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Innovation In The Practice of Law (COLPM, 2006)

Industry Specialization: Making Competitors Irrelevant

When It Comes Time To Instigate Change

Leadership Lessons From The Trenches

The Fearless Leader's Advisory Board

Passing The Baton: The Last 100 Days (Ark Pub, 2008)

First 100 Days: Transitioning A New Managing Partner (NXT Book, 2006)

beyondKNOWING (IBMP, 2000)

Herding Cats (IBMP)

Becoming Firm Leader

The Disruption In Transitioning To A New Firm Leader

Analyzing A Leadership Candidate's Strengths

How Effective Leaders Delegate

The Value in Developing A Leadership Brand

How New Managing Partners Can Avoid Being BlindSided

The Leadership Succession Process

When Job Descriptions Don't Do The Job

Recovering From A Leadership Misstep

When Firm Leaders Transition

The Question of Partner Compensation Guarantees

Firm Leadership Is NOT For Wimps!

Exploring The Dark Side: When Leaders Overuse Their Strengths

Are You Getting The Minutes From Your Practice Group Meetings?

Are You Developing A Star Culture?

6 Factors That Can Impede Effective Firm Leader-COO Relationships

A Novel Approach To Compensation

Practice Group Leadership 2.0

Inside The Corridors of Firm Leadership

Malignant Leadership (AmLaw Article)

Thought-Provoking Management Metrics

Sliced Too Thin (AmLaw article)

Surviving The Switch: Thrive During A Change in Firm Leadership

Do You Know What It Takes To Be A Firm Leader?

Crazy Like A Fox

Low Return (AmLaw article)

Roundtable On Managing Partner Compensation

McKenna On Leading Change In Your Firm

Confronting The Underperforming Partner

The Challenge of Sharing Leadership

Managing Partner Outlook

The State of Law Firm Leadership

Evaluating Your Performance As A Managing Partner

Where Leaders Stumble

Rules of Engagement (2010)

Counseling New Firm Leaders (2010)

Getting Partners To Follow Through (2010)

Leadership Transitions (2009)

Handling The Trauma of Layoffs (2009)

The Anxieties & Seductions of Leadership (2009)

Tenure Trap: The Question of MP Term Limits (2009)

Maneuvering In The Downturn (2008)

On The Glory Of Being Managing Partner (2008)

Where New Leaders Spend Their Time (2008)

Taking Charge (2008)

When Needing To Replace A Practice Leader (2008)

Measuring A Firm's Culture (2007)

The Tensions of Leadership (2007)

Successful Transitions (2007)

Management's 2007 Agenda

Addressing Structural Complexities (2006)

Management's Burning Issues (2005)

Making Practice Groups Work (2005)

Selecting Your Next Managing Partner (2005)

The Logic For Having An Advisory Board (2005)

A Profile of Today's Managing Partner (2004)

The Art of Brainstorming (2002)

Planning Your Firm Retreat (2002)

Energizing Your Practice Group Meetings (2000)

Gaining A Better Understanding Of The Partners You Manage (2000)

Working With Your Partners Without Getting Resistance (2000)

Bringing Your Strategy Process Back To Life

Schedule Time For Strategic Thinking

Stimulating Innovation In Your Firm

Understanding Industry Dynamics

Perspectives On Firm Strategy

Efficiency Is Not THE Competitive Advantage

The Seeds Of Competitive Disruption

The Hurdles To Initiating Change

Competitive Plagiarism

6 Elements of Meaningful Differentiation

Overcoming The Hurdles To Executing Your Strategy

Methodologies That Make Strategic Planning A Waste of Time

Are You Being Afflicted With Strategy Viruses?

Leading Change: Adaptive Approaches To Implementation

Searching For Opportunities Amidst The Gloom (2009)

Helping Clients Cope With The Economy (2009)

Managing Through A Prolonged Downturn (2008)

Law Firm Strategy Revisited (2008)

Perspectives On Law Firm Strategy (2007)

Ten Steps To Enhance Innovation (2006)

Challenger Strategies: How To Compete Against A Dominant Player (2005)

Strategic Planning - A Report On The State Of The Art (2005)

Firm Strategy & Industry Clusters (2004)

Strategy Lessons From An Old Fable (2003)

The Innovation Imperative:
How to make Stategic Innovation Happen (2002)

Why Strategic Planning Doesn't Work - And What You Should Be Doing (2002)

How Healthy is your Stategy (2002)

Talking With Law Firm Strategic Planning Officers (2002)

Competing Against Size (2000)

A Question of Selective Focus (2000)

Develop a First Mover Advantage (2000)

Conducting Client Interviews

Beware The Naive Marketer

Getting Unbeatable Testimonials (2009)

Client Teams: A Look At Current Practices (2009)

Enhanced Focus on Key Clients Yields Results (2006)

Protecting Your Crown Jewels (2006)

Marketing Your Merger (2006)

Genuine Client Focus: Managing The Sophisticated Client's Expectations (2004)

Understanding Client's Needs (2003)

Why Law Firms Need Non-Executive Directors

A Field Guide For The Mobile Lawyer

The Managing Partner Academy: Series of Articles & Advisories

The Disruptive But Inevitable Move To Alternative Fees (2009)

Managing Through The Downturn (2008 - Present)

Seven Questions To Ask Yourself

Acknowledge Your People's Endeavors

Take Time To Be Inspiring

You Get What You Deserve

Seeing Through Your Client's Eyes

Defining Your Performance Metrics

The Quest For Seamless Service

Competing Against Size (2000)

Click here for .pdf version

When new market sectors and growth opportunities emerge, a number of firms scramble to set-up, beef-up, or redefine their area of practice in an effort to position themselves as the "go-to" firm. Armed with more clout and a fatter wallet the large established firms are likely to find it easier to dominate the field. They are often already perceived as major players in related areas. As one of the practice group leaders from Milbank Tweed explained it: "It's not that we're better lawyers, it's just that we get to bat in Yankee Stadium more often."

How do you compete against these established players with their larger practice groups?

You should always be looking for ways to enhance your expertise by serving the needs of your existing clients - those who already trust you; increase the number of professionals by laterally hiring the right talent to build "bench strength"; or find the means to network with other small players from around the country.

But in the interim you are likely to confront the spoken or unspoken resistance: "Your fairly small and not known for having any expertise in this area, why should we take a chance with you or your colleagues?"

How you respond to doubts about your practice group's future can determine whether your practice group has a future.

-.Convert your existing clients into glowing testimonials.

Break the barrier of newness. Your existing clients already trust and respect your capabilities. Offer them concessions in exchange for endorsements. In return for those concessions have your client agree to take calls from prospects.

- Provide the assurance of personal attention.

Clients are not happy when their important matters are handed-off to other partners they don't know well or to more junior professionals on the team. Provide assurances to the prospective client that they will always be dealing with you and have your continual involvement as the relationship manager.

- Bring an outside expert to your side of the table.

Recruit a recognized expert when it's needed. Many of the large accounting and consulting firms are masters at this. Look older and wiser by bringing in an acknowledged academic, retired industry executive, or some other luminary as a consultant to supplement the resources of your team.

- Target only one discrete aspect of the transaction.

Partner with another firm who brings a different but complimentary competence to the transaction and then offer the defined expertise of the two firms to get the job done.

- Offer a limited-risk initial engagement.

Propose a smaller test matter or only a part of the total transaction. Work on a value-based fixed fee. Some of your larger competitors may not want to stray from a billable hour position.

- Offer the client a guarantee.

Remove the risk. Assure the potential client that if they are not completely satisfied you will reduce your fees accordingly; then take steps to ensure that your client won't need to exercise their guarantee.

- Add a personal touch.

Turn your practice group's small size into an advantage. Show the client how you structure your work so that every client receives maximum attention. Emphasize how you don't have to cover excessive overheads: multiple offices, large administrative support, partner perks - so the client is getting value and results with minimum overhead. Demonstrate how you can respond to requests quickly without delays and unknown people at the other end of the telephone.

Finally, don't be caught off guard defensively trying to explain how your team "can do it better, faster and cheaper". These defensive reactions have never been reassuring to clients. Instead, trying taking an offensive position to detail why your practice team may be the better choice for this particular client's unique transaction and needs. It is incumbent upon you to position your strengths so that adult, intelligent clients might be reassured to engage your services.

© Copyright 2000. Patrick J. McKenna


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