A well dressed man, in a cabin full of books and files, who with his articulation and advocacy skills can bend the things in direction favourable to his client. Yes, this is the stereotype of a lawyer.
But the legal profession has much more to it than files, argumentation and money. Emails, documents, contacts, billing, etc. have to be managed simultaneously to earn a reputation in the profession. The daily management of all this, along with balancing the hustle-bustle of courts and corporate firms is very daunting and complex.
Technology and Management have many answers to all these problems. Legal practice management enables one to systematically organize all your work, improve the quality of services and save time. In developed countries, a lot has been done to equip lawyers with the management principles, processes, and technology to efficiently manage and grow a legal practice. In most of these jurisdictions, the bar associations or legal regulators make a special effort towards making lawyers go through management curriculum as it is not only good for lawyers but beneficial for the clients as well.
Do we need a legal practice management curriculum in India as well?
Let us take a look at what is happening in other major jurisdictions first.
Practice Management in USA
In developed countries like USA, the idea of legal practice management came up when our country had experienced just one year of independence. In August 1957, Charles S. Rhyne, President of the American Bar Association (ABA), made one of his major objectives, the institution of a “comprehensive program to aid members of the ABA in the field of economics of law practice.” He aimed to increase the coordination of assistance to lawyers in the business phase of the practice of law, achieved by ABA through its staff, committees and sections and by the state and local bar associations.
In 2015, more than one million people were employed in legal occupations in the U.S. This number was set to rise to 1.38 million in 2022. The largest share of those working in legal occupations was comprised of lawyers. More than 40 percent of 2015 law graduates had taken up employment with law firms by March 2016 and 62.4 percent were working in occupations which required the passage of the bar exam.
Financial Times reported that around 114,000 jobs in the legal sector are likely to become automated in the next 20 years as technology transforms the profession, a new study has found. Future law firms will be looking for non-traditional employees such as project managers, data and technology experts as well as fee earning lawyers, the study predicted.
With need for effective delivery of services to client’s growing demands and the statistics continuously indicating expansion and development, both the law firms and legal professionals have frequently resorted to Legal Practice Management courses and softwares. According to the 2015 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report, practice management availability at law firms was close to 45% and 49% in 2015 and 2014 respectively.
Here is a paper by a co-chair of the eLawyering Task Force set up the American Bar Association’s Legal Practice Management Section that argues that law schools in the USA need to change their curriculum and include more subjects related to law practice management.
Law Practice Management in the UK
Law Practice Management in UK is highly developed. The Law Society of England and Wales supports its members and legal practice managers to develop their organisational capacity to deliver high-quality services to their clients and encourage a diverse workforce. The Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA) was founded way back in 1996 for providing a supportive networking forum for those involved in, or seeking involvement in, legal practice management. It is recognised as a valuable group by organisations such as the Bar Council, Bar Standards Board, Legal Services Board and other regulatory bodies.
The Law Society has recognized a quality management system named ‘Lexcel’ which focuses on seven different areas: structure and strategy, financial management, information management, people management, risk management, client care, file and case management. This scheme certifies, for any type of practice, that certain standards have been met following independent assessment.
Law Practice Management in Singapore
Legal Profession (Legal Practice Management Course) Rules, 2015 deal with the content, assessment, registration and completion of the legal practice management course in Singapore. Completion of this course, conducted by the Law Society of Singapore is recognized as a qualification to practise in Singapore Law Practice. Delivered using a mixture of lectures, case studies and panel discussions, this Course is taught by subject matter experts in law practice management. Here are the details of the 19th edition of this course.
The Law Society of Singapore has worked with various private sector entities and has introduced practice management certification scheme, after studying systems adopted by law associations in England and Australia. The Business Times reported that the Singapore Ministry of Law has launched “Tech Start for Law” to help firms with up to 70 per cent of the cost of adopting basic technology products, including practice management and online legal research. Universities in Singapore also organise programmes (such as this) focusing on entrepreneurial and management aspect of legal practice.
Law Practice Management in Canada
Bar associations in Canada have attempted to equip their members with legal practice management. For instance, here is the Law Practice Management Section of the Ontario Bar Association. We also came across Dalhousie University offering an executive education course in Law Practice Management through Schulich Law School. There are also a number of blogs dedicated to law practice management in Canada.
Law Practice Management in Hong Kong
The Law Society of Hong Kong’s official journal has a dedicated section to law practice management. There are lawyers and consultants regularly researching and writing on better practice management methods and business models for law firms. You can see some of the work regarding law practice management at this link.
However, in this jurisdiction practice management as a discipline seems to be mainly driven by private players rather than regulators or lawyers associations.
Law Practice Management in Australia
Australasian Legal Practice Management Association, a private initiative to educate lawyers, law firm executives and managers and other stakeholders, claims to have widespread membership in the Australian lawyer community and organizes regular events regarding various aspects from practice management, from cyber security and data protection to learning and development operations inside law firms. Leading job portals like Seek.com and Adzuna lists many specialized legal practice management jobs. Check out this link for an idea. Various bar associations also have taken steps to legitimize and spread legal practice management education in Australia. For example, the Law Society of New South Wales offers a legal practice management course through FMRC Legal and the College of Law. Doing such a course can be a precondition to practicing in Sydney.
Practice Management in India
After reviewing the global scenario, especially most of the common law jurisdiction having strong presence of legal practice management, it may seem strange that so little has been done in India towards introducing systematic legal practice management.
Legal professional sector in India is largely disorganised. Leave the intricate aspects to law such as management and business, the Bar Council of India has barely taken any steps to regulate some very basic aspects of the profession such as admissions, registration, etc. Lawyers are on their own when it comes to managing the services and business development aspect of their business.
With brisk economic development in the country, the corporate law sector is booming and there are 100s of law firms and practising advocates in the country. This fledgling industry has to deal with various tasks such as management of documents, tracking calendar, maintaining client-contact database, fees etc. Many law firms in India use some or the other form of management techniques to efficiently carry out these tasks.
But be it a fresh law graduate/ law firm or a well established lawyer/ law firm, all face problems when it come to handling numerous fringe tasks associated with the profession, while effectively delivering services to the client. There is either complete absence of legal practice management or multiple management processes to handle multiple tasks, which further multiplies the workload.
How we started the Nani Palkhivala Law Practice Management Course
At the source of the initiative is a discussion I had with another legal entrepreneur, Hrishikesh Datar of Vakilsearch.com.
Both of us came across the challenges faced by Indian lawyers beginning their practice in their own ways. iPleaders has worked for over 5 years in training lawyers and law students, while VakilSearch is India’s leading legal services marketplace, and is maker of the Libra software that is being used by a large number of Indian lawyers for practice management.
In absence of formal initiatives by Bar Associations, we decided to initiate a private effort to introduce legal practice management curriculum in India. The discussions started towards the end of 2016, and now iPleaders has launched the first Legal Practice Management Course in India with support from VakilSearch and a handful of successful lawyers who support the idea and provided intellectual and academic inputs for the course.
The Nani Palkhivala Law Practice Management Course, is an one-stop solution to the daily administrative problems and growth challenges faced by lawyers in India. It brought together not only the knowledge but the tools and the services that would make a real difference to your practice.
Advantages of NP-LPM Course
- Generating Leads – Increase the number and quality of incoming queries for services.
- Efficient Practice – Putting administrative aspects of your law practice on autopilot.
- Going online – Building a website as per rules, expanding web-presence etc.
- Building connections – Building connections, professional networking and increasing social media presence.
- Expansion of practice – Best practices to hire and retain clients and employees and much more.
- Lessons and tutorials prepared exclusively for young lawyers and small firms, hungry for more.
- Your personal website, in compliance with BCI Rules [hosted on your chosen domain name].
- Complete automation of your practice with a subscription to the LIBRA Practice Management Tool.
- “Case Studies” – Stories of the best lawyers and what they did, rolled out on a periodic basis.
- “Lessons in Excellence” where we offer you the habits of the best practitioners, and give you a roadmap to follow
- “Public Meetings” where we schedule lectures with the best legal minds where they share their thoughts and guidance to course participants
- Libraries of Legends – A look at the libraries of 10 great lawyers
- Readers are Leaders – A list of books which rising stars and legends read and recommend
- “Day in the life of” – What does a day look like, in the life of the biggest names in the Supreme Court? Get some stunning insights into how they manage their day and their life.
Pursuing the course will require you to spend 3 hours per week working on management and expansion of your practice.
If you want to learn more, please reach out to us on 011-3313-8901 or visit the course page.
If any university would like to work on advancing legal practice management in India, we heartily invite them to reach out to us on the above number as well.