I have shared numerous posts focusing on the dismal performance associated with non-organic law firm growth — that is, growth achieved through merger or lateral hiring. An excellent recent post by Eric Dewey, has prompted me to focus on a critical aspect of the lateral/merger conversation.
Peter Drucker, (credited as the founder of modern management) said, “if you can’t (or don’t) measure it, you can’t manage it,” and that is what this post is all about.
There are two distinct parts to a productive discussion on this topic:
- strategy metrics; and,
- performance metrics
Strategic Hiring Metrics
First it must be said — growth is not a strategy. It may be a means to achieving a strategic objective. But the idea characterized by some as simply being “opportunistic” is little more than an excuse for taking actions for which there was no specified link to a strategic plan.
A strategy is a means to a specified end. In the strategic organization, a strategy is supported by a series of steps or initiatives (the infamous Strategic Plan) that move the firm in a calculated way, down the path towards realizing a desired future state.
So, as it pertains to lateral hiring or mergers, the process begins with specifically defining the type(s) of capabilities the firm seeks to add. Acquisitions or hires that are the culmination of a targeted effort is a strategic hire. One-off hires that can’t be traced to a specific plan are not.
At the end of each year firms should evaluate the percentage of lateral hires or mergers that meet this strategic test. To the extent the percentage is less than 100% a discussion to determine what must be done to increase the success rate seems appropriate..
Lateral/Merger Performance Metrics
Without respect to whether an individual acquisition transaction was strategic (as defined above) one would still hope that each transaction delivers on realistic expectations. To know this you must have defined expectations in advance..
In the case of lateral hiring, expectations normally relate to the addition of specific levels of revenue associated with specific clients. Prior to or as part of signing an offer of employment, those expectations should be detailed and acknowledged by both parties.
As is the case with the strategic growth metric, the degree to which lateral hiring expectations are met must be monitored and discussed as part of improving your success rate associated with lateral hiring.
Merger performance tracking should be similar to lateral performance tracking. Expectations should be defined in advance and tracked.
The Dewey post referred to above provides some thoughts regarding some mechanics that will decrease the probability of an unfortunate surprise.
Fail to measure growth initiatives and you can expect to continue to experience the same level of success…or disappointment. On the other hand, monitor metrics that are the outgrowth of strategic planning and the smart organization will get better with each transaction.