Thornton Legal Meets....Simon McCrum

Previously the Managing Partner at what became the UK's fastest-growing law firm, Simon now help law firms and the teams in them become The Perfect Legal Business. As well as being a motivational speaker and author, most of Simon’s work is with teams and firms around the country to help them to dominate their local and regional market places.

  • How have you found the period since lockdown started?

I’m one of the lucky ones. Having sold my business three years ago, I have been manic – running around the country helping law firms to become what I call The Perfect Legal Business. I didn’t stop for three years. I had therefore decided to stop – back in January – to re-shape my offering to law firms and to write the book I had been carrying around in my head of many years. Then came Lockdown, which in a host of ways replicated the2007 Credit Crunch. In 2007 I was Managing Partner of a large law firm with no one “out there” helping firms and giving insight and a broader picture.  I resolved that this time round there would be someone like that for law firms – me. I started my weekly “Law Firms in Lockdown” surveys and reports, and I have been staggered – and am very proud – of the reception they have received from the UK legal profession and those of other countries. In short therefore, the Lockdown didn’t damage my business as I’d already closed down. It has been great and fulfilling to be able to give. It also gave me a slowdown that has allowed me to finish my book, “The Perfect Legal Business”.

  • Can you tell us a bit about your background and McCrum Consulting?

I qualified as a solicitor in 1990. I was a regular fee-earner, with a billing target, but I realised even then that I was more interested in the business of law rather than in wading through The White Book (as it then was). I moved firms a few times, each time securing a reduction in my billing target and an increase in my marketing responsibilities. I went back to Pannone in 1995 and the Managing Partner there, Joy Kingsley, saw something that neither I nor anyone else had seen, and she put me in various team management positions all of which seemed to go well. Over time, I developed an overall vision and plan for law firms, and when a large full-service law firm approached me and asked whether I’d like to become their Managing Partner, I leapt at the chance. I didn’t see it (I could see it a mile away, now) but the firm in question was not in good shape, and the Credit Crunch really didn’t help. But I paddled very hard and built a new team around me. Having nearly gone bust, the firm became the fastest-growing law firm in the country – out of 10,000. I got a lot right, but an awful lot wrong. In 2016 we sold the firm to what is now Knights PLC, and I started McCrum Consulting. I am now evangelical about helping law firms to do the things I did right, and to avoid doing the things I did wrong. I work to a model called The Perfect Legal Business - and I take firms on a journey.  

I have been carrying the idea around in my head for years. I decided to put a handbrake on my busy consultancy work and to finally get down on paper all the things I was passionate about in the business of law. It’s like a good wine – the longer it took to publish, the better it got. It’s being printed as we speak and I am very proud of it. It takes firms back to the basics that we all know about – but which we in fact only pay lip service to. There are so many forces at work in a law firm that stop change in any area taking place, let alone change in every area taking place in a joined-up way.

  • What’s the best part working with your law firm clients?

Easy - the excitement I generate. I love lighting fires in the bellies of positive people. Many firms have spent a fortune in time and money and got nowhere. At very little cost it is possible to secure a paradigm shift in a law firm.

  • Your Law ‘Firm in Lockdown’ reports make for interesting reading, What is the mood out there like at the moment?

Everyone was expecting carnage by now in the legal sector. It really was carnage back in 2007 but this time round I think the “profession” responded much more like a “business”. The result is positive. Hard decisions were made, and quickly. We all live to fight another day, and that day is coming. Nothing has changed in some ways though – thousands of firms are letting profit, cash, opportunity, and talent slip through their fingers. The trophy cabinet is sat there - waiting to be robbed. There is a huge opportunity in every region (ever town, really) for a law firm to be the go-to firm, to dominate that region, and to make good profit and cash. Most firms are all the same though. And most cannot ever build a brand – they all deliver their service in a range of ways, many of them not good. They can’t say anything great about themselves, so they have to compete on price.

  • Looking longer term, what do you think the biggest change will be working life?

I think the law firm office is finished. I think face-to-face interaction with colleagues is going to be mostly by Zoom, and that with clients will be too. The former poses problems (supervision, risk, training, lawyer development) and the latter is an amazing opportunity to deliver a service the way clients will welcome.

  • When you are comfortable to, what is the first restaurant you’ll visit?

That’s a really good question. I’m not in a hurry to visit any restaurant, and I don’t mean because of the virus. Rather, I have lost all faith in them. They spend a fortune on buildings and on what they offer, but when you get there the service is usually crap and the occasion is a negative one rather than an uplifting one. No one thinks about me, the customer, and what happens literally from the moment I walk in the door. Just like many law firms.

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