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In life, the big guys seem to have all the advantages; resources, seemingly bottomless pits of money, hire the best and the brightest, pay signing bonuses, issue stock options galore, give out enormous paychecks, and provide outrageous perks.
In addition, the big guys have the brand, the reputation, the marketing machine, and momentum most of us are dying to achieve. They also have legacy costs, expensive infrastructure, and a bias for protecting the status quo, which makes change very difficult, painful, and unpopular.
While nearly every aspect of human life has undergone significant change this year due to the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis, some things have remained relatively constant — at least for the small law firm sector.
In fact, some critical aspects of how small law firms run their businesses and the headwinds they face have remained largely unchanged over the past several years.
Just the other day, I came across a Thomson Reuters publication on the 2020 Report on the State of U.S. Small Law Firms that got me thinking. .
In particular, the report noted a few key themes:
Small law firms continue to face a number of significant challenges, many of which have remained consistent year-to-year. As has been the case in previous versions of this report.
- Despite facing many of the same challenges one year to the next, most small law firms have yet to take meaningful action. Of those firms stating they face a challenge either acquiring new business or managing administrative tasks, fewer than one-third have actually implemented a plan to deal with the problem. This too is a trend that’s held consistent. High levels of recognition of the problems posed by various challenges has not led to significant action.
- Because of a general lack of action, there is a real opportunity for those firms willing to make the first move.
While it is undoubtedly true that some small law firms have already taken a leading role to innovate their service delivery models, there remains ample fertile ground for other firms to implement similar changes, whether by improving business development acumen, creating optimal internal efficiencies for managing their law firms, or adopting technology to streamline their practice
Other common, though substantially less frequently cited changes included increasing, updating or emphasizing marketing; monitoring or cutting costs such as salaries or overhead expenses; and improving payment collections.
Small law firms felt increasing pressure around getting paid by their clients, felt most acutely by firms with 10 or fewer attorneys, firms whose size make it much less likely that they have professionals dedicated to managing billing and collections.
Despite he challenges, it is true that it is the smaller players in the legal space that are driving change and taking advantage of evolving customer preferences, innovative ideas, pathetic customer service, and emerging trends that the bigger players cannot see, don’t care about, or cannot respond to fast enough.
Charles Darwin is famous for his theory of “survival of the fittest.” What is particularly interesting is his definition of the word “fittest.” He did not conclude that it was the biggest, fastest, strongest, richest, oldest, or smartest. He hypothesized that it is the most adaptable.
Remember, it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. It is about bringing you’re A game to the table.
Keith Cunningham summaries it in this statement “Small succeeds because it has so little to lose, embraces mistakes, and is committed to learning. Small is willing to experiment and fail. Big succeeds by brute force, dogma, erecting barriers, and institutionalizing and systematizing success”
Never look at your size. Look at what you have got on the inside. Take advantage of being small and flexible. Adapt. Take action. Move. Implement your ideas and focus on excellent delivery and client satisfaction.
Small is indeed great if you only play the game right.
The Road less Stupid – Keith Cunningham