The legal services market is as competitive as ever-ask any law firm leader. More clients are bringing work in-house or turning to alternative providers. Law firms know that and fight fiercely over what is left. Lawyers thinking about starting their own firm see the robust competition as well. Whether established or just getting started, law firms face a challenging market. Almost all are looking for an edge to succeed.
Finding that elusive “edge” to get beyond the pack often depends on sound leadership and a strategic approach to practicing law. Developing a long-term plan that accentuates a firm’s strengths and fixes harmful weaknesses is a good recipe for success. A plan can take many forms: building on substantive strengths, exploring new markets, being more attentive to financial health-these non-exclusive tactics can be helpful to a law firm’s long-term future. Finding the right strategy, however, requires a vision of where to go and a deft use of the dials and knobs that move a firm forward.
Whatever the long-term strategy, taking steps to be a more dynamic law firm can also help. Being more dynamic is not a substitute for a firm’s long-term plan. Instead, it creates a vibrant law firm environment that enhances its ability to execute its long-term plan. To foster the dynamism that forcefully guides a firm towards its long-term objectives, law firms should consider five basic steps:
Enhance Client Access. Giving clients better access should be every law firm’s ideal. Nothing serves a law firm better than connecting to clients. Enhanced client access often comes from improved service delivery, proactively anticipating client needs, and taking on a “partner’s” attitude instead of a “vendor’s” mindset. A key reason for clients bringing legal work in-house is the feeling that in-house lawyers better understand client strategies, needs, and expectations. A law firm that improves delivery, anticipates needs, and acts like a partner brings its client closer. Client satisfaction follows.
Embrace Generational Change. The older a law firm’s demographic profiles the more likely some things will be done because “we’ve always done it that way.” The new (or newer) blood at a firm can be a fountain of new ideas, different perspectives, and potential efficiencies. The younger generations ultimately will be running the firm-don’t wait for that watershed event to hear their views on making your firm’s practice better. Not all their ideas will be keepers, but by embracing their perspectives now your firm likely will be fresher and nimbler.
Learn from the Disruptors. As much as your firm seeks to compete with other firms, it can’t be forgotten that today’s cut throat landscape is owed in part to dynamic disruptors like client in-house departments and alternative providers. Among the disruptor’s hallmarks are commitments to speed, efficiency, and economy. Consider taking a page or two from these disruptors to modify your practice. Successfully incorporating some of their better ideas will move your firm into a more dynamic place.
Become Leaner. A firm that streamlines its support functions not only reduces overhead but is leaner. A by-product of becoming lean is the elimination of bureaucratic tendencies that thwart the speedy and efficient delivery of legal services to clients. Obviously, becoming too lean may create unwanted consequences, but finding the right blend of leanness and delivery will make a firm vibrant and exciting. Technological advances are perfectly suited to helping a law firm find that perfect middle ground.
Work on Pricing. Dynamism is not a function of being cheap. That said, running a practice that proactively thinks about providing better value to clients will not only get the attention of clients, but will stimulate constant internal creative thought about maximizing value delivery. Always thinking about providing better value through pricing strategies also will alter a firm’s culture in a positive way. Once the idea of improved pricing becomes second nature, client satisfaction will go up as will the firm’s financial health.
A dynamic firm is vibrant, forceful, energetic and motivated to succeed. Stimulating those qualities in a law firm heightens the prospects for success. In today’s competitive legal services environment, is your firm dynamic enough? If not, is it time to take action?