Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #846 – May 15, 2020

When Your Chosen Industry Falters

After writing about the need for law firms to establish an industry focus for some time, I received the following question from an industry group leader: 

I have been following your stream of articles on the merits of having Industry specialization — which I agree with. But what happens if the industry that you happen to have selected, like retail, is now being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic?

Retail is among a number of industries that are experiencing severe stress, previously from the trade wars and now largely due to the shuttering of many brick-and-mortar stores due to the ongoing pandemic.  Indeed, we are currently witnessing something akin to collapse in the clothing apparel retail segment, with J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman all filing for bankruptcy.  While these business failures appeared to result from a dramatic and immediate reduction in demand, other factors were largely observable and predictable to anyone monitoring developments in the retail industry.

So, in response to the industry group leader’s question, my follow-up would be: Have the members of your industry group monitored and discussed (especially during monthly industry group meetings) the evolving trends that are impacting their chosen industry?

Along that same theme, here are a few strategic recommendations that I would offer to any industry group:

Post #845 – May 12, 2020

Horizon Scanning: Modernizing Legal Service Delivery

I’m pleased to have contributed two Chapters to this new book being released by the Ark Group this month.  

While also including analysis of the impact of COVID19 on legal services, this timely book is intended to help law firms prepare for the known and unknown disruptions that will impact their business models over the next few years.

Chapter One: “Seeing the Future First – Analyzing Strategic Trends” is being offered as a sample for your review:

More information, contents, and executive summary:

And if you are interested in listening to a half-hour Webinar that I moderated featuring three of the authors - Please use the following information to access the recording:


Meeting Recording:


Access Password: 7L$21X7t

Post #844 – April 23, 2020

Monitoring Client Industries & Planning for the Pandemic Aftershock.

Amid the fast-paced consequences of this global COVID-19 pandemic, it is already a given that every law firm must now adapt to dramatic and rapidly changing circumstances. Nowhere is that more evident than with the client industries that your firm has been serving as this crisis winds down.

For many of your clients, the scale of change is unprecedented. The world may be embarking upon a Great Reset in which the status quo of nearly every industry will be called into question. This crisis has upended everything, including your clients’ mindsets, and this means that in order for you to be an effective and trusted advisor to those clients, you need to have members of your industry team glean what is changing and identify specific insights that will help your clients either adjust or completely pivot their business strategy.

Post #843 – April 16, 2020

Steps Your Firm Can Take to Make Your Industry Focus Effective (Part 4)


As we discussed previously, there are numerous reasons why an industry focus can improve your firm’s performance and greatly enhance its relationships with clients.  In this article we outline seven specific steps your firm can take to ensure its industry focus efforts are worthwhile and ultimately effective.


In Part Four and the final piece in our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to offer our counsel in an attempt to help you to have effective industry practices.

Post #842 – April 14, 2020


Effective Strategy Often Requires Being First and Being Exceptional


The curious paradox is that most law firms go to great lengths to look like every other law firm.  In fact the common response that you are most likely to elicit from the leadership of many firms when first presenting a new concept, idea, or potential market opportunity is: “Can you please give us a list of the other firms which are doing this”. 


The corresponding irony is that today, most competitive efforts are invested in tit-for-tat rivalry rather than in pioneering new market spaces.  In other words, firms seek to outperform each other by being better (busily pursuing cost and efficiency gains, usually at doing commodity work) – rather then by aiming to be significantly different (exploring lucrative, emerging client micro-niche needs).


This effort to be better often has the perverse and unintended consequence of (once again) only making competitors look more alike as they inexorably slide into low-cost mediocrity.  


Real competitive advantage is achieved by getting out in front, by focusing on some area, some micro-niche (like any of the dozen I have identified and been writing about for the past year) in which you can be unbeatable.  By definition, if you are doing what everyone else is, you are not meaningfully differentiated; you do not have an advantage!

Post # 841 – April 9, 2020

“Industry” Should be THE Critical Component of Your Firm’s Overall Strategy  (Part 3)


Strategy is often a misunderstood concept among law firm leaders.


Being a law firm leader means that you are not managing one homogeneous firm, but rather a portfolio of very different businesses.  Strategy should be thought about at the business unit level with a clear, shared understanding of where the firm will allocate its scarce resources (people, time, and dollars) towards the goal of being the go-to firm for one (or multiple) segments of clients, facing one (or multiple) types of business issues.


In practical terms, strategy helps guide deliberate choices about where your firm is; and, just as importantly, where the firm is not going to direct its limited resources.  More controversially, strategy can also determine which clients and targets your firm will (and will not) continue to serve or pursue.  Our experience is that being more industry focused allows your firm to find more (and better) client opportunities.


In Part Three of our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to try to help you to assess the importance of your having effective industry practices.


Post #840 – March 29, 2020


Hanging Up the Crown


Taking over from some long-serving firm leader or a founding partner can present an enormous challenge for a new managing partner. In some firms, it gets ridiculously difficult when the new leader is given only a few weeks, or even days, to prepare themselves before having to step into the role -- or when the incumbent is not fully supportive of the transition.

A departing firm leader can undertake a number of actions to make the leadership transition much smoother.

Post #839 – March 26, 2020


New Insights from Managing Partners On a New Kind of Crisis


No one knows what to expect. But the near term is not good – or worse depending on who you talk to.  This week I was pleased to have the opportunity to join Michael Rynowecer, President of BTI Consulting to see what we could learn from leadership partners about what law firms are doing and how they are thinking.  We canvassed about 25 managing partners (or equivalent) at firms with more than 500 attorneys.  

Here are key insights from their thinking, together with a few of our observations:


Post #838 – March 10, 2020

Clients Value You Having a “DEEP” Industry Focus: So Do You?  (Part Two)

While attorneys tout their deep technical or functional expertise, most clients view that as table stakes.  They assume you’re an expert in employment law, international tax or complex litigation.  And as clients face increasingly complex business challenges that go well beyond any one (traditional practice group) area of the law, they wonder if you really understand the key aspects of their industry.  To be fair – they don’t care if you don’t know the intricacies of making their widgets – but they DO want you to know the idiosyncratic aspects of what they are having to deal with.  


What they also want to know is – have you done it in their industry?  Do you understand the nuances of their industry?  Can you hit the ground running or will they have to invest hours to teach you and your team how things are normally done in their world?


In Part Two of our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to try to help you to assess the strength of your industry practices and to identify those signals where clients know when you are not up to speed on their deeper industry concerns.

Post #837 – March 4, 2020 


How Do You Get Your Practice and Industry Groups Firing on All Cylinders?

If you are like many, for several years now you’ve been attempting to get your practice and industry groups to achieve high performance . . . with limited success!

You appointed professionals to positions as practice group leader whom you thought would do the job (and who promised you that they would try); you provided them with some basic training; and you endeavored to periodically meet with them all as a group to provide a bit of a pep talk. Despite all your efforts, only a FEW of your groups are functioning as you had hoped. So what to do? 

Well, if you are like some firm leaders I’ve spoken with, you might have now decided to embark upon what one termed: “Practice Group 2.0” and start fresh . . . largely by changing most of your leaders and hoping that some new recruits might do a better job. But if I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that your challenge is not so much a people issue, as it is a structural issue.

Download your PDF copy of the new Legal Business World magazine article

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