Culture compatibility a must

Accountants still do not seem to be hitting the right buttons with solicitors.

It is not the price of our services which creates most dissatisfaction but the quality. Solicitors tell us that, while we are getting it right on taxation advice or work on solicitors’ accounts rules, in growth areas such as strategic business advice, we are not delivering.

Selling a broader range of services may prove difficult, but it must be addressed. Accounting firms need to find ways of introducing partners with broader business skills to their solicitor clients.

Solicitor firms continue to express interest in multi-disciplinary partnerships.

These are unlikely to be in the interest of the professionals and will not help the public – but clearly solicitors still want to be like moths and a candle.

Perhaps before getting into bed with each other, accounting and legal firms should plan their courtship with care.

To be effective the culture really has to match before the combination – which means potential merging partners should know each other well and have worked together before they merged.

Consider what client referrals have been made and whether the clients were satisfied; what joint projects have been undertaken successfully; and whether there was effective communication between the two parties, for example.

Was the firm introduced, competitive or supportive towards you in relation to other opportunities from that client; did you feel as though you were the same team? Failure to answer those points satisfactorily is likely to mean the MDP is doomed before it begins.

There are significant opportunities for accounting firms to sell more services to their solicitor clients. The solicitors want help in exciting and profitable service areas such as practice management and strategic planning. And they are prepared to pay realistic fees for quality advice.

We as accountants must ensure we set out our stall with the right people skills so that we can deliver what is wanted. We know we have the ability – but we need to convince our solicitor clients of that fact.

Clive Parritt is chairman of Baker Tilly.

Related reading