“Every little thing counts in crisis” -Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian statesman
“For law firm leader, there is little room for error when crisis ensues. A mistake here, a misstep there, and lawyers at the firm begin to lose confidence in the firm and its leadership”
from Decisions That Matter: Tales of Law Firm Leadership in Moments of Consequence
Realizing that your law firm is in crisis can be unsettling, to put it mildly. Take heart, though crisis is a concerning condition, it need not be fatal.
Crisis can arrive in many different ways. At times it is the product of an extended period of underperforming. For other firms it can be brought on by events such as litigation, the departure of a group of lawyers or loss of a significant client relationship.
No matter the cause, here are five key areas to consider when addressing crisis.
- Calm leadership– Someone has to be in charge of addressing the crisis situation. This person may be the firm’s managing partner; it may be someone else — but someone must be on point. From day one this individual should demonstrate a calm confidence in the firm’s ability to address the crisis.
- Regular communication– Whether the point person or a designated spokesperson, someone must be accessible and provide routine communication. The absence of information creates anxiety that will certainly make a tough situation more difficult. The communication must provide needed information with confidence and complete honesty.
- Triage – Immediate attention must be given to the conditions that create the most immediate threat to the institution’s survival. In medical parlance, you must first stop the bleeding.
- Plan– A plan must be developedfor working through the crisis. Sorting through the primary issues and the options available to address them is an immediate priority. Once the plan is developed, to the extent appropriate, the plan and progress on it become part of the routine communication to relevant parties.
- Help– Most law firm leaders have never addressed a crisis that may threaten a law firm’s viability. Learning to lead a firm through crisis is often best accomplished by tapping resources that have been there. Better to spend a few extra dollars and secure needed insights than save a few dollars and lose the firm.
If addressed properly, a crisis can be an experience that makes a law firm stronger!