Just about managing
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Marc Bloomfield
The Certificate in Practice Management, designed especially for legal aid managers, could bring real benefits to your practice.
In my role as a management consultant, I come across many talented people who are starting to get involved in the management of their firm or not-for-profit (NFP) agency. Some of them are solicitors or caseworkers and others have administrative roles. One thing they have in common is that they are ‘accidental managers’ and have been drawn into management because someone has to do it. They may well have done training for their main role, but little or none of it for management. People tell me it can be difficult to find a suitable course that is specifically designed for the legal aid sector and not too expensive.
Certificate in Practice Management
The Legal Aid Practitioners Group’s (LAPG’s) Certificate in Practice Management (CPM, on which I am a lead tutor with Matthew Howgate) has been created to meet the needs of legal aid managers, both in private practice and the NFP sector. It has been running since 2015 and there are now dozens of managers holding 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:
Everybody should go on it at an early stage in their career (newly-qualified solicitor).
It’s given me a lot of ideas (experienced manager).
The CPM is designed around the Law Society’s Lexcel standard, the Specialist Quality Mark and the Solicitors Regulation Authority continuing 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 Legal Education Foundation, that focuses on management and structural issues specific to the charitable and NFP sector. In the past, this has 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 towards the certificate, so you can complete it over a flexible period of time. We start at 10 am and finish at 5 pm so that many participants can travel on the day with no need to stay overnight if they are not London-based.
The next course will start in London in September with Financial and Resource Management, followed by Business Planning and Risk Management in October, Legal Aid Contracting and Developing Profile in November and Managing People in January 2020. In between the face-to-face modules, there are assessments to check how well you have absorbed content, and more support can be given by your tutor if needed.
The full course costs £999 for LAPG members and £1,299 for non-members, which covers face-to-face and online course work, printed training materials, and three textbooks (including the LAG Legal Aid Handbook 2018/19).
Benefits for individuals
Everyone really enjoys the course, particularly the time to think about management and meet others with whom they can discuss management issues. Participants say that they have gained confidence and would recommend it to others.
Benefits for practices
The course delivers practical tools that people can use from the off. Employers say they notice that their colleagues have greater confidence after the course.
The course delivers practical tools that people can use from the off. Employers say they notice that their colleagues have greater confidence after the course. Several practices have enrolled more than one person on the course and it has become part of their development programme, so that when the current cohort of managers comes to pass on the baton to the next generation, they have the confidence and skills to take it. It can also deliver immediate bottom-line benefits.
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)

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