The Tall Poppy Syndrome and Origination Credit

Law firms talk a good game about sophisticated management but often, just when a firm reaches the verge of running like a business, its culture gets in the way.  Case in point is business origination: should it be measured, how should it be measured and what do we do with the data? Almost 25% of […]

Better Than Weeds?

Much has been written about the surplus of lawyers in the legal services marketplace.  While that is a problem for the industry as a whole, the impact on law firms is less direct than another surplus problem – the large excess of office space that many law firms are carrying. We recently did a study […]

Valuing Managers: The Art of Paying Partners Who Manager the Firm

Certain management functions must be performed to make any business succeed. If two lawyers start a firm, it is logical that they initially perform these functions themselves. As the firm grows, it may become prudent to hire staff to handle administrative matters. But the core leadership functions of planning, motivating and directing remain with the […]

  It is relatively rare to find a major business developer in a law firm who maintains a truly large practice. Certainly there are situations where a partner is the responsible attorney for a large institutional relationship that may involve $10 or $15 million in billings or where, by virtue of a relationship with senior […]

Is it Time to Abandon Your Firm’s Business Model?

Big Law is dying!  That’s the theme of thousands of articles and blog posts that show up on our desktops every week.  Mainly the writers are wringing their hands about the disruption that is occurring to the traditional business models of large law firms.  But if we can divert our attention from the pity party […]

Déjà vu All Over Again

Well, we’re about to do it again.  Virtually every law firm in the world is preparing for a compensation review to determine the distribution of next year’s profits.  Thousands of non-billable hours will be spent by committee members pouring over reams of computer reports, conducting countless partner interviews and debating the value of insignificant differences […]

Selling a Merger

We’ve seen it dozens of times.  The leaders of two firms work to put together a merger, but when it is introduced to the respective partnerships, the merger gets shot down.  The firm’s managing partners have wasted months on a fruitless effort and are left wondering how this could have happened. The dynamics of selling […]

Managing Partners: Full or Part Time?

There has been a shift in the way law firm managing partners look at their jobs.  Over the past ten years the role of managing partner in larger firms has increasingly become a full time commitment.  Most partners support this as a necessity for the multi-million dollar enterprises their law firms have become. At the […]

Getting in Front of the Curve

A lot is written about the first mover advantage — identifying trends early and pursuing them before competitors.   It’s a great concept and makes for some great consultant and academic articles (I know, I’ve written some of them).  But saying it is one thing, doing it is another. To be successful in getting ahead of […]

White Knight Mergers

Lawyers earn their living by advising clients on how to minimize risk.  Not surprisingly, therefore, risk adversity is a driving influence in many law firms’ management decision making.  So, when considering merger opportunities, firms have typically focused on merger partners that represent the least risk. For larger firms, minimizing risk means four possible merger strategies.  […]

The Cold Opening

Law firms are notoriously bad at execution.  They are usually pretty good at planning and plotting strategy, but when it comes to actually doing something – it’s generally bopkis.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  When law firms want to implement an idea, there is usually an elaborate rollout with a big hoopla with  lots of […]

Working Capital: How Much is Enough

The entire concept of capitalization is surprisingly misunderstood by many, otherwise business savvy, law firm partners.  Transactional lawyers spend their time working with large sophisticated clients where cash flow is often not an issue.  Litigators are good at untangling complex balance sheets and contingent liabilities, but law firms are simple organizations built on the basic […]

How Important is Collegiality?

Ask any law firm managing partner what his or her firm’s culture is like and, more than likely, you’ll hear, “We’re collegial.”  Even though the dictionary tells us that collegiality has something to do with “Power sharing by bishops,”  I suspect that the meaning in law firm parlance involves people liking each other.  Now, I […]

The Bookstore Window: Dealing with a Strategic Focus

An important element of strategic planning for many law firms is the identification of specific areas of practice where the firm wants to emphasize its growth.  Whether this emphasis involves lateral recruiting or targeted marketing support, intensifying focus on one practice area, office or industry group means removing focus from others.  This means that law […]

How High is Up?

As a rule, lawyers have a tough time with abstract concepts.  That’s why it surprises me that when law firms do strategic planning they are willing to accept some pretty vague objectives.  Read a typical law firm vision statement and you’ll find things like: “Enhance profitability;” “Become preeminent;” and “Be the ‘go to’ law firm…”  […]

Looking in the Mirror

One of the most deadly faults a law firm leader can have is to make decisions based on their own misperceptions about their firm.  Whether it is the reveling in past glories or simply believing their own public, law firm partners and leaders alike seem to often have a distorted view of their firms.  Unfortunately, […]

A Five Year Survival Plan for Mid-sized Firms

Not long ago, a friend and client who is the managing partner of a 150-lawyer mid-western firm attended a conference at which the main topic was the demise of the mid-sized law firm.  After a couple of years of flat revenue growth and declining profits, trouble recruiting laterals, loss of clients to larger law firms […]

The Entrepreneurial Law Firm

One of the most overused words by law firm leaders is entrepreneurial.  It has become a synonym for “being business like.”  But this ignores the critical element of the definition of an entrepreneur: assuming risk to achieve the opportunity for financial reward.  Accordingly, it is pretty well impossible to be both entrepreneurial and risk averse. […]

Consensus and the Caterpillar Effect

Here’s a shocker: law firms have difficulty with implementation.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that even firms with a really good grasp of their future and the capability to put together thoughtful strategies to cope with change, often seem to get stymied when it comes to trigger pulling.  Now, lets face it, every individual, little less organization, […]

Succession Planning

It seems that every year there is a hot management topic that all law firm leaders want to talk about.  Last year it was it was mergers using Swiss Verein structures.  The year before it was Legal Project Management.  Two years ago the topic was private investment in law firms.  It’s not that these are […]