Our degree of success is shaped by the thousand of actions we take and decisions we make in our careers. Yet few firms recognize the impact of our habits (positive or negative) over time.
This is because law firms have been quite resilient, largely due to the natural intelligence and collegiality of most lawyers. But these attributes are no longer enough.
In the absence of formal business strategy, marketing structure and proper career management and business development training for our lawyers, it’s harder for firms to find and keep good lawyers, profit margins are thinning, and it’s getting difficult to see how to keep firms intact as they move from first to second generation.
Improving Firm Productivity
In today’s ruthless economic reality, business as usual will result in eventual decline.
Increased competition, shrinking legal budgets, difficulty in attracting and maintaining good legal talent, rapid changes within our clients’ industries – all conspire against the desire by a law firm to make a good living by doing what they do, how they’ve done it. Today, in order to improve firm productivity you’ll need to change some of the ways in which you manage your business. Your individual lawyers will need to improve their business development capabilities. Your firm brand and marketing will need to clearly identify (and your firm will then need to deliver on) how you are different and more relevant to your client base. To improve business, you may need to change some of the ways in which you conduct your business. But how do you know what to change?
Ready Fire Aim
When they know that change is needed, many law firms practice the “Ready, Fire, Aim” approach. They decide without process what needs to change – usually something that’s easier to change – and they take action. Hire a lawyer. Get a new website. Send someone for training. Inevitably, they become frustrated when that effort and expense doesn’t result in tangible differences.
In fact, most actions are a waste of money and resources if you haven’t first determined what end goal is; accurately assessed where you are now; and plotted a logical path for getting from A to B. This is true for firm management as well as marketing. You can’t effectively hire, determine technology needs, or create a new brand if you don’t know what you want your firm to look like in the future. In other words, you need to begin with a target before you shoot. You need to start with strategy.
Moving From First to Second Generation
Additionally, a large percentage of law firms are near or in the process of moving from a first to a second generation firm. The individuals who built and maintained these firms for so long will soon be retiring, and taking with them the reputations, good will and referral sources that resulted from their presence. Very few firms have prepared for this transfer with a strong succession strategy and even if they have, the skills, attributes and practices that created these firms will not serve them in the coming years. Times have changed. In most instances the new leaders not only need to learn how to lead; they need to plot an
entirely new pathway for the firm.
Help When You Need It Most
I’m a business strategist who works exclusively with small to medium-sized law firms on strategic planning, and all resulting plans and implementation.
I help firms to:
• Assess their operations, business practices, revenue sources and expenses.
• Determine their best practice mix, size, make-up, location(s) and marketing strategy.
• Adjust their management to optimize client, lawyer and staff loyalty and improve profitability to ensure greater durability.
• Where needed, prepare for and implement on the transfer from a first to a second generation law firm.
I do this through the development of strategic plans, operational and marketing plans, and executive coaching. I’ve been working with law firms for over 27 years as a marketer, coach, and business strategist. For more information on my experience, click here.