Strategy & Planning

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Alternative Business Structures – the long pregnancy

In this article (first published  in Legal Information Management in June 2011, and reproduced in their format with their kind permission) Nick examines the long delayed implementation of the ABS structure which is likely to be finally implemented in October 2011.  He reviews the plans of some early movers towards ABS and considers the possible benefits to law firms, to external investors and to clients

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Facing Facts

Are too many firms failing to plan effectively because they delude themselves that the challenges of the competitive markets won’t affect them?  In this article (November 2010) – which first appeared in Managing for Success – Nick offers potential solutions to the biggest problems facing firms of all sizes over the next few years

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Combined Facing Facts

This is a white paper that contains both parts of a two part series of articles on various models of Alternative Business Structures

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Fast Forward

This is the first of two articles on the various models of Alternative Business Structures which will shortly be permitted in England & Wales by the Legal Services Act.  The first article (September 2009) appeared in Managing Partner and outlined the models which are likely to be most attractive to law firms.

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Fast Forward By First Movers

This is the second of two articles on models of Alternative Business Structures which will shortly be permitted in England & Wales by the Legal Services Act.   The concluding article (November 2009) first appeared in Managing Partner and assesses the models likely to be attractive to external investors

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Firm of Purpose

Survival in tough times requires law firms to rethink how they develop their strategies and implement consistent working practices.  This article (July 2009) suggests seven ways in which firms can develop a one-firm approach and bring to bear consistent methodologies and processes to client matters

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Grass Roots Strategy

In the drive for firm-wide strategic direction are law firms missing the areas where strategy can be the most effective – the grass roots level?  This article deals with strategic planning at Practice Group and Industry Group level and sets out four rules of engagement when approaching strategic planning  on a departmental or group level

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Harnessing Resources and Capabilities

It is clear is that the intangible assets of every law firm form its greatest strengths.  The tangible assets, such as the building, the bank accounts, the equipment, are of little use without the brain power of the human resources, allied to the strength of the firm’s reputation, brand and client base.  A firm’s intangible assets can be defined as its ‘intellectual capital’ – its resources and capabilities made up of its human capital, its relational capital (which includes clients, brands and networks) and its structural capital (which includes its processes, working methodologies and culture). In this article Nick  explores how the effective application of the firm’s intellectual capital can confer sustainable competitive advantage for a firm if harnessed and organised correctly.

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How Partner Compensation Can Support Strategic Goals And Economic Objectives

For many firms, partner compensation has long been managed in isolation from the firm’s overall business strategy, which is primarily focused on external factors, such as markets and clients. But, by aligning compensation models with strategic objectives, firms will be far better equipped to achieve their goals.  Nick suggests four main ways in which a Compensation and Rewards System can support the firm’s strategic direction and goals.

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If you always do what you have always done

There is an old saying which goes “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you always got”. Until the recession, that saying worked for most firms who managed to grow and remain profitable on the back of well tried and tested business recipes and relying on a loyal client base. Now, however, client loyalties are strained and competition is growing. In this newsletter, Nick makes the case for doing something different, something deliberate and planned in the firm’s strategy and business recipe.

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Learning from the Bulk Providers

In the competitive market for professional services, much can be learned from firms working at low margins, who have had to innovate and transform their models for service delivery in order to survive and prosper. This article – first published in 2004 and now significantly updated and revised – examines the lessons which all law firms can learn from the experience of the Bulk Providers.

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Marginal Changes to the Bottom Line

Like the internal combustion engine, the profitability model for law firms has been refined and sophisticated over the years, but has not undergone any dramatic structural change to the basic financial recipe (Profits per Partner = Hours x Rates x Leverage x Margin).  Now, however, a number of competitive pressures are combining which threaten to bring about challenges to the whole economic model – and even perhaps its displacement in its current form – both in strategic terms and in the way firms are structured and organised to make profit.  Nick’s March 2010 newsletter sets out three of the main issues and suggests a few answers.

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Market Positioning

Put at its very simplest, strategic choices can be distilled into two basic parts. The first is the firm’s choice as to where it should compete (positioning) and the second is the firm’s strategies to address how it should compete (gaining and sustaining competitive advantage).  A law firm derives its ability to compete from a number of different factors – its tradition and history, the market-place it is trying to serve, both in terms of geography and client types, where it fits into that market-place, what services it is offering and in what industry and market sectors, and its credibility in offering those services.  Nick’s now famous Diamond Positioning Matrix sets out nine different generic types of market position, is also divided vertically into five segments of client demand. The description of each generic type and its unique features helps to understand where firms might stand and how firms can develop their strategic choices.  (A shorter version of this article appeared in Law Business review in Autumn 2009)

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No Frills Legal Services

This short opinion piece first appeared in the e-know.net newsletter and addresses two linked areas of complacency. The first is the perception that the sort of clients served by many firms will not be responsive or attracted to the offerings of a low-cost provider. The second assumption is that in commoditised areas of law, prices will become tighter but not radically so. In other words, the view of many law firms is that low cost providers will affect other firms.  Nick suggests there steps that firms can take to ensure that their business models and pricing structures are sustainable

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Radical Proactivity

At first sight, a recession may not seem the best time to take risks or to invest in long term development or in radically overhauling a law firm’s strategy. It seems more intuitive to batten down the hatches, trim overheads, tighten up the operation and wait until the recessional storm clouds recede before attempting anything which costs money. If, however, past recessions are anything to go by, this is just the moment for bold and agile firms to invest and plan in their longer term future.  Nick suggests five projects or initiatives which firms might like to start to think about to help place them ahead of the game.

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Reality Checking you Law Firm’s Strategy

The strategic documents of law firms often are a patchwork quilt made up of many separate plans and business recipes — sometimes as many as there are partners in the firm. It’s probably no surprise then that the summary statement of a firm’s purpose and direction (sometimes known as the firm’s ‘mission statement’) can often appear very bland , resulting — as such statements often do — from much internal debate , negotiation and compromise.  In this article, Nick emphasises the need to create a line of sight between a firm’s overall strategic goals and the day-to-day work of every partner and sets out some useful reality checks to test the overall effectiveness of a law firm’s strategic plan

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Stretching Strategic Horizons

When considering their future plans, firms tend to start by asking where they are now and where they want to get to without necessarily asking three preliminary and rather deeper questions “who are we (our identity as a firm), why are we in business together (our career purpose) and what is the strength and depth both of the partners’ combined ambition and the shared long term view of the firm’s future (our vision)?”.   In some firms, there are as many answers to such questions as there are partners in the firm.  The purpose of this article (first published by Law Business Review in September 2010) is to examine whether it is possible and indeed worthwhile, to establish the extent to which there can be an agreed level of shared identity, purpose and vision in a law firm which can be summed up as the firm’s overall strategic intent.

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Staying Afloat

Cataclysmic change in the legal landscape has really only just begun. But no matter what changes take place, there will always be those who profit and those who lose. This article – by Nick Jarrett-Kerr and Simon White and first published in Legal Marketing Magazine in August/September 2009 -attempts to identify those areas where there is an opportunity for law firms or legal marketing professionals to turn chaos to advantage and hopefully profit or success

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Strategic Options and the Serving Men

In a world of rapidly developing competitive pressures, law firms should be looking at their strategic choices to survive and prosper.   You may remember Kipling’s famous (but, by today’s standards, slightly politically incorrect) versicle: “I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who”.  In this December 2009 newsletter, Nick uses  the theme of Rudyard Kipling’s famous serving men to illustrate how to look at the strategic options which law firms ought to consider

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Streamlining Work

Process management, case management and matter management are not new concepts for Law Firms, but increasing commoditisation has revived interest as firms prepare for increasing competition and deregulation.   In this article, Nick suggests some steps which can be taken to streamline work effectively.

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