We are delighted to share with you the recording of our recent webinar, ‘Is Your Firm prepared for the Financial Year Ahead? Key Trends and Challenges for Professional Services Firms in 2023/24’, in which our expert panel discuss the financial year ahead for professional services firms.

In this webinar, you can hear from Chair, Corinne Staves (CM Murray LLP), and speakers Robert Millard (Cambridge Strategy Group), David Shufflebotham (Pep Up Consulting) and Andrew Pavlovic (CM Murray LLP) as they discuss the following issues to include in professional service firms ‘to do’ list for the next financial year: 

  • How to remain profitable and effectively manage the firm’s cash flow at a time of stalled economic growth, inflation, cost of living crisis and basis period reform.
  • Implementing a strategy and the importance of having a Plan B strategy, especially during a time where firms are adapting to deliver client services in a new technological era.
  • How to maintain and enhance a firm’s culture and productivity in a hybrid working environment, including the impact that long-term hybrid working may have had on a firms culture.
  • Key regulatory developments and the practicalities surrounding how to approach them, specifically the new SRA regulations to address toxic work environments by actively challenging behaviours in the workplace.
  • Whether ChatGPT could spell the end of lawyers or whether it can be harnessed to improve service delivery and profitability of firms.
  • The potential regulatory issues that arise from using new technology (such as Chat GPT) to assist with delivering client services.
  • The increasing need for professional service firms to address environmental issues.

If you would like to discuss any of the above issues in further detail, please contact Partner, Corinne Staves, who specialises in partnership issues for firms and partners. 

Moving the ESG needle for law firms: deciding what matters and what can be achieved: PPA Webinar – 18 July 2023

Join our panel of experts at the next Professional Practices Alliance webinar, ‘Moving the ESG needle for law firms: deciding what matters and what can be achieved’, taking place on Tuesday 18 July. In this session, we will consider:

  • Materiality – What is important and hence needs to be managed, and what is not (hence can lead to accusations of ‘greenwashing’?)
  • Stakeholders – How do firms decide who their stakeholders are when determining their policies and approaches to ESG?
  • Client acceptance – To what extent should ESG be a factor when considering whether to accept instructions?  How much ESG due diligence should firms be doing on prospective clients?
  • Governance – Can firms instil culture/good practice through effective governance?  What can be done if partners/employees make statements or act in a way which challenges that culture?
  • Regulation – Should regulators be providing rules or guidance as to when it is or it isn’t appropriate for firms to act for certain clients?

Date: Tuesday 18 July
Time: 9am – 10am BST

Webinar Chair:
Andrew Pavlovic
, Partner, CM Murray LLP – Professional Discipline and Regulatory Specialist

Robert Millard, Director, Cambridge Strategy Group – Law Firm Strategy and Sustainability Advisor 
Zulon Begum, Partner and Head of Non-Contentious Partnership Practice, CM Murray LLP
Sarah Chilton, Senior Partner, CM Murray LLP – Partnership and Employment law Specialist

Register your place here.

We are delighted to welcome Alex Conway, tax partner at Crowe, as a guest speaker for this discussion on Basis Period Reform changes.

In this discussion, Alex along with Partners Corinne Staves and Zulon Begum, demystify the basis period reform changes and outline the practical implications for partners and firms. In this wide-ranging discussion, they explore:

  • The increased cash pressures on partners and firms and ways to address these changes;
  • How working practices will need to change to adapt to this new regime;
  • Whether firms need to change their year-end date;
  • The ancillary implications, including on succession and partner exits and ensuring fairness between different cohorts of partners on what could be surprising divisive questions;
  • What scenario planning should firms and partners be doing?
  • What if partners or firms do nothing?

 The key message is that good preparation is vital. 

Recently we have seen some members of the bar pledge that they will not act against peaceful climate activists or for new fossil fuel projects. They argue the climate crisis is too important. This amounts to an anticipatory breach of the cab rank rule, under which a barrister must accept instructions on matters in which they are competent to act, regardless of the individual advocate’s personal views on the profile of the client or the facts of the matter, in order to ensure everyone has access to justice.

In this article, first published by The Law Society Gazette, Partners Corinne Staves and Andrew Pavlovic set out what law firms need to think about before rejecting clients on ethical grounds.

Since the launch late last year of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot, there have been numerous articles asking whether it or other forms of artificial intelligence will replace the need for lawyers, or even put them out of business altogether.

In response to this concern, lawyers have undertaken their own tests of the software, asking it questions in order to demonstrate its limitations.

Read more in this article from Andrew Pavlovic and Corinne Staves, in Law360

The primary assets (and therefore value) of a law firm (knowledge, experience and reputation) are usually inextricably linked with its people (both partners and employees). ‘People’ will usually be at the heart of any merger and it is vital that firms have a clear strategy and plan to deal with issues relating to their partners and employees when considering a merger.

In this article, first published by The Law Society Gazette, non-contentious partnership law specialist, Zulon Begum, considers the issues relating to people that firms need to be aware of throughout the merger process.

Following today’s Budget (15/03/2023), we have put together the top 5 takeaways for professional services firms from a legal and practical perspective.

  1. Headline corporation tax increasing to 25%. Low corporation tax rates have been cited as a reason for professional firms choosing a company structure over an LLP. This higher tax rate shifts this balance. Firms will be doing their sums. Will some wish to change legal form? Maybe, but it could be complicated. Legal and tax advice will be vital. The key question should be how the legal entity helps the business achieve its wider strategic and cultural objectives. [For more, watch ‘In Praise of Partnership: How Effective is the LLP Structure to Support Growth & Governance in Professional Services Firms?’]
  2. Inflation expected to drop. The Chancellor’s prediction that inflation will drop to 2.9% at the end of this year will be welcome for firms who have been grappling with significant price increases, but very limited scope to pass those increased costs on to clients (who face the same pressures). The reduced pressure on cash may be welcome and may reassure firms who have been considering measures to preserve cash, faced with uncertain economic outlook and imminent basis period reform tax changes. [For more, read our article ‘Do Firms Need to Restructure Due to Recession?]
  3. Greater funding for childcare. There will be more funding for childcare costs from a younger age. At face value this could be good for professional services firms as it is widely recognised that a huge pool of talent is lost in connection with maternity leave and the return to work. Having said that, childcare costs are not the only problem here, especially for those in higher paid fee-earning roles. To recruit and retain the best talent, firms will still need to work on ensuring viable working conditions for working parents (whether or not they took a prolonged period of parental leave). [For more, read our article ‘Employee Rights on Returning to Work after Maternity Leave and Time Off to Care for Children]
  4. Pension changes. The lifetime limit has been lifted. In practice, this will only benefit the highest earners and most senior people in the professional services world. It may however have wider implications, as it may affect those partners’ decisions about retirement dates and therefore have an impact on firm-wide succession planning. Managing Partners will want to keep an eye on this to manage evolving expectations. [For more, read our article ‘Professional Firm’s Year-End Planning Needs to be Different in 2023’]
  5. Reduced duty on beer, wine and cider sold in pubs. Are office parties back? Jeremy Hunt seems to think so. The Solicitors Regulation Authority will be less keen having highlighted the role of alcohol in its recent sexual misconduct guidance. [For more, listen to our webinar recording ‘SRA Sexual Misconduct Guidance – Self-reporting, Impact of alcohol, Consent and “Proximity to practice” – What Lawyers and Firms Need to Know]

If you are a professional services firm and wish to discuss these issues or have any specific questions about how the Budget may impact your business, please contact Corinne StavesZulon BegumAndrew Pavlovic or Clare Murray.

In recent years there has been a renewed focus on how misconduct allegations are managed by law firms. That focus has arisen for a variety of reasons, including cultural shifts resulting from the #MeToo movement, generational changes, heightened media scrutiny and regulatory pressures.

In this article, first published for ThoughtLeaders4 Disputes Magazine, CM Murray LLP’s Regulatory and Professional Discipline Partner Andrew Pavlovic and Partner and General Counsel Beth Hale outline the 10 legal and regulatory issues for law firms to consider when managing an investigation into partner misconduct allegations.

Read the article here.

In the next of CM Murray LLP’s Ten-Minute Talk series, Partners Corinne Staves and Andrew Pavlovic discuss own interest conflicts for lawyers and law firms, with a particular emphasis on how they can arise through mistakes. 

In particular, Corinne and Andrew discuss the following:

  • If I make a mistake, do I have to tell the client?
  • If so, what do I tell them?
  • Can I continue to act for the client?
  • Do I have to self-report my conduct to the SRA?
  • How can own interest conflicts arise through other professional appointments, such as acting as executors or deputies?

The issues raised in this Ten-Minute Talk are considered in more depth in a practice note which Andrew has authored for PLC’s new Practice Compliance Management resource hub, which can be found here.

If you have any questions arising from this video or would like to discuss own interest conflicts in more detail, please contact Andrew Pavlovic, who specialises in professional discipline and regulatory law, or Corinne Staves, who specialises in partnership law.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) are most often considered relevant in relation to employees. But how do they apply in the context of firms?

In the next of CM Murray LLP’s Ten-Minute Talk series, Partner and General Counsel Beth Hale and Partner Corinne Staves discuss NDAs, with a particular focus on the key issues arising in Partnerships and what firms should take into consideration when drafting them.

In particular, Beth and Corinne discuss the following:

  • Confidentiality clauses in retirement deeds and what firms, GCs and partnership secretaries need to take into account when they are being drafted;
  • NDAs vs confidentiality provisions;
  • The importance of the regulatory regime and SRA Warning Notice from March 2018, which applies to firms entering into settlement agreements with departing or joining partners, as well as the lawyers who are drafting such documents;
  • The risk of a ‘boilerplate’ approach to confidentiality clauses;
  • Do firms need a confidentiality clause in retirement deeds at all if one exists in the LLP deed?
  • Being clear on the meaning and extent of an NDA;
  • Confidentiality agreements in the context of a merger: could such agreements prevent firms from reporting to the SRA serious regulatory breaches found during their due diligence process?

If you would like to discuss NDAs and issues specific to firms, or if you have any questions arising from this video, please contact Beth Hale or Corinne Staves.

CheckYourNDA Online Tool

We are delighted to share with you CheckYourNDA, CM Murray’s free online, interactive tool to help you check the terms of any non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement to ensure they are appropriate, enforceable and in line with best practice.

You can try our new interactive tool, with its traffic-light based feedback on areas of potential concern on your NDA provisions, and with explanations and suggestions for improvement, here.

The UK is facing a period of considerable economic uncertainty. Compared to the past decade, everyone is feeling the effects of increased living costs, high inflation, high interest rates and a recession is on the way, if it is not already here.

In this article, first published in IFA Magazine, Partner Corinne Staves considers how wealth management firms can bolster their business during difficult financial circumstances. These themes and ideas apply equally to all professional services firms.