Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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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

Post #885 – July 2, 2021

Why Aren’t Law Firms Bringing In Outside Directors?

Half of the Big Four firms in the U.S. have non-executive directors.  There’s growing sentiment that law firms should consider a similar approach. 

There’s no shortage of interest in the legal industry today about what the Big Four are looking to accomplish: particularly, whether they’re going to find a way to snatch substantial work from U.S. law firms–perhaps aided by the regulatory reform process that’s unfolding in a number of states. 

But perhaps that interest should also extend to some of the organizational practices in place at Big Four firms.  I’m going to spotlight one today, based on a recent LinkedIn post from Canadian law firm consultant Patrick McKenna.  That’s bringing in independent directors from outside their organizations to sit on their boards. 

Read This Article by Dan Packel from American Lawyer HERE

Post # 884 – July 2, 2021

The Most Lucrative Growth is Industry Focused

But Only If You Get Granular

I was reading an interesting interview with Sandy Thomas who was just reelected for his third term as Global Managing Partner at Reed Smith.  What struck me was when he was asked about the direction of his firm and his growth priorities, he responded that Reed Smith will concentrate what he calls its “talent, time and treasure” as the firm embarks on a new four-year plan.  The focus will be on developing capabilities in five core industries: financial services; life sciences and health; energy and natural resources; transportation; and entertainment and media.  The interviewer observed, “That’s a wide net -- but compared to some Big Law leaders who seem loathe to imply any scrap of business is less important, it’s practically a laser-like focus.”

We all know intuitively that we need to have our firm grow but the subject of growth can be a tricky topic such that it becomes important to have an informed perspective on how to think about it.  Growth creates healthy practices, strong firms, opens up opportunities, excites and attracts good lateral talent, and rewards partners.  But do we really know how to achieve it?  And I am not going to blow smoke at you here – law firms and lawyers do NOT understand the intricacies of Industries.


Read This Article – HERE 


Post # 883 – June 25, 2021

9 Reasons Why Law Firm Strategic Plans Are So Pathetic

If you have any interest in “real" strategic planning, I tell leaders that there are a number of fatal traps you need to ensure you don’t fall victim to – like strategic planning that . . .
- is too focused on fixing internal problems;

has a few wise elders going up the mountain to receive the word . . . and then having them

invest enormous time trying to sell it to their fellow partners;

does not involve analyzing any new trends;

- is obsessed with cost-efficiency;

treats the firm as one homogeneous entity;

does not include the voice of the client;

falls short of truly differentiating yourself;

does not address how the firm is actually going to improve profitability; and

- ignores who specifically is responsible to do certain of the implementation tasks.

#lawfirmleadership  #lawfirmmanagement  #lawfirmstrategy

Read the article - HERE

Post # 882 – June 18, 2021

What High Performing Groups Do

Hint: They Take Action!  (Part 2)


I have had the privilege of conducting well over a dozen virtual training workshops over the past year with the leaders of both practice and with industry groups.  At each of those workshops I asked of the group leaders in attendance, “Given that it is so much easier now with Zoom and video-technology, how many of you have invited one of your group’s clients to attend your group meeting – during the past six months?”  It is no exaggeration but only with sad bewilderment that I report, I have yet to elicit a single positive response!


The final part of this article addresses the remaining two meetings, the first dealing with Bringing Outside Voices In and the second called an Action Planning Meeting, and the one I firmly believe to be the most important of the four because it deals with actually doing something and having your group take action.


Since publishing Part 1, I have heard from a good number of group leaders about how their high performing groups do meet weekly.  Once again, I dare any group leader to tell me that their team members would not embrace and benefit from any of these four meetings.


Read The Article: HERE


Post #881 – June 12, 2021

What High Performing Groups Do

Hint: They Meet Weekly!  (Part 1)


Like it or not, meetings are a large part of what you do as an effective team leader.  In the research and preparation of First Among Equals and for some time after its publication, I had the opportunity to interview leaders from dozens of large firms comprising law, accounting, consulting and other professions.  My mission was to identify what the highest performing (practice or industry) group leaders were actually doing to inspire winning performance within their teams. 


I would approach a firm leader and ask whether there might be one specific group leader within the firm that “stood head-and-shoulders above the others.”  Invariably I would hear, that would be our George or Jennifer.  I would then go and interview the particular individual who was identified.  Now while this was only touched upon in our book, one of the findings that my research revealed was that in most cases these individuals did not meet with the members of their groups once per month (for an hour) – but they met ONCE PER WEEK!  And these group leaders engaged their teams in four very different types of meetings, which collectively helped explain their exemplary performance.  


Today, I dare group leaders to tell me that their team members would not embrace and benefit from any of these four meetings.


Read The Article: HERE

Post #880 – June 1, 2021

Where (Practice/Industry Group) Leadership Training Fails


From my observations over the years and from speaking candidly with those professionals within law firms charged with overseeing training and professional development, I hear about how leadership development training, especially for practice and industry group leaders is so vitally important, but how the biggest contributor to wasted training dollars is ineffective methodologies.


When my old friend David Maister and I wrote “First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals” I checked Amazon, only to discover that there were already over 920,000 books listed under “Leadership” and conclude that all the world needed was one more.  But that said, if we look closely at these various Leadership books, one can quickly discern that most are written from a top-down corporate prospective and don’t often line up with our professional services reality.  So, if we are not providing our people with training that fits with their real-world situations, we are sunk before we begin.


And to be very specific, here are five distinct shortcomings I hear about and personally observe where I have to conclude that leadership training is an unfortunate waste of money:


Read the article - HERE

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