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Law firms are 'way behind' accountancy firms

Firms need to focus on becoming employers of choice, says Charlie Keeling  

22 November 2013

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

Winning the war for talent is key to securing a desired market position in the years to come, Clyde & Co’s global HR director, Charlie Keeling, has said.

Speaking at Managing Partner’s seventh Remuneration and Career Management Strategies for Law Firms conference yesterday, Keeling said that law firms can learn much from the accountancy sector.

“Compared to accountants, we are way behind in terms of being the employers of choice,” he said.

He also suggested that accountants have better interpersonal and business development skills than lawyers.

“Accountants are arrogant but willing to engage; lawyers are arrogant as well but they are also aloof,” he said.

Keeling suggested that accountants “hunt in packs” and then focus on developing solutions for clients, while lawyers sell themselves or what they know and then provide discrete services rather than solutions for clients. Cross-selling is often spoken about but rarely happens, he added.

He said that accountants “embrace” business support functions like HR, while lawyers are, by contrast, “tolerant (suspicious?) of business support”.

Keeling noted that learning and development needs to be part of a holistic HR strategy that “joins the dots” rather than discrete initiatives.

In particular, he said law firms need to follow the example of accountancy firms and insist that partners devote time to personal development and talent management. This includes aligning the firm’s learning and development curriculum with competency frameworks.

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