The Case for Tracking Originations on Both Sides of the Atlantic

 The success of business development activities continues to be highly prized in partner profit sharing systems all over the world.   The tracking of originations is, however, mainly carried out in North America and not much elsewhere.   Historically, this practice used to be an essential part of formulaic compensation systems but originations are now being used in systems where an overall subjective or discretionary assessment  is made of partners’ contributions.   Tracking originations should therefore be considered by all firms Within the last couple of years surveys from Edge Internatio...
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The Divergent Aspects of Strategy

One of my consulting colleagues recently asked a group of us to come up with our definition of strategy.  My first reaction was to give a flippant response.  My colleague is however right to point out that strategy is not easy to define in simple terms and many versions abound.  Strategy is not simply a grand document or even a series of documents and clearly should be externally focussed on markets and not internally obsessive about matters of indifference to clients.  Some definitions focus on decisions that the firm makes about its direction whilst other definitions concentrate on beating c...
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Four Ways to Channel Creative Tension in Firms and Teams

I am often asked how it is possible to manage a group of awkward, antagonistic and difficult people in firms where clashes of personalities and style have in the past led to bitter disputes and epic conflagrations. It is of course a joy to see firms, and top management teams within them, where cooperation and cohesiveness are valued and where the members are united by the desire to maintain good relationships between everybody. The problem however is not just that such firms are in a minority, but that on the whole firms that place a high premium on conformity and consensus often do worse than...
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Confronting the six big challenges of client mindsets and perceptions

Corporate clients often have poor perceptions of lawyers and their firms. I outline below the six main negative mindsets which in-house counsel have about law firms and offer some possible solutions. 1. Lawyers are self-serving At a recent meeting I held with a group of in-house counsel, general distrust was expressed of law firms’ billing practices. I was surprised by the level of suspicion that law firms will always seek their own advantage in recording hours, finding exceptions to fixed-price deals and allocating work between partners and associates to their own benefit rather than the ...
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The pros and cons of the four main approaches to services and sectors

What do you want to be famous for? For nearly 25 years, I have posed this challenging question to both lawyers and law firms. It is not a new question – gurus like David Maister and Marvin Bower of McKinsey & Co have been asking it for several decades. The question usually helps to persuade people and firms to specialise, to focus and to find some point of differentiation that helps them to stand out from the crowd. In other words, it helps them to find and develop a niche and to direct their expected focus into either a sector/industry approach or a technical specialist approach. A conce...
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Lessons from NewLaw: Three ways to flex your operating structure

Many NewLaw firms have a competitive advantage over traditional firms due to their variable costs structures, use of technology, external funding, alternative fee arrangements and alternative career paths. While it is difficult for traditional law firms to abandon their existing structures and start again with a blank sheet of paper, there are plenty of lessons that can be learned from how NewLaw firms operate, of which I provide three examples. 1. Dispersed law firms One problem with the traditional law firm model is its large and unwieldy cost base, often resulting in thin profit margins t...
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Two ways to tackle mixed and ill-fitting practices in your law firm

Long-established law firms do not generally have the luxury of choosing a single clean and tidy business model or pricing structure for their firm. They are often cluttered for historical reasons with anomalous and ill-fitting practices, departments and offices. In the current competitive marketplace, firms are finding it increasingly difficult to juggle the differing needs of mixed practices, particularly when they offer high-level services at premium prices at the same time as supplying lower-level services at discounted rates. It is equally tricky to organise, market and brand firms in a u...
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Fulfilling the three main requirements of investors in your law firm

Partners or members of a law firm are all investors in it, however the firm is structured. Typically, before ploughing money into any venture, an investor needs to see three essential components: a compelling strategy; successful cash and growth management; and a structure of progressive management. Even if the firm has no intention of attracting external investment, these three criteria should nevertheless dominate the firm’s agenda and its overall strategy. 1. Compelling strategy The firm should be able to demonstrate a compelling strategy for profitable growth focused on the future. This ...
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12 Strategic Projects to Get and Stay Ahead of the Competition

Two years ago, I wrote an article for Managing for Success offering my 12 top tips for financial recovery, and designed to help firms to retrieve their strength and achieve stability in an uncertain world (‘In the nick of time’, May 2013, ). The market and the economy have since moved on, and now, as a counterpoint to that article, I now offer 12 longer term strategies to help firms realise their potential in a more positive economic environment. The strategic projects outlined here are built around modifications of the balanced scorecard and the intellectual capital frameworks, about which I...
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Seven ways to address common obstacles to internal projects

Law firm partners and leaders often come up against obstacles to the implementation of agreed strategic projects. Below are four of the issues which can quickly turn into obstacles and seven ways to address them. Barriers to change 1. Multi-faceted change initiatives Changing profit sharing is a classic example of a situation in which the issues of personal change and organisational change overlap. People tend to resist change most when personal change, organisational change and macro change – political, economic, social and technological change – are taking place at the same time and overl...
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