I was inspired to write this post after reading a couple recent headlines–

  • Law Firms Risking Obsolescence, Report Says – an article from The New York Times, last week and
  • Reed Smith Layoffs: A Sign of Things To Come – a recent American Lawyer article.

A State of Change

The fact that the legal profession is changing is undeniable. Law firm leaders who choose to ignore this fact will wake one day to a new reality. In fact, the industry has been in state of flux for the better part of a decade. According to a very interesting 2015 report from The Georgetown Law Center, there has been a fundamental shift “from a sellers’ to a buyers’ market, one in which clients have assumed control…..”

A Failure to Act

Observant leaders recognize the change. Virtually everyone charged with any level of leadership feels it.

But few know how to respond in a way that drives the necessary change.

A study from Altman Weil reflects this situation with an overwhelming majority of Managing Partners seeing a permanent shift in the demand for legal services and the efficiency by which law firms will need to operate, but few (less than 40%) said they have changed their strategy in response to the shift.

A Plan for Action

For law firm leaders that are looking for a plan of action, either in response to market pressures or to just better position their firms, I recommend the following four steps:

  1. Learn what your clients are thinking.

Identify your firm’s 10 most significant clients, and schedule a meeting devoted to understanding how each feels about your firm, and what specifically the firm could do to improve its service to them.

  1. Learn what your attorneys are thinking.

Conduct a mini survey of your firm’s attorneys seeking their response to two questions:

  • First, what do they believe could specifically be done to improve client service; and,
  • Second, what do they think should be done to improve the firm’s financial position.
  1. Target one area of improvement to service delivery.

Based on the information gathered from the firm’s clients and attorneys, select one area in which you will lead a firm wide effort to improve client service.

  1. Target one area of improvement to the fiscal health of your firm.

Based on the responses from the firm’s attorneys, select one area in which you will drive an improvement in your firm’s financial health.

These simple steps will yield a stronger law firm. Once you and your firm become more comfortable with the process of identifying areas to improve, and then executing on an improvement strategy, you can expand on the number of areas within which you intend to drive improvement.

Do you have confidence that you are on track to improve your law firm this year?r