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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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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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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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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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 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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How You can Win through Practice Excellence

The attaining of best practice can often lead to an advantage in which true excellence becomes a winning competitive formula. What I love about strategic planning is its divergence, in that strategy takes an organisation in a distinctive and unique direction away from (and hopefully ahead of) its competitors.  In contrast, the achievement of best practice tends to be convergent in that most (if not all) firms are seeking to implement optimal quality standards, the best available systems, and the most streamlined efficiencies that are currently available.  Hence, whilst strategy ca...
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