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In Stave Five of ‘A Professional Services Christmas Carol‘ we highlight a list of actions for professional services leaders to consider for the coming years. Our actions are grouped into three main themes: Internal strategy (Digital, Technology and Artificial Intelligence), meeting changing client needs and professional services workplace culture.

Filled with relief, Scrooge rushes to the window and calls down to a confused teenager buried deep in his phone: “What’s today?”

“You what?” returns the boy, taking out an earphone.

“What’s today, my fine fellow?” says Scrooge.

“Today?!” replied the boy. “Err, Christmas Day!”

Scrooge, can’t contain himself and starts shouting ‘Merry Christmas’ at the top of his lungs.

Scrooge immediately phones his Practice Manager who is somewhat startled and concerned to receive a call from his Managing Partner on Christmas Day (although not too surprised based on the Firm’s existing workplace culture).

Scrooge apologises profusely for his previous reticence and promises the Practice Manager that he will give him the budget he needs to improve all the Firm’s IT and technology in the coming year. He will embrace a digital strategy, invest in artificial intelligence and start to seriously consider robotics because that is what clients will expect. Indeed, it is what the competition are already doing.

Above all, Scrooge promises to stop treating non-fee earners with scepticism but instead treat them as vital members of the Firm. He ends the call by wishing the baffled Practice Manager a very “Merry Christmas!”

Genuinely excited about this chance for redemption, Scrooge finds a Christmas present he had been given by a supplier, re-writes the attached note and decides, despite the heavy snow fall, to take it around to Winifred, CEO of one of his most important client organisations.

Winifred, rather taken aback, opens her front door to Scrooge and gratefully accepts the gift.

Scrooge promises that his Firm will change. He acknowledges there is a lot more competition in the market and that his Firm is not immune to this competition.

He says he will make it his firm’s priority to have a much better understanding of what ‘value’ really means for his clients and will then make sure his Firm are much better at delivering this value for clients.

He tells her he plans to start by making it easier for clients to work with his Firm. He will invest in technology to streamline processes and improve the client experience. He’ll make it much easier to work with different areas of his practice. His Firm won’t continue to just offer a ‘one-size-fits-all’ model but will find a way to deliver high-value, complex projects alongside more commoditised low-cost services if that is what the client wants.

Finally, Scrooge promises to stop billing by the hour and instead look at introducing value-based pricing.

He says he can see now that the billable hour puts all the transaction risk onto the client and that it misaligns the interests of his Firm and his clients by focusing on inputs rather than results.

Above all, Scrooge will make sure his Firm and his people are able to match the service offered by any other Firm because, as Winifred will appreciate: “It’s not what you do that makes the difference in professional services, but how you do it.”

Scrooge radiates such profound delight that Winifred finds it hard to hide her shock. They share the drink that Scrooge missed out on the night before and Scrooge returns home.

The next day, Boxing Day, Scrooge gets to the office early and isn’t surprised to see Rob Cratchit arrive a few minutes later as he has fallen behind on his utilisation targets. Scrooge pretends to be cross with Rob for missing his targets before suddenly announcing his intention to pay him his bonus anyway, because the quality of his work and his excellent relationships with clients are far more important than his ‘busyness’.

Rob is stunned when Scrooge tells him how much he values his efforts on behalf of the Firm. He promises that he will try to better integrate junior staff members, like Rob, into the Firm. He will invest heavily in Rob’s professional development and help him develop the skills he will need for a successful career in professional services in the 21st Century. He promises that he will find a way to introduce more flexible working and the chance to work remotely.

Above all, Scrooge tells Rob, “I do not expect junior staff members like you to fit the culture, instead the culture needs to adapt to fit you.”

“Now go home to your family and I’ll see you in the new year. Merry Christmas!”

Rob is stunned and Mrs Cratchit is too when her husband walks through the door to join his family who are eating cold turkey sandwiches.

Tiny Tim removes his gaze from his new Peppa Pig DVD for just a few seconds to ask his dad what he is doing home so early. Rob replies that he has Scrooge to thank for this surprise and that the future is looking much brighter for them all.

Well then, says Tim, showing eloquence far beyond his years: “God Bless Us, Every One!”

Best wishes to you from everyone at The Openside Group


“2018 Legal Technology Predictions” by bluelock:

“An Obituary for the Billable Hour” by Tim Williams:

“Consulting on the Cusp of Disruption” by Clayton M. Christensen, Dina Wang, Derek van Bever: Harvard Business Review, October 2013:

“Consulting Industry: Stop measuring Utilization! Its putting us out of business” by Guillermo Salazar:

“Eight things to look out for in 2018” by Source Global Research:

“Mission Impossible? Managing Performance within the Partner Group” by The Openside Group:

”Define your metrics or they will define you” by The Openside Group:

”Partner Contribution and Reward Survey 2017” by Performance Leader, Managing Partners’ Forum (MPF) and Internal Consulting Group (ICG):

”Who’s in charge? Exploring Leadership Dynamics in Professional Service Firms” by Professor Laura Empson:

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