Sustainability and succession
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Marc Bloomfield
Many legal aid practitioners are reaching a certain age and, despite the amazing talent of younger legal aid lawyers, can struggle to find others willing to take on management responsibility. People point the finger at the ‘snowflake generation’ wanting (shock, horror) a work/life balance, but if the seniors are making heavy weather of managing the practice – working all hours, stressed to breaking point – can they really expect anyone else to aspire to management?
A lot of people managing legal practices are ‘accidental managers’. They started as solicitors or caseworkers and got involved in management because someone had to do it. They have done countless training courses for the black-letter law side of their job, but may have done little or no management training.
What’s the answer?
Happily, the Legal Aid Practitioners Group’s Certificate in Practice Management (CPM, on which I am a lead tutor with Matthew Howgate) has been specifically designed to meet the needs of legal aid managers, in both the private practice and not-for-profit sectors. It has been running since 2015, and there are now dozens of managers who hold the certificate.
Some were very new to their role when they did the course, while others had been running successful practices for years, but feedback has been positive regardless of prior experience:
I would recommend the CPM to other people, especially people who are relatively new to management – newly-qualified solicitor.
I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great – manager with over 10 years’ experience.
The CPM is designed around the Law Society’s Lexcel standard, the Specialist Quality Mark and the Solicitors Regulation Authority's competence framework. The CPM covers key areas including strategy, business planning and marketing, financial management, management information and dashboards, equality and diversity, people and performance management, information management, compliance and risk management. For legal aid practitioners, it also covers managing a legal aid contract and working with the Legal Aid Agency.
There is an additional module, funded by the Future Advice Fund, that focuses on management and structural issues specific to the charitable and non-profit sector. This has previously included topics such as fundraising, good governance, innovation, partnership working and regulatory issues.
The CPM provides 50 hours of specialist training including both active face-to-face sessions and online. You need to attend all four modules to be awarded the certificate. Attending individual sessions earns you credits toward the certificate, so you can complete it over a flexible period of time.
We started in September with Financial and Resource Management, followed by Business Planning and Risk Management, so if you are interested now, you will need to do those modules next time around. The Legal Aid Contracting and Developing Profile module will run on 23 November 2018 and Managing People will take place on 25 January 2019.
The full course fee is £999 for LAPG members and £1,299 for non-members, which covers face-to-face and online coursework, printed training materials, and three textbooks (including the LAG Legal Aid Handbook 2018/19). Each participant has a named tutor to support them as needed.
Benefits for individuals
Everyone really enjoys the course, particularly as it gives them the time to think about management and to meet others with whom they can discuss management issues. Participants say that it is useful to get reassurance on things they already know and that they are doing things right. All stress that they gained confidence and would recommend it to others.
Benefits for practices
The course delivers practical tools that people can use from day one. Employers say they’ve noticed that their colleagues have increased in confidence since the course. Several practices have enrolled more than one person on the course and it has become part of their development programmes, so that when the current cohort of managers comes to pass the baton to the next generation, they have the confidence and skills to take it. It can also deliver immediate bottom-line benefits. Delegates from previous courses said:
We’re introducing dashboards at partnership and team level; time targets, costs and average fees.
Your training and support of our practice manager seems to have revolutionised our legal aid work and significantly increased our billing last year.
If you would like to discuss the course or book a place for the whole programme or a single module, please email: chris.minnoch@lapg.co.uk.

About the author(s)

Description: Vicky Ling - author
Vicky Ling is a consultant specialising in legal aid practice and a founder member of the Law Consultancy Network.