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 […]

Hedging Your Bet: Dealing with the Risks of Dominance

Among lessons learned by law firms from the recession is the danger of having too much of their revenue dependent upon a few dominant practice areas.  Firms with large transactional, real estate, environmental, bankruptcy and other cyclical practices find that factors beyond their control can cause peaks and valleys in the demand for their services.  […]

The Shark Tank Metric

One of the most common questions I get from Managing Partners and COO’s is, “How much should our firm be spending on marketing?”  Most firms find it hard to wrap their arms around the marketing budget, little less effectively manage it.  Now, the same could probably also be said about the technology budget but at […]

Seven Reasons Why Industry Groups Fail

Many law firms have created an industry group structure that failed miserably.  Not surprisingly the failure is not in the concept but in its execution. What lawyers view as legal problems, clients see as business problems that may have a legal solution.  As a result, from a client perspective, it makes more sense to shop […]

There has been a shift of legal practice among many larger law firms over the past two decades.  The change does not involve client assertiveness, pricing or any of the usual topics the media typically cites as representing sea changes in the legal profession.  Instead, it is centered on the role of litigation in driving […]

Happy Meals: Growth Through Small Mergers

A major objective of many law firms’ strategic plans is to grow specific practice areas or office locations through small mergers.  Unfortunately such small “acquisitions” often include practices that the larger firm doesn’t want.  But partners in the targeted practice frequently don’t want to be “cherry picked” and demand that the merger include everyone.  An […]

Competing in the Global Legal Market

Twenty years ago, the term “Globalization” was a seminar topic – today international capability is viewed by many as inherent to the practice of business law; the natural offshoot of law firms need to serve the growth of their global business clients.  But the fact that a large number of law firms have substantial investments […]

Profit Boosting Band-aids for Troubled Firms

A great deal is being written about income disparity between the highest paid corporate executives and “middle class” workers.  Similarly, there is a growing bifurcation among larger law firms.  Firms in capital market cities are generating profits that average in the seven figures per equity partner.  At the same time the vast majority of regional […]

Executive Committee Size

A lot of law firms believe that before they can effectively engage in strategic planning they must clean up all their internal problems.  The thought is that they must establish a solid foundation in the present before they can even consider looking toward the future.  Since many internal issues are virtually irresolvable, I suspect that, […]

Brand Sharing

As the purchase of legal services by major corporations, particularly on a global basis, becomes increasingly institutionalized, brands become more competitively important.  But the time and investment required to build a brand is beyond the capability of some large firms.  For many of those firms that want to play on a national or international stage, […]