Maximising profitability while adhering to your firm’s core values

Eight areas for firm leaders to take into account in decision-making based upon the firm's core values One of the primary jobs of a managing partner or leadership team is to maximise profitability, but the strength of any firm’s desire to make profit varies between firms. At one extreme are firms where the profit and loss account and hard work ethic dominate the agenda. At the other extreme are firms whose sense of purpose is weighted towards social responsibilities, lifestyle choices, academic excellence or the desire to make the firm a better place for partners and employees. Arguably, t...
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Five rules to avoid the overuse of hyperbole and marketing speak

There is a terrible temptation for firm leaders and their spokespersons to get carried away by the organisation’s own self publicity and to make assertions that cannot be evidenced by facts or backed up by empirical data. Some expressions of course are readily seen as hyperbole – intended to create a strong impression, but not meant to be taken literally. Phrases such as ‘leading firm’, ‘pre-eminent’ and even ‘client focused’ are in wide use, but can very rarely be proved evidentially, nor is anybody ever taken in by them. What is worse, the sophisticated client or external observer may at ti...
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Climbing from the intermediate market plateau to the advanced level

One of the most difficult questions that a law firm should ask itself is ‘why should clients choose us?’ In a competitive marketplace featuring a bewildering choice of potential law firms, it is sometimes difficult to spot the differences between firms that occupy or aspire to the same commercial segment. In trying to establish a compelling area of demand for their services, many law firms stress their outstanding client service, commercial practicality and value for money, but it is hard to see these factors as game winners or anything more than obvious features that all firms ought to evide...
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Ten strategic premises considerations for law firm leaders

A law firm’s long-term premises strategy is key to enabling it to achieve its strategic and profitability goals. It not only facilitates the appropriate number of staff, but can also positively or negatively affect client and employee behaviours. The profession is now subject to big challenges from dispersed or virtual providers who are not hidebound by existing long-term lease liabilities and have been able to exploit a much lower cost base than many traditional law firms. However, it will not be long before some law firm leases come up for renewal, especially those entered into at the end ...
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Three ways to revive difficult strategic projects

Many law firms will have conducted some form of strategy review within the last five to ten years. This makes many partners of law firm and indeed their leaders somewhat resistant to further reviews especially if much of the previous strategy remains unfulfilled or in cases where the more intractable strategic initiatives have stubbornly resisted implementation satisfactorily or at all. Failure to implement can become a vicious circle. If the firm has a history of uncompleted projects, partners will tend to keep their heads down when a new project is introduced and bide their time until yet an...
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Three ways to use competitor analysis to improve your law firm’s strategy

It is extremely difficult for any firm to differentiate itself from its competitors in ways that are meaningful to clients.  In this opinion piece I tackle the importance of competitor analysis. I have seen quite a few strategic and business plans for both law firms and practice groups lately that have either failed to address competitor analysis completely or have simply provided a list of firms that the group considers as its main rivals. Frankly, just naming names is not enough. The extent to which a firm can differentiate itself from its competition is an important element in achieving c...
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Partner Profit Sharing – the New Pressures

Law firms are experiencing big pressure from their stars for their profit shares to be more heavily weighted to their revenue production successes and this often requires rather more than a minor tweak to the firm’s compensation model We are all used to hearing and reading about growing competitive pressures from existing law firm rivals, from new entrants, and from the increase in efficiency led process improvements, as well as steadily increasing demands from clients to do more for less.  These pressures are putting strains on the profitability models of most law firms but are also causin...
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Getting Things Done – Bridging the Gap between Concept and Action

A methodical and practical approach to convert dreams into reality and aspirations into action Most professionals – lawyers, accountants, doctors and academics – are invariably quick to pick up and understand concepts.  As intellectual workers, we are trained to reason, to analyse, to diagnose, and to create solutions.  Transferring concept to action, however is less easy particularly for lawyers totally subsumed in their legal work.  Strategic and business planning can accordingly become an abstract piece of work, the perfect and glossy documentation of which may well end up filed in a dra...
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Communicating with your Partners to Build Trust

A "them and us"' tradition can lead to grapevines, rumour-mongering, suspicion, cynicism and muddled goals There are some significant structural and emotional barriers to good communication in law firms. Teams, practice groups and offices can easily lapse into functional silos, with poor communications even between people on different floors in the same building. In addition, the concentration on maximising the billable hour and the drive to prioritise time generally, combine to reduce interaction between staff. The use (or misuse) of email and stilted discussion at formal team meetings bec...
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The Achievability of an Organisational Culture Change Project

In this post I consider two linked but quite difficult questions: Do law firms have any sort of organisational culture and, if so, how easy, possible or desirable is it to change it? Culture is a notoriously difficult area for any professional service firm and is a tricky area to write about. For a start, culture is intangible and somewhat hard to define; there are apparently more than 150 definitions of it extant today, and many of these lean on a confusing array of frameworks, matrices, overlapping circles and pyramids, accompanied by vocabulary and phrases that at times appear either dow...
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