“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
-Winston Churchill

As ever, there are plenty of stories today to bring you up to date.

blue ocean strategyBlue Ocean Strategy is a book published in 2005 and written by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Professors at INSEAD and Co-Directors of the INSEAD Blue Ocean Strategy Institute.  If you haven’t got the book or read it, my best advice is to do so today.

Blue Ocean Strategy explains how a one-time accordion player, stilt walker, and fire-eater, Guy Laliberté is now CEO of one of Canada’s largest cultural exports, Cirque du Soleil. What he did: made the competition irrelevant. But how did Cirque profitably increase revenues by a factor of 22 over the last ten years in such an unattractive environment? The answer is in an early tagline: “We reinvent the circus.”

If you’ve watched TV this week, or tried to travel in London, you’ve definitely heard of Uber. They too are making the competition irrelevant. They’re changing the way taxis are hired. It looks as if they could make the competition irrelevant.

Heard of Airbnb? They’re the new kid on the block for you if you want to find a place to stay. Their online service enables people like you and me to rent from people in over 34,000 cities and 190 countries. Their competition is irrelevant.

There’s a great article titled Social Capital: The Secret Behind Airbnb and Uber, which you can read here.

The message for firms is that you must change according to demand and you must respond to the way your market takes advantage of new technology. Change or die, in a nutshell. The question is: What can you or your firm do to make your completion irrelevant?

Here’s an interesting Infographic I came across.

Architecture of Social Business


arrivalsHow Barclays feels about the future of banking

The boss of Barclays may well have read Blue Ocean Strategy because Barclays Bank fear that tech firms could replace banks one day. The bank’s chief executive Antony Jenkins said earlier this week that customers are increasingly happy to manage their finance online. Banks must give customers a reason to stay with traditional lenders instead of jumping ship entirely. To do that, he said, banks must continue to invest in new technologies and customer service if they want to avoid being replaced by firms such as PayPal and Amazon.

Read about this here.

Now for the rest of the news…

Marketing and Practice Management Issues

Social Media and Blogging Advice for Law Firms

ViralTim Baranin of Legal Productivity reported following his attendance at the second annual Social Media Marketing Summit for Law Firms on 10 June in New York City, hosted by Business Development Institute. Most of the speakers and panelists were lawyers, law firm administrators, and in-house counsel, discussing why and how they use content – blogs and social media – to find clients and counsel. Kevin O’Keefe moderated an experienced panel to wrap up the excellent program.

The author scribbled a few notes which turned into a couple of pages. In the article, he lists what he heard and saw.

It’s well worth reading this article. There’s something to learn for everyone.

  • Law Firm trends
  • Content
  • General Counsel’s perspective on finding and hiring law firms
  • Why and how law firms should blog
  • How law firms should use social media
  • Start with LinkedIn

These tips and experiences shared, are particularly resonant coming from lawyers and firms who are trying, testing, and finding success, creating content on blogs and engaging and amplifying their voice via the social channels.

Read more here.

Marketing agency pitch process should ‘not be sloppy or casual’

Do you pitch for business? Do you ask others to make a pitch to your firm to provide services? If so, you may be interested to read what Will Green wrote in Supply Management here. Organising pitches to appoint a marketing agency should “not be sloppy or casual”.  Lawrence Smith, commercial director for global creative and production at Mars, told a London conference the process should take three to six months.

“Pitches are a significant investment in terms of time and capital and they are not to be sloppy or casual,” he said.  Speaking at ProcureCon Marketing, Smith said a cross-functional team should be assembled, benchmarks established and a voting process agreed to assess pitches.

The cost of doing nothing: Why haven’t you made the switch to cloud accounting?

cartoonAccountancyAGEInsight said, here, that most finance executives instinctively know that a strong accounting system is critical for keeping the business running smoothly. Then why is it that we still see a lack of urgency to improve those systems, the article asks? It’s time to stop suffering in silence or let lethargy get the best of you – it can ultimately damage the business and even your career.

Hold the drama? But we are in 2013 and the FUD factor (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that used to surround cloud computing should be gone. Cloud accounting apps have taken the market by storm and are completely transforming the finance department for the better. So why are you procrastinating?

In this free paper, FinancialForce.com have listed the five biggest excuses (we’ve heard) as to why Finance is not making that jump to cloud accounting, along with a serious wake-up call. If any of this is what’s holding you back, do not fall victim and settle for ‘good enough’. The cost of doing nothing is an expense you don’t want.

What’s your fraud IQ?

Andi McNeal, CPA, writing in Journal of Accountancy here says that Accountants [and I think Lawyers too] need the ability to ask the right questions and gather crucial information from conversations. Are your interviewing skills up to par? Find out in the author’s Fraud IQ quiz.

Whether discussing a specific transaction with a client or interviewing a potential suspect about his or her involvement in an alleged fraud scheme,  professionals need to be able to obtain and interpret information from other individuals. Additionally, the questions and answers provided in an interview offer important context for the other information gathered as part of any engagement and provide valuable clues about whether things might not be as they seem. Are you making the most of your professional conversations? Are your skills sufficiently honed to facilitate the flow of information—and to detect dishonesty—in an interview? Take this quiz and find out.

A Brief Guide to Exhibiting at Tradeshows

Preparing for an exhibition or tradeshow is stressful. And, if it’s the first time you’re doing it, it’s even more stressful. There are so many elements that need to come together at the same time. Kelly Edwards, the assistant e-marketing manager at Nimlok Portable, specialist manufacturers of exhibition stands says the secret is, of course, planning.

And the secret to good planning is great preparation. Without that, you risk not leaving yourself enough time to think about all the individual elements properly—which is how you make sure they all work together on the day. Without that, you could be relying on a wing and a prayer.

Merely hoping your exhibition goes well despite frantic last-minute preparations is much different from expecting things to run smoothly because you’ve planned everything down to the last detail. Not to mention, it’s much more stressful. Some people thrive on that kind of stress, but I’ve always preferred the more structured approach, trying to leave as little to chance as possible.

Click here to access the author’s “Quick, Easy-to-Remember Exhibition-Planning Checklist.”

Are you going to be one of the fifty firms that survive?

drainWriting in Legal Futures Blog, George Bull, the head of professional practices at Baker Tilly says there is an increasingly strong belief that of the 200 or so mid-tier law firms, only 50 or so may survive in the short to medium term. The work of Baker Tilly’s own recovery specialists has helped to understand the warning signs of firms which – if they don’t mend their ways – may well be one of the 150 or so predicted failures in the top 200. To put it another way, if you wish to be in the successful 50, you need to avoid the pitfalls listed in the article.

All the risks listed in the article can all be mitigated by strong leadership and communication from those charged with running the firm. Their leadership should be driven by considered strategic plans which are derived from accurate and timely management information and from a well-informed and insightful view of the current and future legal market.

Read the full article here.

Three of the best accounting apps

Leighann Morris wrote in Accounting Bites to say that we live in a world of smart devices, where apps are everything. In this article, the author lists three favourite accountancy apps. You will need to read the source article for all the details, but briefly:

  • Qualt – an easy to use introduction to accounting.
  • Wave Accounting – a free integrated accounting and payroll app that is tailored to freelancers, contractors, entrepreneurs, and small business owners with nine employees or fewer.
  • SageOne – an innovative small-business invoicing system created by Sage Accounting,

10 Reasons Marketers Need to Embrace Mobile

iphonesGreg Shuey wrote in marketingprofs.com to say that people check their phones around 150 times a day on average. Our mobile devices are in our hands, pockets, or purses, or on our work desks or nightstands. They have to be within arm’s reach of us at all times during the day.

That always-on behaviour is exactly how marketers need to think.

If marketers want to survive in today’s world, they have to stay connected 24×7 just like their customers do.

If you need more reasons to embrace mobile, the article provides 10 of them. Read about it here.

Xero Practice Manager is now available

xeroGood news for accountants: Xero Practice Manager may be the software and management solution your firm has been looking for. It seems to have everything you need to run your practice: time tracking, contact management, job scheduling, WIP management and more. It connects to Xero, putting your client, practice and accounting information in one seamlessly connected platform.

It’s great practice management software, and there’s no monthly cost for Silver+ Xero Partners.

For the doubters and put-off-til-laters, there’s a free trial version available here. You can also trial the Xero Partner Edition free of charge – details are here.

Not going to Cheltenham or Henley or Epsom this year? You can join the Xero team for their Summer Roadshow next month. Details are here.

Microsoft Office Software Comes to the iPad

Jeff Bertolucci in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, writes about Microsoft Office coming to the iPad. Now, Word, Excel and PowerPoint have finally been designed to use on Apple’s popular tablet. He asks: Is the suite worth the price?

Apple’s category-killer tablet has been on the market for more than four years, so Microsoft certainly took its time in developing iPad-specific versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The good news: Office for iPad isn’t just the PC version ported to a tablet. Microsoft has come up with a streamlined, touch-friendly interface with easy-to-tap buttons and tabs. I’ve installed it myself, and can recommend it

Technical Stuff

Russia-focused multi-disciplinary ABS plans growth

In the latest of the series profiling the new breed of alternative business structure (ABS), Legal Futures spoke to Red Square London, a law firm and multi-disciplinary family office that provides services mainly to wealthy Russian and Russian-speaking clients. The firm assists high-net worth individuals and their families with various “discreet and personal” services, such as real estate, banking, translations and notary services, and family support, from immigration visas, to conveyancing, to concierge-type services. Red Square director and co-founder, company law solicitor Tatiana Nevard, says the ABS has been central to the business’s growth since it received its licence last spring. Having an integrated, one-stop shop operation has been essential to offering clients a range of legal and non-legal services seamlessly.

Read more here.

Accounting Standard Update Issued by FASB Concludes Decade Long Project

Earlier this week, on blog anderscpa.com, Kyle P. Coady, CPA wrote that The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an Accounting Standard Update (ASU) on May 28, 2014, as a conclusion to a decade long joint project with the International Standards Board (IASB) to clarify principles for recognising revenue for industries worldwide. The objective of the new guidance is to:

  • Improve comparability of revenue recognition principles across entities and industries from all countries governed by either the FASB or IASB
  • Provide more useful information to financial statement users
  • Simplify the preparation of financial statements by reducing the number of requirements to which an organization must refer and providing a more robust framework for addressing revenue recognition issues

Read more here.

Watchdog to start tribunal over Baker Tilly audit issue

CITY A.M. report that chartered accountants Baker Tilly have come under fire this week from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the latest in a series of issues the watchdog had raised over an audit of accounts conducted for 2007 and 2008.

The complaint launched by the FRC concerns audits of financial statements for Tanfield, a manufacturer of electric vehicles, from 2007. The regulator has delivered a formal complaint to Baker Tilly, which begins the process of a disciplinary tribunal.

Read more here.

HMRC’s very worrying plan to extract cash from taxpayers’ bank accounts

Last week, AccountancyAGE Insight, in an article, written by Keith Gordon for Taxation magazine, there is discussion about HMRC’s proposal to extract cash from taxpayers’ bank accounts.

safeKey points:

  • No independent arbiter proposed, only “safeguards”.
  • Risk of unfairness particularly with joint accounts.
  • Lack of clarity about previous contact with taxpayers.
  • Sufficient powers are already in place.
  • The possibility of injustice outweighs the alleged benefit.

Download this free article from here.

Jet2 flight delay ruling ‘opens floodgates’ to claims

John Hydehas written in Law Society Gazette to report that the Court of Appeal has opened the way for potentially millions of claims against airlines that have run late services, clarifying the meaning of ‘extraordinary circumstances’.  A judgment handed down in Huzar v Jet2.com found that the claimant’s flight delay was caused by technical problems that could not be defined as ‘extraordinary circumstances.

Read more here.

ABSs capture a third of personal injury market, SRA research reveals…

In Legal Futures, Nick Hilborne writes that alternative business structures (ABSs) account for a third of all turnover in the personal injury market, the first accurate overview of the progress of ABSs has revealed.

The research, by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, also suggested that ABSs are bringing new resource to areas where there are barriers to access to justice for lower-income groups.

Read more here.

… But SRA takes too long to approve applications, ABSs say

In Legal Futures, Nick Hilborne writes that firms applying for alternative business structure (ABS) status believe the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) takes too long to approve applications and its staff are too “bureaucratic”, according to the regulator’s own research. Only 12% of firms said their application had been handled in a “timely manner”, while more than half described the SRA staff dealing with them as “bureaucratic”.

A further, in-depth, report on six successful and two unsuccessful applicants uncovered claims of an “information vacuum” at the SRA, firms being asked to “drop everything” to respond to enquiries and “an impression of disorganisation”.

Read more here.

Bid to save legal aid for domestic violence victims

family lawCatherine Baksi writes in Law Society Gazette to say that the government faces a legal challenge to the lawfulness of legal aid reforms which the claimants say prevent domestic violence victims getting financial help in family law cases.

The action has been brought by two charities – the Public Law Project and Rights of Women – with the support of the Law Society, which has provided indemnity against adverse costs.

On 1 April the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into effect removing legal aid for the majority of private family law matters. 

Accompanying it, the Civil Legal Aid (Procedure) Regulations 2012 introduced criteria making legal aid available for those affected by domestic violence. However the groups claim the evidential requirements to prove domestic violence are too narrow and exclude many women even where it is clear there has been violence or that there is an ongoing risk.

Read more here.

Kidnapped businessmen win HMRC penalty appeal over carousel fraud

It sounds like the script for a feature film but it’s real life stuff. This week, accountancyLIVE reported that two businessmen who claimed to have been unwittingly involved as middle men in a VAT ‘carousel’ fraud over sales of industrial hose to the Middle East, and who found themselves kidnapped by criminal associates of the fraudsters, have won their appeals against penalties for dishonesty imposed by HMRC.

The cases involving John Wood [Wood [2014] TC 03659 [2014] UKFTT 532 (TC)] and David Langhorne [Langhorne [2014] TC 03660 [2014] UKFTT 533 (TC)] were heard at separate First Tier Tribunals (FTTs), although they are linked.

Read more here.

Tax policy confusion ‘hugely damaging’, say City lawyers

John Hydewrites in Law Society Gazette that City lawyers have accused the government of ‘hugely damaging’ reforms of tax legislation that ignore the importance of the rule of law. The City of London Law Society revenue law committee has called for the creation of an independent body with the power to veto tax legislation

In a response to the Office of Tax Simplification’s competitiveness review, the committee says HM Revenue & Customs officials may have understated difficulties when briefing ministers. At other times, policy has ‘clearly been driven from the political level without due considerations, with HMRC left to pick up the pieces’.

Read more here.

Martin Pollins
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