Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #895 – September 3, 2021


What High Performing Group Leaders Do: Coach Partners One-On-One

In BC (Before Covid) any form of coaching or mentoring was fairly accidental – either by way of a hallway greeting (“So, how’s it going?”) or reactive to someone sticking their head in your doorway (“Got a minute?”) 

BUT, in the highest performing firms, both BC and in a virtual world, real coaching and mentoring is a very disciplined, purposeful and deliberate process, which goes a long way to explaining why these firms are the high performers!


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Post #894 – September 1, 2021

More Strategic Thought Provokers.

Further to my earlier article, here are the final six snippets:

• Approach Strategy by “BackCasting” – Moving from The Future Back.

Research has shown that people who use the current situation and project in a linear fashion tend to be overly optimistic.  

• Beware the Obstacles to Executing Your Best Intentions.

Some partners believe that implementing the strategy and “getting their hands dirty” is beneath them.

• Where Do You Spend Your Management Time?

There is a powerful gravitational pull that unconsciously moves us toward fixing things instead of innovating, toward reacting rather than being proactive.  

• Quantify and Communicate Real Value.

Clients need and want you to identify what adds value (as they perceive value).

• What is Your Succession Strategy?

Do you know that there is a competitive firm out there right now that is targeting the clients of your soon-to-retire partners?

• Create A Sense of Urgency.

Your challenge is to help people see what changes need to take place.


Read Article - HERE


Post #893 – August 25, 2021

Some Strategic Thought Provokers


A few brief, pragmatic snippets to pop some ideas out of your intellectual toaster:

• Fight Established Routines.

Some partners can be like those old spring-powered watches — they have to be shaken hard to get them going.   

• What’s Your Competitive Advantage?

If you do include a testimonial, make sure that there is a REAL name attached.

• Welcome New Voices.

If you don’t think one of your younger professionals could have some tasty contributions to make to your Executive Committee, you are clearly suffering a bad case of truth decay!

• Eliminate Barriers to Switching.

Ask yourself: “What keeps this person or company from becoming our client tomorrow?”

• Be A Creator of NEXT Practices.

Simply adopting someone else’s best practice may not be your best practice after all!

• What’s Your Skills-Building Strategy?

The half-life of knowledge is decreasing at a furious rate.  


Read Article - HERE

Post #892 – August 18, 2021


Be ORIGINAL Rather Than Imitating Competitors


Many view other competitors, their strategies, their performance and experience as the benchmark from which to set standards for their own firm.  That kind of competitive comparison may makes sense, especially as your firm’s performance is often defined by what your peer firms are doing.  Where this approach becomes an obstruction is when the logic behind what works for some other firm, why it works and what might work for you, is not assiduously examined and thereby results in firms engaging in nothing but mindless imitation.


Consider these examples drawn from my observations and experiences:

• You imitate the EFFECTS of success rather than the cause,

• You believe and subsequently copy things you read and hear that other firms are SUPPOSEDLY doing.

• You duplicate the most VISIBLE action you see competitors initiating.

• You BLINDLY adopt the forms, practices or strategies someone brings along from another firm.

You are not going to get ahead by imitating what your competitors are doing – “I’ll have what she’s having,” as a diner in the movie Sleepless in Seattle said to her waitress while watching Meg Ryan fake an orgasm.  When every firm chases the same strategies, they all slide inexorably into sameness and mediocrity. 


Read this Article

Post #891 – August 11, 2021

Be Dominant Somewhere Rather Than Mediocre Everywhere


From your firm’s perspective: is each practice truly profitable, is the practice worth committing further resources toward developing, or what would the downside be if we were not to provide these services?  Indeed, could we somehow fine-tune or reposition this business unit so as to be regarded as the preeminent authorities in some new niche or selective area of client need? 


While many firms engage in some form of strategic planning, only a few really come to realize that having three to five truly strong practices is preferable to having a good number of mediocre practices that serve only to consume resources, dilute profits and diffuse strategic focus.  Firms and their business units need to clearly articulate what their selective focus is.  Imagine having as a compelling challenge and managing your firm consistent with a strategy that states: “We will have as integral to our firm, only those business units that are clearly number one, two, or three in every market we serve.” 


Read this Article


Post #890 – August 4, 2021

Unintended Consequences of Being Addicted to Commodity Work


One firm leader commented to me that while "most fans of efficiency are very strong on the left-brain – any innovation very much starts in the right hemisphere.”  Thus, the “define, measure, analyze, improve, control" mind-set doesn't entirely gel with the fuzzy front-end of invention.  When some new revenue generating idea starts germinating, you don't want to overanalyze it, which can happen in an efficiency obsessed cultural framework.  

That said, one wonders whether this propensity to simply accept commodity work as a natural way of legal life is not indicative of an addiction. 

Here are some examples:

• We don’t pay as much attention to our overall Brand Image

(Do we care that some work we do might actually demean our public profile?) 

• We reward partners for doing shit work

(Are we over-rewarding some who have large billable hours?) 

• We don’t force proper delegation

(Are we negating our promise to clients to have their work done at the proper level?) 

• We don’t focus on longer-term market innovation opportunities 

(Are we demoralizing those who have some ambition?) 


Being addicted to commoditized work is the result of strategy decay – and strategy decay is like cancer – it happens little by little and the longer you take to deal with it, the more deadly it becomes.

Read this Article


Post # 889 – July 28, 2021

Focusing on Efficiency and Commoditized Work

Will Have You Seen as Just Another “Vendor”


I happened upon an article concerning a new Law Firm Profitability Survey, wherein the author “highlights the many projects that firms are working on to address profitability.”  The article lists 16 different projects like timekeeping practices and inventory management, among the favored strategies.  If one were to categorize these 16 into how many were internal versus external focused; and how many were operational versus strategic; you conclude that these firms were all obsessing over various internal cost efficiency tactics at the expense of strategic wealth creation – for example, launching a potentially lucrative new practice niche was NOT identified by even one of the firms surveyed!


The very next piece on my pile was entitled, “Commoditized Work Can be a Gold Mine.”  In this article, rather than treating commoditization as a negative, they attempted to advocate that “the profitability of commoditized work has never been more important.”  Really?  Meanwhile 47% of GCs report that the increasing volume of low value work has impacted morale with many saying: "Is that what I went to law school for?"  Combining these two articles one might conclude the future of our legal profession seems to be focused on . . . “making better buggy whips.”


Is that really what you want for your career and for your firm?


Read this Article

Post #888- July 21, 2021

How Do I Get My Litigators to Focus on Client Industries


Question: “I have been reading your various article on the merits of attorneys having more of an industry focus and I’m intrigued.  We have certainly become more cognizant of this topic as COVID impacted many of our client industries in ways that we would never have imagined.  I manage a fairly large Litigation Department comprised of about 40 attorneys, fairly partner dominant, and spread out over five offices.  Any ideas for how I might approach this with my colleagues and convince them to give re-organizing all or parts of our Department into smaller industry teams a try?”


Perhaps we might provide them with an experience that may allow them to explore some new practice options.  Here is what you could do . . .


Read this article - HERE

Post #887 – July 14, 2021

Claiming To Be Full Service Is An Exercise In Irrelevance


Too often your firm’s strategy, assuming that you have one, is focused on the wrong issues.  


Many keep asking, “How can we effectively compete with (that particular firm) at what they are doing in (some particular area)?”  Firms are so intent on watching each other and imitating what each other do, that they fall victim to competitor inertia.  The more your firm looks like everyone else and as any distinguishable differences between firms blur, competition leads to commoditization.


Many firms attempt to be different but are not truly differentiated because they pursue forms of uniqueness that clients simply do not value.  Some of the most prominent examples of this are firms that propagandize their: number of lawyers; reputation and years in business; growth in revenues; promise to assign the best people; commitment to superior client service; various (pay-to-play) “Best Lawyers” awards; devotion to producing results; etc.  Sorry: these are ALL table stakes, not points of meaningful, to clients, differentiation.


Read the article - HERE

Post #886 – July 2, 2021

Would You As Firm Leader Benefit From Having An Advisory Board?


There is an old saying that goes, it can be lonely at the top — especially if you are a busy law firm leader trying to maintain a modicum of a personal practice while also charting a course for your firm’s future growth.


However, you don't always have to go it alone or rely on the intuition of only your fellow colleagues – some of whom may have their own personal agendas to advance or not have the kind of business experience that you need.  A good number of other professional service firms, from accounting to consulting, have found success through having an external advisory board to counsel the firm’s leadership on various aspects of the business — everything from operations to planning for growth or enhancing client service.


Think about the last time you met with a group of business people and had an open discussion, sharing ideas and concerns.  An Advisory Board is a formal version of this process.  Unlike a one-time event, you might think of an Advisory Board as your own special leadership think tank.  Participants can serve as your personal sounding board, a source of insights and expertise — and give you honest and candid advice.  If properly constituted, your advisory board will be comprised of people with no axe to grind, and who want to listen and impart their knowledge.


Read the article - HERE

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