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues research indicates a mere 16 per cent of NZ law firm equity partners are female. The figure rises only slightly to 17% in Australia. This despite female law graduates outnumbering male law graduates for more than ten years to date in both countries.

gender imbalance AUs & NZ

But this is simply not translating into leadership. Roughly two thirds of non-partner lawyers in firms across the region are female and it can’t be a recipe for success if law firms are effectively picking leaders from one third of the talent in the firm.

Research shows the gender gap won’t just correct itself, even when the numbers seem to force the issue. The opportunity missed is not just for women; it is also for firms and their clients because:

  • clients increasingly want firms to reflect their own efforts on diversity. E.g. a recent utility company pitch placed a great deal of emphasis on diversity and in effect ruled out firms that didn’t have strong policy in the area;
  • female in-house counsel want the opportunity to do business with other women; and
  • there is strong evidence that there are economic benefits to a diverse leadership team because different perspectives create a better strategy.

Often the solution to helping/encouraging women into more senior roles is framed simply as needing more flexible work arrangements, but the wider issue is more complex than that. In fact, flexibility is the easiest change to make as long as there is an appetite for it and it works for all parties.

For example, the Managing Partner of a firm we work with realised that he spent more than a quarter of his time working remotely without it affecting his productivity and so he implemented a policy to allow others to do the same. The rule is simply that clients aren’t adversely affected.

Firms are getting better at investing in technology to enable employees to work remotely. There are great success stories and a new generation coming through that value time more than anything and expect connectivity as an every day part of their working environment.

There’s also a major shift for men these days as their partners increasingly choose not to, or are financially unable to stay at home and look after the kids. She is equally likely to have a successful career. Men also value family time and want to be able to be home for bedtime and stories.

There are a few practical things a firm can do to encourage better gender diversity:

Role models – there is some evidence that the women who do get to the top regard simply being an example as enough and they effectively ‘pull up the ladder’. Research by the American Bar Association also shows that from a very early stage in their careers, more resources are dedicated to developing male associates. There needs to be a specific program aimed at female associates where senior staff are accountable for measurable results. It is not enough to ‘take someone under their wing’.

Unconscious bias – this comes about mostly at the recruitment and promotion stages. It comes in two forms. Affinity is looking for people in your own image and confirmation is a reflection of one’s own beliefs. This needs to be something that is acknowledged and recognised.

The best way to combat it is to have formal processes, set steps and strong criteria. There needs to be more behind the decision-making than someone ‘doesn’t have what it takes’. An easy first step is to include several different people in the process in the first instance. More extreme measures can include blind CVs and electronic screening.

Male vs. Female traits – stereotypically male traits, e.g. assertiveness, logical thinking etc., could more or less describe most people’s idea of the perfect lawyer. As well as challenging
those stereotypes, we need to start valuing traditionally feminine attributes e.g. language skills, empathy and the ability to multitask.

Giving women a platform to show off their skills – Females tend to wait for recognition whilst males are quicker to ‘boast’ about their achievements. Giving women a platform to show off a little will help them recognise their own strengths and bring them to wider attention. It also enables the firm to make the most of their talents.

During performance reviews, men tend to be good at looking after their own paths, whereas women tend to look after the firm. Most reviews look at billings, but when looking at overall team contribution, they tend to be nice things to talk about but not objectively measured. Firms need to look at how to better measure overall contribution because those who are more team orientated are likely allowing the big billers the space to work.

It seems law firms necessarily recruit more women because they enthusiastically join the profession. So doesn’t it make sense more than ever for these firms to ensure they are getting the very best out of their most valuable assets?

*Source: ALPMA/McLeod Duminy NZ Legal Industry Salary and HR Issues Survey Report 2016

Editor's Note

McLeod Duminy have partnered with ALPMA to support the 2017 Legal Industry Salary & HR Issues Survey in New Zealand. Participation is free and now open to all law firms in New Zealand. Participants receive the comprehensive report, benchmarking salaries for more than 60 roles at law firms, for free (normally $550 for ALPMA members or $2,200 for non-members). For more information about how to participate in the survey click here.



About our Guest Blogger


Kirsty SpearsKirsty Spears is a specialist legal recruiter for McLeod Duminy, based in Auckland. She has almost twenty years legal recruitment experience in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. 

You are welcome to contact her on +64 27 458 9888 or kirsty@mcleodduminy.co.nz









Personal Reflections on 2016 by ALPMA President, Andrew Barnes

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

By Andrew Barnes, CFO, Lantern Legal Group and ALPMA President


When I think back on our year with ALPMA it is difficult not to dwell on the success of our Summit, held in September at Etihad Stadium Melbourne. The event is growing from year to year and this year to have record levels of attendees and trade exhibitors being added to an exceptional program was something we are very proud of as an Association.

On day one there was something for everyone, but many people still think back to the power of the speech given by Catherine McGregor about her life, her challenges, her opportunities. How she interwove so many relatable snippets into one incredibly moving story was a highlight. We were also fortunate to have:


  • The inimitable Ron Baker as MC
  • Dr George Beaton again reminding us that to stand still will probably mean we go backwards
  • Matthew Burgess taking us down the ‘Lean Startup’ path and challenging us to change and ‘fail fast'
  • Dr Bob Murray reminding us that ‘praise is the biggest weapon in a leader’s arsenal for change’
  • Steve Wingert and Andrew Price talking about change management in law firms in real, relatable language


In 2016 we have maintained our commitment to undertaking research projects aligned with our six pillars of Learning and Development and also the Thought Leadership Award presented annually at Summit. There is often so much that falls from these projects that it can all be quite overwhelming, but our position at ALPMA is that these are not one-size-fits-all and that there is something for every firm to take away and work with. Firms have different cultures and different life cycles and therefore do not fit neatly into the outcome synopsis in research projects. I suggest you have another read and choose something to work with … small steps are better than no steps!

Our research for 2016 is summarised here:


  • Finding quality staff remains the top HR challenge for law firms, more work to be done on diversity and inclusion at firms etc 


Any thoughts at this time of year always extend to thanking our fantastic team of volunteers on our Board and various committees across Australia and New Zealand. Thanks also to our support staff across the Association who do so much behind the scenes to bring our programs to life. We remain absolutely committed to ALPMA’s core promise to members. We are continually pleased with the way our membership engages with the association and enables us to remain aligned with their expectations. As our Board tries to navigate a way through an ever-increasing competitive landscape for professional development providers, we strive to balance immediate member needs with those of an Association who is more frequently competing to hold its’ profile and standing on a national and regional (international) basis. Thanks to everyone who have contributed in some way to us having a great 2016!

As we look forward to 2017 we can expect more than just business as usual. We have provided branches with extra budget funds to develop local initiatives and enhance the offering. This should ensure the core promise to members remains a focus and that there is a greater value proposition through the branch networks. Our National Learning & Development group is planning new workshops to complement existing programs. Our Summit committee has already commenced planning for Summit 2017 in September in Brisbane. We continue to work on collaborative relationships with groups such as the Australian Law Management Group (particularly after the success of our joint foray into Singapore in November), College of Law, CPD for Me and others in this space. It is a challenging time for Associations such as ALPMA but with those challenges come opportunities and we look forward to exploring these opportunities with our members.

Thanks for being part of ALPMA in 2016 and I wish you and your friends and families the very best for the festive season.


Editor's Note

This is the last ALPMA blog post for 2016. We look forward to the weekly posts resuming on January 3, 2017.

About our Guest Blogger

Andrew BarnesAndrew Barnes is the President of ALPMA. He is the financial controller for The Lantern Legal Group Pty Ltd, which practices under the firm names of Sladen Legal and Harwood Andrews.  He works closely with the principals to deliver strategic planning, reporting and budgeting initiatives and applies his robust commercial skills to drive continued business improvement.  Andrew worked in public practice, as well as financial services and broad industry roles prior to joining the firm in 2003




Super changes present new opportunities

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

By Andrew Proebstl, Chief Executive, legalsuper


On 23 November 2016, after months of negotiation and amendment, the Federal Government finally succeeded in having a raft of significant changes to superannuation passed by Parliament.

Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison has said that 96 per cent of individuals with superannuation “will either not be affected by these changes or will be better off.”

That said, it is definitely worthwhile keeping up-to-date with the changes, most of which come into effect on 1 July 2017.

The immediate decision facing many superannuation fund members will be whether or not to take advantage of the current contributions caps by topping up their super before the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

Members considering doing so, but who are unsure of how to do so without exceeding the caps, should contact their super fund(s).

To help ALPMA members make the best decisions regarding their superannuation, here are the main changes to super, and the implications of those changes.

Changes that impact the amount of concessional contributions you can pay



Concessional contributions (or before tax contributions) include employer superannuation guarantee contributions, contributions made under a salary sacrifice arrangement and personal contributions for which a tax deduction has been claimed.

A reduction in the annual cap on concessional contributions you can make


From 1 July 2017, the annual cap on concessional contributions will be lowered to $25,000 per annum, down from its current rate of $30,000 for those aged less than 50 years and $35,000 for those aged 50 and over.

Catch-up concessional superannuation contributions


From 1 July 2018 (not 2017 as previously indicated by government) those with total superannuation balances of $500,000 or less will be able to make catch-up concessional superannuation contributions, subject to unused concessional contribution caps being carried forward on a rolling basis for up to five years.

This change is intended to boost the super savings of those with a lower superannuation balance due to lower contributions in the past, interrupted work patterns or an irregular capacity to make contributions.

For those earning over $250,000, a doubling of the tax on concessional contributions


From 1 July 2017, those with more than $250,000 of income and superannuation contributions (adjusted for other benefits) will pay an additional 15 per cent tax on their concessional contributions on those super contributions that exceed the $250,000 threshold.


The proposed new 30 per cent rate of tax continues to be less than the marginal rate of tax if earning greater than $250,000.

This change extends the existing approach whereby those with more than $300,000 of income and superannuation contributions pay 30 per cent tax on their concessional superannuation contributions.

This change will impact higher income earners, who constitute around 1 per cent of superannuation fund members.

Expanded eligibility to claim tax deductions for superannuation contributions


From 1 July 2017, the Government will improve the flexibility of the superannuation system so that more Australians can utilise their concessional contributions cap, by allowing people under 75 to claim an income tax deduction for personal superannuation contributions to an eligible fund. Personal contributions for which a tax deduction is claimed will count towards the concessional contributions cap.

However, to take advantage of this change, people aged between 65 and 74 will need to first satisfy a work test. (The work test was originally slated for removal but will now be retained)

Changes that impact the amount of non-concessional contributions you can pay


Non-concessional contributions (or after tax contributions) include amounts you pay to your superannuation fund, or your spouse’s superannuation fund, from your after-tax income (that is, from your take home pay or accrued savings outside of super).

$100,000 annual non-concessional contributions cap


From 1 July 2017, the current annual non-concessional contributions cap of $180,000 will be reduced to $100,000 per annum. However, superannuation fund members still have until the end of the current financial year to take advantage of the current $180,000 non-concessional contribution cap. Members under age 65 also have until the end of this financial year (i.e. 2016/17) to consider taking advantage of the ‘bring-forward rule’ which allows up to three years’ of non-concessional contributions to be made in the one year. This means that members who are in the position to do so can potentially make up to $540,000 worth of non-concessional contributions (the $540,000 figure being 3 x $180,000) by 30 June 2017. From 1 July 2017 the ‘bring-forward rule’ effectively reduces to $300,000 the amount of non-concessional contributions that can be ‘brought-forward’ across a three year period. However, the amount that can be brought forward, and the period to do so, will be reduced for those with total superannuation balances of $1.4 million to $1.6 million. From 1 July, 2017, those with total superannuation balances of $1.6 million or more will be ineligible to make non-concessional contributions at all. If the bring-forward provisions were triggered in the 2015/16 or 2016/17 financial years and the full bring forward amount was not utilised, transitional bring forward caps will apply.


The above rules replace the original announcement of a lifetime cap of $500,000 per person for non-concessional contributions which will no longer be proceeding.


Changes that impact retirement products (including superannuation pensions)



Removal of tax exemption for transition to retirement (TTR) pensions


Currently, individuals can commence a TTR pension at their preservation age (between 56 and 65 years of age, depending on their date of birth) even though they have not yet retired. No tax is paid by the super fund on the investment earnings from assets supporting these TTR pensions. Although some income tax may be paid by the individual on receipt of the pension payments up to age 60, once an individual is aged 60 and over, withdrawals are tax-free.

From 1 July 2017, the government will remove the tax exemption on investment earnings of TTR pensions and they will be taxed at 15 per cent (as is the case for investment earnings on superannuation assets). This change will apply regardless of when the TTR commenced. There are no changes to the tax arrangements for individuals upon receipt of these pension payments.

$1.6 million superannuation transfer balance to retirement products cap


From 1 July 2017, the government will introduce a $1.6 million cap on the total amount of superannuation an individual can transfer into retirement products, which includes superannuation pensions.

The cap will be applied to current retirees and those who have yet to enter retirement.

Current retirees with more than $1.6 million in retirement products (including superannuation pensions) have until 1 July 2017 to either remove the excess or return it to an accumulation superannuation account, where 15 per cent earnings tax applies or 10 per cent if capital gains.

The Government expects this change to impact less than one per cent of superannuation fund members. It also believes a $1.6 million retirement product balance could support a retirement income stream of around four times the single Age Pension.

Changes that benefit those with lower incomes



Low income superannuation tax offset


From 1 July 2017, the Government will introduce the Low Income Superannuation Tax Offset to replace the Low Income Superannuation Contribution when it expires on 30 June 2017.

Individuals with adjusted taxable income of $37,000 or less will receive an effective refund of the 15 per cent contributions tax paid on their concessional contributions, up to a cap of $500.

Superannuation balances of lower income spouses


To help lower income spouses increase the superannuation they accumulate, from 1 July 2017 the income threshold for the receiving spouse (whether married or de-facto) will be increased from $10,800 to $37,000, thereby helping more families to support each other in accumulating superannuation.

A contributing spouse will be eligible for an 18 per cent tax offset worth up to $540 for contributions made to an eligible spouse’s superannuation account.

If you have any questions about these changes to superannuation and how they may affect your retirement savings with legalsuper, please contact us on:

Phone: 1800 060 312 Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm (AEST)

Fax: 1800 614 431 Email: mail@legalsuper.com.au

About our Guest Blogger



Andrew ProebstlAndrew Proebstl is chief executive of legalsuper, Australia’s super fund for the legal community. Qualifying as a Chartered Accountant while working with Arthur Andersen, Andrew has broad experience across the superannuation industry with fund administrators, investment managers, custodians and other superannuation funds.

Andrew is a member of the Policy Committee and former Director of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. He is also a former member of the Victorian Executive of the Associations of Superannuation Funds of Australia. He regularly presents at superannuation industry conferences and writes regular superannuation columns for law societies across Australia.

legalsuper is an FY16 ALPMA Australian Corporate Partner


7 strategies for building a high performance culture

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

By Fiona Crawford, GM Human Resources, InfoTrack



‘High performance’ gets thrown around a lot these days as a new buzz word, but few businesses know what it is or how to define it. Everyone seems to be striving for it but many find it hard to articulate what exactly it means for their business. It is not as complicated as it seems – here are some simple steps to cultivate a high performance culture in your firm.

Define what high performance means for your business


High performance is something that should have a unique definition for every firm. What are your firm’s values and how do you expect your employees to fulfil them? What do you want to drive and motivate your employees? How will you define their success? Take the time to map this out – what are the characteristics you would expect from a high performance employee at your firm?

At InfoTrack, we have developed an employee value proposition defined by ‘effort over obligation’ – we expect our employees to come into work with a motivation and effort that overshadows any feeling of obligation. If employees are thinking about obligation, they’re missing out on opportunity - we are always thinking about opportunity and where it can next come from. We don’t dwell on what we are obliged to do and that’s why our workforce is brimming with ideas and innovation, and opportunities never pass us by.

Recruit the right people

Once you’ve defined what high performance means to you, you need to recruit the right people. A robust recruitment process should include clearly defined roles and expectations and be run by someone who understands your firm and its values. It should include multiple interviews with different people within your firm, and interviews should be designed to screen for high performance indicators that you are looking for. At InfoTrack, myself and our CEO take time to interview as many potential candidates as we can because we understand how important it is to our business to hire the right people.

Be transparent about your strategy

Being transparent about your firm’s strategy and goals helps foster a sense of trust and mutual understanding. The more employees understand what you’re working towards, the more enthusiastic and involved they will be. When employees can clearly see how their work is adding to the end goals of the firm as a whole they have a greater sense of purpose. At InfoTrack we have companywide update each 4 months to detail our new strategy to our employees across Australia so everyone knows what part they’re playing to reach our goals.

Don’t underestimate the importance of succession planning

Succession planning is key - be open and honest about opportunities for growth and ensure that you speak to employees about their careers and where they see themselves in the future. The clearer vision an employee has about the future of your firm and their place in it, the more dedicated and motivated they will be. It’s important to ensure there are no single points of failure to keep a business running at top performance.

Track employee engagement

Engagement occurs when employees feel an emotional connection to your firm and its goals. Employees essentially want three things; a meaningful vision of the future, a sense of purpose and great relationships. The more engaged employees feel, the more productive they are, the better service they provide and the longer they stay in their jobs. Engagement fosters a collaborative, empowered, innovative, productive and overall positive environment.

There are a number of ways to track engagement – ensuring open communication with employees along with regular reviews and opportunities for feedback is key. Having a formal system in place such as employee engagement surveys helps to hold you accountable and creates a measuring stick. Employees will appreciate the opportunity to give feedback and will feel that they are being listened to.

Seek out diversity

Diversity should be seen as a necessity in any modern firm. Employing people with a wide range of backgrounds brings a unique mix of talents, perspectives and experiences to your workforce. Having a variety of different viewpoints challenges people to think outside the box and encourages creativity and innovation. Diversity helps to ensure your firm will continue to evolve and can be a significant differentiator in today’s competitive market. It can not only help attract and retain the right employees, but also the right clients.

Recognise achievements

The power of reward and recognition should never be underestimated. Achievements of all kinds should be celebrated, from individual milestones to team and firm-wide efforts. Whether it’s a work anniversary or winning a big case, make sure employees feel acknowledged and appreciated. This doesn’t mean you have to break out the cake for every achievement, sometimes a thoughtful email will do and other times a real celebration will be in order –just make sure you take the time give kudos when they’re due.

Always remember that your employees are your most important asset; they are the face of your firm, they are the ones interacting with your clients every day and they will define your firm’s future. A high performing firm requires a high performance workforce.


About our Guest Blogger


Fiona Crawford
Fiona Crawford is GM of Human Resources at InfoTrack, proud principal partner of the 2016 ALPMA Legal Management Summit.

Fiona has been driving the strategic people agenda to keep pace with the growth at InfoTrack since September 2015. InfoTrack recently won an Australian Business Award for Employer of Choice 2016, and has also been among the Best Places to Work in Australia for 3 years running.

Fiona has a wide range of experience with over 15 years’ human resources, training and coaching across a range of industries including sport, fitness, finance, hospitality and automotive. She has operated her own HR consulting business and worked on start-up HR functions, transformational cultural change programs, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic and operational HR initiatives. Her uncompromising commitment to high performance and continual improvement stems from her sporting background - a two-time medal winning Olympian in softball (Silver 2004 and Bronze 2000).


Prescriptive Conveyancing - The Big Red Button

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

By Chris Collinge, Partner/Director, Bytherules Conveyancing


How do you take a small six person firm located in a beautiful but relatively remote part of Queensland and turn it into a national firm? The budget is limited, the technology in its infancy and the industry still operates like it has done for many years.

That was the challenge we faced in 2011. Our first step was deciding to focus on one discipline, residential conveyancing. With that in mind we then developed a strategy for growing geographically but without having to open offices all over the country. A local presence is important in conveyancing, so we decided to build a business around experienced conveyancers working from home. We decided early on that they did not need to be licensed conveyancers. Indeed in QLD that particular qualification didn't exist anyway.

For some reason, the vast majority of conveyancers in our industry are women. Our decision to offer a work from home opportunity, along with the obvious work/life balance benefits that ensue struck a cord. We have been exceptionally lucky to recruit some highly experienced and knowledgeable conveyancers who may well have left the workforce had they not had this opportunity. With a combined 200 plus years of conveyancing experience in the business, there aren't many situations we haven't encountered. 


So, we had figured out how to grow geographically. We also had to ensure that the client received exactly the same quality of service, no matter where they lived and which conveyancer they used. As all of our conveyancers have many years experience, they all did things slightly differently. We had to make sure they not only followed the correct protocol for the jurisdiction they operated in, but we "wrapped" the service in our own unique and consistent service delivery method, with all the care and attention clients expect. All the time. No matter where they were.

Prescriptive Conveyancing


We needed prescriptive conveyancing.

This meant defining specific workflows, ensuring they were followed, and any exception automatically uplifted by the system. We split roles into administration and paralegal, and let the conveyancers focus on what they do best. This workflow based system is cloud based and everyone in the firm has the same access to the system irrespective of where they are. Compliance management forms a very big part of the system.

We were very proud that our project to develop prescriptive conveyancing was recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards. 

We are now in 18 locations in QLD & NSW and have an aggressive growth plan that with a strategy that will be the first of its kind in Australia.

Our tagline is "impossibly easy conveyancing" and we continuously strive to make it so. In an increasingly competitive market we realise if we do not continue to innovate and invest, then we will not continue to grow.

Editor's Note


Watch the video featuring Chris discussing the objectives and challenges of this project and business, staff and customer benefits achieved from implementing this innovative project, recognised as a finalist in the 2016 ALPMA/LexisNexis Thought Leadership Awards, presented at the Gala Dinner at the 2016 ALPMA Summit in Melbourne. You can also check out videos on the innovative projects undertaken by our winner, Maddocks, and other finalists, Nexus Law Group and Hall & Wilcox.
 

About our Guest Blogger

Chris CollingeAfter moving to Sydney in 1998 Chris setup an Internet Service Provider for Businesses, a few years before broadband became available. Within a few years it had become an award winning business winning top Business ISP of the years for three years in a row, runner up in the best IT company to work for In Australia and #11 in the BTR Top100. Chris then invested in other IT related businesses until moving to Noosa in 2011 to become a partner in a local law firm, Bytherules Conveyancing Lawyers.

After working all his life in IT businesses, Chris recognised a great opportunity for a legal firm to adopt new technologies and work methods that he had applied to IT businesses in the past. Since then Chris and the management team have initiated and developed the work from home model that can only operate successfully once the IT infrastructure, processes and the right people are in place.



Creating a Culture of Accountability - Rethinking Traditional Performance Reviews

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

By Trudy MacDonald, Managing Director and Founder, Talent Code HR



It’s that time of year again where many businesses are preparing for their annual performance reviews. Once considered a fundamental tool to ensure employee performance that is in line with the business’ values, direction and standards, performance reviews are now often sidelined for tasks deemed more necessary.

Time and time again I’ve heard from business owners not only their struggle to find the amount of time needed to have meaningful performance reviews, but their desire to have them in the first place. It seems that most business owners, rather than seeing them as an opportunity to have open and honest discussion with their employees, see them as stressful, costly, time consuming, and in some cases, doing more bad than good for employee morale.

But can we really afford to rule them out all together? We all know that if we want our business to be great, we need great people. The only way to ensure this is through communicating with our employees how we achieve our definition of “great”, and in what ways they can continue to grow to support that.

To maximise employee growth and performance, we first need our employees to be engaged. If we look at some of the key drivers of engagement, it becomes apparent that rather than completing dismissing the practice of performance reviews, we simply need to reshape them:

  • Role clarity – A performance review that not only reinforces the direction of the business, but the role that each employee plays in this is critical for employees to feel a sense of worth and importance to the business.

  • Feedback – We should not shy away from providing both negative and positive feedback to employees, as long as it’s constructive. Even negative feedback is far more motivating than no feedback at all, which leaves employees constantly questioning their performance.

  • Career and development – One of the biggest drivers for retention and engagement is that all employees have a sense that their skills and role within the business is continually developing. Employees that believe their career to be stagnate are the employees that most need your support, ensuring the performance review focuses around honest discussion about career objectives and potentials, and most importantly, a plan of attack to get there.

  • Values – The culture of your business is underpinned by both the values that are demonstrated and not demonstrated in practice. Ensuring a good culture is key to maximum employee performance, meaning all employees must aware of the values and behaviours expected of them.

The value of performance reviews isn’t to be dismissed, but they must be seriously reworked as we become more aware of the ways to best motivate employees and therefore enhance performance. By setting in place solid objectives and practices for performance reviews throughout the year, rather than in the weeks leading up, both employees and managers are in a better position to seek real value from the process, past simply checking boxes. Frequent informal and formal performance reviews ensure that poor performance or behaviour can be addressed before it becomes any major concern, and constantly addresses the changing nature of business and employees’ roles.


Editor's Note

Interested in learning more about this topic? Trudy MacDonald will be discussing how to build a high performance workforce, retain your high performers and high potentials and create a high performance culture that attracts great people at the upcoming NSW practice management seminar on Thursday 27 October 2016. ALPMA Members can attend this event for free, while eligible non-members can attend for $99. Register now! You will be able view this seminar on-demand from early November!


About our Guest Blogger


Trudy MacDonald
Trudy is an established business leader and human resource professional who specialises in empowering businesses to become great by maximising the performance of their people. She has the unique ability to inspire people to think differently and delivers highly engaging and passionate presentations that deliver real results to business. Trudy's career is founded on an education in Organisational Psychology and spans Australia, New Zealand, the USA and parts of Asia. She has co-founded or played a key executive role in four start-up technology and human resource consulting business, three of which have been acquired by international companies.






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