As business life transitions into the “new (ab)normal,” law firm leaders face a massive, unprecedented challenge to architect a strategic blueprint for the future. Hence the law firms’ top commandments for strategic planning. Obviously, no single blueprint applies to every law firm.
Over the past few years, some positive operational changes and innovative measures have been implemented by law firms, borne mostly out of necessity as opposed to self-initiation.
Certainly, the transition from traditional-to-remote operations has posed practical issues for law firm leaders; however, the issues have required mostly tactical responses.
Notwithstanding, when developing a post-quarantine, proposal for the law firm’s strategic plan, every Managing Partner/Attorney and Management Committee must have the following commandments as their guide:
For decades in the legal industry, diversity has had lots of room for improvement to put it mildly. A second-rate approach to diversity is not societally, ethically or professionally acceptable, especially in an industry dedicated to promoting justice.
Law firms must make every effort to promote a welcoming environment of opportunity and inclusivity for all colleagues, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. It means having culturally and ethnically heterogeneous individuals in positions of power in firm management/administrative positions and meaningfully involved in the hiring, promotion and compensation process.
Diversity creates more robust dialogue, better strategic insights and a broader array of ideas. Diversity is good business. Diversity is healthy. Diversity allows for insights and perspectives. More importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
Organizations which invested in research and development and marketing in the aftermath of the 2008 Great Recession grew their market share exponentially faster than their competitors. Law firms are not left out of the loop. Forward-thinking R&D initiatives may focus on different staffing models, leveraging data analytics, expanding technology usage (artificial intelligence & machine learning) and/or digital marketing. Again, there’s not a one-size-fits-all formula. Notwithstanding, smart minds on a management committee meeting must develop an imaginative R&D and marketing strategy that fits their particular firm.
When law firm partners don’t generate enough billable client work, two undesirable things usually happen:
(1) partners handle work below their paygrade (which has countless negative “knock-on” effects); and
(2) lower-cost associates and/or para-professionals become under-utilized, creating economic stress and delayed professional development.
Law firm leaders should consider employing a more variable workforce which can easily expand and contract. That said, firms should think creatively about a variable workforce rather than view associates as a fixed cost or economic burden during periods of low demand.
The second-largest fixed cost for most law firms is real estate. If the pandemic has proven anything, it has shown that working remotely can work and that the real estate footprint of the legal industry can be considerably reduced.
A law firm’s greatest asset is its employee base. Successful businesses invest in their assets; they curate and preserve their assets; winning businesses optimize asset value.
Since training in-person, by observation, by osmosis and “baptism by fire” may not now always be feasible, law firm leaders should carefully architect technology-enable remote training programs.
Law firms are sitting on mountains of raw unstructured data which when properly evaluated, provide rich business intelligence.
Every business poised for success in the 21st century is leveraging data generated internally and procured from external sources. Law firm leaders who let their firms become paralyzed by data volume or who ignore a big data strategy position their firms for a second-place finish at best.
Starting now, every law firm leader should explore, develop, implement and periodically revisit a data strategy for each segment.
No longer can lawyers operates as if technology is someone else’s job. Even putting aside the ethical and risk management mandate, law firm leaders should formally address their firm’s technology roadmap because technology usage and competence is good business both for the law firm and its clients.
Oftentimes, lawyers in private practice project their own definition of success upon their clients.
Successful organizations in other industries don’t do this. Instead, they ask for customer feedback, solicit customer surveys and create customer focus groups to get feedback on how their customers are feeling.
Formal client success programs at law firms should go well beyond conducting periodic interviews with the firm’s top 10 clients. A deeper and broader probe should be considered.
You must obtain sophisticated data on your clients to know what they’re thinking, how you can help, and market data on what your competition is doing. You need to have these deep-dive analytics right at your fingertips.
As law firm leaders hold strategic planning sessions to cope with and re-emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, law firm leaders should be mindful of the unique, positive opportunities that lay ahead of them.
Law firms that intelligently address these law firms’ top commandments for strategic planning above, would flourish in an era of high demand for lawyers.
Legalpedia is issuing out a stern warning to those who ignore these, do so at their peril.