For a lot of law firms, “business as usual” is like a favorite pair of shoes-they seem to fit and sure feel comfortable. When that is the case, falling back on usual practices continues as long as there is no pressure to change. But once a watershed event occurs that shakes the foundations of management practices and strategies, it is not uncommon for leadership to rethink its way of doing things.
Unfortunately, if leadership awaits the advent of a significant departure, an unexpected drop in revenues, or some other unforeseen development before thinking about fundamental change, it may be too late. Smart leadership doesn’t wait for crisis-it prevents crisis by planning for change and acting proactively.
At the beginning of every year all law firms should consider whether past practices should be modified or replaced by new ideas and strategies. Thinking about a firm reset, even if not ultimately implemented, is worthwhile. A serious effort at rethinking a firm’s present and future protects against complacency, helps identify bad habits that can be eliminated, and keeps a firm’s strategy fresh.
Thinking about a reset is particularly important for any law firm that:
Has an Aging Leadership. Strong leadership is the lifeblood of any successful law firm. Because good leadership can be hard to find or develop, firms that are blessed with it tend not to rush to make changes. Yet as time passes and leader continue in their role, a law firm can find its leadership aging out. Whenever a firm’s leadership is getting on in years, it is time to examine a reset to assure good leadership continues.
Wonders About the Next Generation as Business Getters. Closely connected to the leadership question when leaders grow old is the concern over sustained business generation. Past comfort from having a steady group of business developers can become less so when senior lawyers responsible for key client relationships begin to slow down. Finding successors to manage long-time relationships or building a roster of business generators will be essential to continuing law firm success. Forecasting the need to reset the origination team well in advance is something all law firms should consider often.
Suffers from Upside Down Demographics. Much can concern a law firm if its demographics have become unfavorable over the years. Attrition through the loss of future talent and/or the inability to hire quality attorneys can leave a firm top heavy with little promise in the next generations. If a firm’s demographics are upside down, a strategy rethink is a wise move.
Is Undifferentiated in the Market. Meh. Is that the marketplace’s reaction to your firm? By taking an objective look at your firm’s place in the market, it may become apparent that change is required. If nothing differentiates your firm from other firms, a slide towards mediocrity may have occurred or is trending. Making your firm stand out should be a constant focus.
Is Financially Uninspired. There is no right answer to the question “how much money is enough?” But firms that are stressed financially are always in need of a reset. Fixing a financially challenged firm may mean cutting back on out of control overhead, spending money wisely on practice enhancing technology, or creating expectations for work ethic and business development. Assessing your firm’s financial performance and asking tough questions can lead to a fundamental reset desperately needed.
Transformation from routine to exciting should be on every firm’s mind. If mired in the past or uninspired present, a reset may be in order. Will you take a look at your firm as 2020 approaches?