Time for a Change in Law Firm Leadership: A Preview of Re-Envisioning the Law Firm

Too many lawyers.  More demanding Clients. Globalization  Industry Consolidation.  These are all factors redefining the legal industryRe-Envisioning the Law Firm: How to Lead Change and Thrive in the Future (Re-Envisioning) a report developed by the Managing Partner Forum (MPF), Jaffe, and The Remsen Group released on December 8th offers insight into how law firms can do exactly that.

MPF Insights Executive Summary Law Firm Leadership

​John Remsen, President and CEO of the Managing Partner Forum says, “The pace of change is unprecedented for the legal industry, and the pace will only accelerate into the future.  Strong leadership and a solid game plan are required if your firm seeks to thrive and prosper in the years ahead.”  Understanding that many law firms need to make big changes, and with the goal of offering insight to law firms looking to make those changes, the authors of Re-Envisioning analyzed data from two big surveys of Managing Partners to come up with recommendations.

How the data was collected and who participated in the surveys?

The first survey used in the Re-Envisioning report was the MPF Leadership & Governance Survey from April 2016 which asked over 145 managing partners anonymous online questions.  The questions covered law firm leadership and governance, including whether or not the Managing Partner had a job description, how he or she would describe the governance model of the firm, and whether he or she were currently grooming a successor.[i]

The second source of data was live MPF Audience Polling Results. This survey was conducted in real time with the 80 plus Managing Partners who attended the MPF Leadership Conference in May of 2016. Using audience polling technology, participants were able to answer questions instantaneously and confidentiality on a variety of subjects, including “Compared to five years ago, what is the likelihood that your best lawyers may leave the firm?” and “Is your firm providing marketing and business development training for its junior partners and associates?” The data from the surveys, combined with interviews with innovative thought leaders and influential Managing Partners are also incorporated into the reports recommendations.[ii]

Why are the changes that have been impacting BigLaw now impacting MidLaw and SmallLaw?

The MPF Report goes into more detail, but just like the other industries the legal profession needs to work smarter, faces global competition and needs to respond to the demands of an evolving workforce.  The factors that hit BigLaw over the head with a hammer a few years back are now industry-wide. Specifically:

Globalization – Technology is making the world smaller each day. Now even the smallest business law clients have international concerns.

Too Many Lawyers – Although the number of law school graduates has been dropping, technology is making law practice more efficient and older lawyers are putting off retirement. The U.S. currently has 1.3 million lawyers!

Smarter, Faster, Better – Clients want better service, more customized solutions and better value for their investment.

New Market Entrants – Technology!!!!  Think LegalZoom, AVVO, Rocket Lawyer. More routine legal work is becoming commoditized.

Industry Consolidation – The Consolidation Curve -ask an MBA. Fragmented and siloed industries consolidate as they mature.  Just like other industries, technology and economies of scale are breaking down the traditional legal market which encouraged highly regionalized and /or non collaborative legal practices.  Law firm mergers and lateral movement is at an all-time high.

Workforce Changes – Baby Boomers hanging on.  Gen x and Y and Millennials with differing career goals and work styles.

The recommendations in the report incorporate three main themes:

  1. The law firm must be run like a business (not more like a business, but like a business.)
  2. The Managing Partner must take ownership of leading the effort, and
  3. Firm owners must take responsibility for embracing, engaging, and implementing the necessary changes for operating like a business.

These themes are spread across seven areas detailed in the report; including:

    • Leadership & Governance,
    • Strategic Planning,
    • Marketing and Business Development,
    • Problematic Partners, Succession Planning,
    • Recruiting,
    • Retention,
    • and Technology.

In upcoming segments we will discuss above seven areas of concern and the survey’s recommendations designed to help small and midsize law firm move into the future.

The idea of running a law firm like a business translates into re-evaluating the leadership structure of law firms.  One of the first recommendations made in the report is to change the Managing Partner into a CEO in name and function, empowering him or her with the power to lead the organization without necessarily achieving consensus.  The report observes, “While governing by democracy might theoretically sound appealing, especially because it spreads the blame should a strategy not succeed as planned, choosing to consensus build over decision-making delays and waters down change.”  Consolidating leadership with a Managing Partner who functions more as a CEO is a step that will allow law firms to make changes in other areas much faster.

The survey also suggests strategies for working with “problematic partners,” defining the problem as partners who under perform or who exhibit bad behavior that reflects poorly on the firm–anger management issues, poor representation of the firm, rudeness and arrogance. Problematic partners can be an incredibly difficult issue to confront, especially when the issue is under performance, but the report offers suggestions and strategies for tackling these thorny issues.

Above all, the survey insists law firms must confront them.  Louise Wells, Managing Partner of Morris, Manning & Mann, says, “The culture of your firm can be influenced by what it’s willing or not willing to tolerate.  If you’re willing to put up with chronic under performance, you most certainly will get it, and that’s not good for a firm’s long-term success or its morale.  Dealing with underperforming partners is incredibly difficult, yet so important, for a managing partner to address.”

That is just the beginning of some of the dynamic thinking presented in Re-Envisioning the Law Firm.  In the coming weeks a NLR series will preview additional insights offered in the survey from other areas of law firm leadership.

Copyright ©2016 National Law Forum, LLC

[i] The breakdown of the number of lawyers per firm as well as the job title of survey respondents of the first survey are illustrated below:  

MPF surveyMPF Insights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[ii] You can see a breakdown of the number of lawyers at the respondent’s firm and the number of years in the position below:

MPF surveyMPF Survey

Retaining Millennials at Law Firms Requires Change

Millennials law firmManaging attorney departures at a law firm can be a daunting task, especially if a departing attorney has a book of business and takes clients along when leaving the firm. Although it can be difficult for the firm, a practice area and, often, the attorneys who remain, it has been a fairly rare occurrence in the past, particularly for equity partners.

That rarity is changing at an increasing rate as baby boomers have phased out of the workforce, leaving millennials to become the largest percentage of the U.S. employee pool. In fact, millenials are expected to make up 75 percent of our nation’s workers by 2030. They bring a different attitude regarding their careers and longevity with a particular company than we have become accustomed to, especially in a law firm culture.

As most business professionals are aware, it takes much more money to hire and train a new employee than to simply retain astute professionals. And, with millennials’ perceptions of how office life should be, law firms will need to pay much more attention to those ideals in order to keep excellent talent, which is imperative for a successful firm.

Millennial Expectations

So, what do millennials expect in the way of work life? This is a frequently discussed topic in the media, at companies and within law firms throughout the world. I’ve read several good articles on the subject lately and will share from one in particular written by Jeff Fromm for Forbes magazine.

Fromm, who consults on the “Millennial Generation” or “Gen Y,” often speaks about the attributes these employees want from their companies, and it’s not all about salary and benefits.

Although there is no precisely defined birth date range for this segment of the population, it is often described as people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. These individuals were raised with technology and gadgets at a time when developing a child’s self esteem and individuality was a predominant theme in educational and behavioral methodologies.

Other attributes discussed include:

    1. Millenials want to be a part of  “the process.” They have strong entrepreneurial tendencies and desire growth. If they do not feel they are growing at a company or firm, they are much more likely to move to another than their older peers.
    2. Millenials prefer to be coached and mentored instead of “bossed” or just told what to do. Interestingly, this does not mean that they want to work independently with little supervision; it’s quite the opposite. They actually prefer more interaction and feedback than the typical baby boomer.

Conforming to the Millennial Way of Life

So, what does this mean for law firms and particularly law firm management, practice area leaders and the like? It means an almost 180-degree change in the way associates have been managed in the past.

Millennial attorneys will want to be part of the process from the beginning. They are not content to receive a directive such as, “Research a particular point of law and prepare an annotated brief on the subject.” Instead, they want to know about the case, why the research is important for the case and how it will be used to benefit the case.

Likewise, instead of just receiving a red-lined document back with few instructions regarding how to improve the work, millennials will prefer to discuss how the work product was perceived, why changes were made and how the changes make the information better in relation to the case. They want to learn and grow from the process; i.e., from performing their work.

These types of processes will, indeed, make for a better learning experience for associates, enhance their skills and grow more capable team members. However, this approach will also take more time and patience on the leader’s behalf. Just a “do as I say” directive, without an explanation of why to do it, doesn’t sit well with a millennial. Over time, such treatment will erode the associate’s desire to stay at the firm.

Millennial Mentoring

Remember, these younger attorneys need to feel included and that they are growing and making a difference to be motivated and engaged. Just receiving a good paycheck and the chance at equity ownership isn’t a long-term motivator for them. That really is a cultural change in how many, if not most, young associates used to be trained to be the future leaders of a law firm.

Also, consider that dramatic change in a firm’s processes can’t happen all at once, or else the culture will implode. Instead of instituting entirely new training and evaluation programs, try adding in or updating your firm’s processes. As a start, adding a strong associate mentoring program with real checks and balances will go a long way toward including associates in the process. And know that opening up the lines of communications top-down and bottom-up at any organization also will result in better operations and more-satisfied employees. If good communication isn’t standard at your firm, offer training across the board.

The impact the changing workforce has had on law firms isn’t just beginning … it is happening and must be addressed now to avoid major business operational issues for law firms. Take note of this growing trend and make the necessary changes to ensure your firm has the best talent today and in the future.

ARTICLE BY Sue Remley of Jaffe
© Copyright 2008-2016, Jaffe Associates

New ALM Report Says Small Firms Investing in Big Marketing

The Rainmaker Institute mini logo (1)

A new report from ALM Legal Intelligence entitled, Small Firms, Big Marketing reveals that small and mid-sized law firms (40-200 attorneys) have upped their investments in marketing because of a belief that effective marketing is mandatory for a firm to succeed.

ALM Legal Marketing

The survey was commissioned by J. Johnson Executive Search, Inc., and relies on data collected from 90 small and midsized firms in the U.S – 42% of responses were from firms with 40-75 attorneys and 58% were from firms of more than 76 attorneys.

Some key findings from the survey:

  • 90% of responding firms said they had a dedicated marketing team in place
  • 75% said marketing was critical to winning new business
  • 54% use marketing for research and client feedback
  • Marketing is key not only for obtaining new clients but also for retaining existing clients
  • 75% of firm management says marketing is a critical piece in winning new business
  • Spending on outsourced marketing functions increased 44% in 2013 and is expected to rise in 2014

Firms justify their investment in marketing in the following ways:

ALM Reporting Marketing

The firms surveyed found these 10 marketing tactics to be the most effective for their firms:

marketing

The full report is available free for download here.

Article By:

Stephen Fairley

Of:

The Rainmaker Institute

February 17, 19, 27 – Women in the Law Rainmaker Forum: A Catalyst for Stepping into Your Power

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Women in the Law Rainmaker Forum hosted by KLA Marketing Associates.

1.24.14

When

For your convenience, 3 dates and times:

February 17 – Late Afternoon

Feburary 19 – Morning

Februrary 27 – Late afternoon

Where

Philadelphia / New Jersey / Virtual

Join us – a safe, intimate forum where Women in the Law “lean in” and access much-needed resources to develop a prosperous and rewarding practice. Make 2014 the year to take control of your career. 
Join for our popular Forum to:
  • Learn critical rainmaking techniques
  • Brainstorm opportunities
  • Dig deep into your business challenges
  • Tap skills/experience of others  

Four 2-hour sessions to change the

way you do business – and win business!

Special Pricing: $499* for all 4 sessions – – and more. Register now to claim your seat that will change the way you do business!

About the Trainer/Coach
Kimberly Alford Rice, Principal and Chief Strategist of KLA Marketing Associates, has successfully trained hundreds of lawyers to build and grow a prosperous book of business over the course of her 20+ year legal services advisory practice. She deeply understands how to engage the organizational and human factors that drive successful implementation and change through her work. To learn more, check out KLA Marketing Associates website.

February 17, 19, 27 – Women in the Law Rainmaker Forum: A Catalyst for Stepping into Your Power

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Women in the Law Rainmaker Forum hosted by KLA Marketing Associates.

1.24.14

 

When

For your convenience, 3 dates and times:

February 17 – Late Afternoon

Feburary 19 – Morning

Februrary 27 – Late afternoon

Where

Philadelphia / New Jersey / Virtual

Join us – a safe, intimate forum where Women in the Law “lean in” and access much-needed resources to develop a prosperous and rewarding practice. Make 2014 the year to take control of your career. 
Join for our popular Forum to:
  • Learn critical rainmaking techniques
  • Brainstorm opportunities
  • Dig deep into your business challenges
  • Tap skills/experience of others  

Four 2-hour sessions to change the

way you do business – and win business!

Special Pricing: $499* for all 4 sessions – – and more. Register now to claim your seat that will change the way you do business!

About the Trainer/Coach
Kimberly Alford Rice, Principal and Chief Strategist of KLA Marketing Associates, has successfully trained hundreds of lawyers to build and grow a prosperous book of business over the course of her 20+ year legal services advisory practice. She deeply understands how to engage the organizational and human factors that drive successful implementation and change through her work. To learn more, check out KLA Marketing Associates website.

 

To Win at Legal Marketing, Know Who Is On The Other Side of the Ball

The Rainmaker Institute mini logo (1)

Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday!  You know, I believe that legal marketing is as competitive as any sport.  A well-prepared coach will know the facts about his opponent.  A well-prepared trial attorney will not only study their case, but also their opponent.

Marketing your law firm consists of quite a bit of information gathering; learning about top competitors is one of the first steps.

Below is a list of ideas you can use to become acquainted with your competitors to gain an important edge in your legal marketing efforts:

  • Review and analyze their website and social media profiles. You will be surprised what a law firm will reveal on their website and social networks.  Be sure to look up their individual attorneys on LinkedIn and other social networks.
  • Enlist a friend’s help to interview their associates as a potential client. Be prepared with a list of questions before they place the actual call. Choose questions that will reveal important data about the competition. A simple telephone call can produce a wealth of information about the competition’s law firm marketing techniques.
  • Ask them to mail you some information about their law firm. The type of legal marketing material they send out will speak volumes about who they are and how they conduct business.
  • Sign-up for their e-newsletter (using your personal email address, of course). 
  • Use Google to further bolster your law marketing strategic planning. Type in the keywords and phrases someone would use to find your practice area. For example, “LA personal injury lawyer” or “Real Estate Attorney Chicago” or “Estate Planning Lawyer in Manhattan”.  Study the top 10 websites that come up. These are your most aggressive online competitors because they didn’t get there by mistake.
  • Search to see how ‘visible’ they are.  Create a Google Alert for each of your competitors so you can receive news feeds about them as they happen.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to investigate as much as possible. Your successful competitors are no doubt learning about you too if they are using the best legal marketing techniques.

Article by:

Stephen Fairley

Of:

The Rainmaker Institute

Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair – August 2, 2013

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair:

VaultAd-250x250

Attention 2L, 3L and Lateral Candidates:

Join us at the Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair!

The Vault/MCCA Legal Diversity Career Fair will provide minority, female, LGBT and candidates with disabilities the opportunity to meet and network with recruiters from law firms and government agencies who are firmly committed to increasing diversity in the legal profession.

When: Friday, August 2, 2013

Where: Capital Hilton, Washington, DC