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 […]

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.  […]

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, […]

Five Keys to a Successful Lateral Hiring Strategy

Many law firms’ strategies to increase revenues and strengthen practice areas are dependent upon a program of laterals.  For some firms, the strategy is incredibly successful in its ability to provide work for under-performing lawyers and rapidly increase capability in targeted practice areas.  Unfortunately, for a large number of law firms, the lateral hiring strategy […]

Cubs vs. Yankees: Why Lateral Hiring for Most Law Firms Makes Sense

It is amazing that the legal media continues to actively discuss whether lateral hiring is a good idea.  The gist of the argument appears to be that law firms seeking to expand their revenue base or enter a new practice area have no real alternative but to actively seek lawyers with portable business to join […]

As one result of the cost-cutting that law firms pursued in response to the recession, many firms have filled a number of their managerial and administrative functions with partners discharging those functions on either a part- or full-time basis. If nothing else, it raises some interesting compensation issues for the equity partners who now serve […]

Tolstoy was right

Some law firms are consistently less successful than their peers.  In any industry, success is typically more a comparison with peers than an objective standard.  Of course, there are all sorts of definitions of success and one would assume that the comparisons would be with the most successful firms fitting their definition.  But, we consistently […]

A Really Great Retreat: Five tips for staging a killer law firm partner retreat.

A lawyer recently said to me, “If I found out that I only had two days left to live, I’d want to spend it at my law firm’s partner retreat.  It’s always the longest 48 hours of my life.” Unfortunately law firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on retreats that many partners find to […]

Kicking the Can

Performance problems are difficult.  Dealing with under-performing partners, associates who are not meeting the firm’s standards, or people who are “culturally challenged” is awkward, embarrassing, unprofessional and messy.  It is often easier to look the other way and ignore the problem with the hope that it will somehow go away – the law firm equivalent […]

Aligning capability and practice: Are your lawyers punching below their weight?

An increasing number of law firm leaders find themselves functioning as full-time managers. Unfortunately, in doing so, they may be getting themselves too far from the action to recognize changes in the capabilities their clients are expecting from their lawyers. Worse, managing partners may have lost an accurate assessment of their own partners’ actual capabilities. […]

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

For the past decade, law firms have taken the easy way out with personnel decisions.  To avoid making hard choices and delivering uncomfortable messages, U.S. law firms have gone on a staffing spree with non-equity partner positions.  As a result, firms find themselves massively overstaffed at the partner level.   While there are no quick fixes […]

Follow the Leader

Law firm leaders often describe running a law firm as being like “herding cats” because lawyers are so fiercely independent.  Despite being accustomed to operating in a structured legal environment, for some reason lawyers seem to take pleasure in rebelling against organizational rules and procedures.   Yet, a few firms seem to be able to enforce […]

Coaching LeBron

Most law firms have great difficulty implementing change or enforcing any form of rules or discipline among their partners.  Even trying to get lawyers to get their time in and their bills out is a battle that management frequently loses.  In fact, the problem is often as much with a firm’s leadership as it is […]

New Year’s Resolutions for Law Firm Managing Partners

It’s a shame that we tend to make New Year’s resolutions on January 1st.  For law firm managing partners, this time of year is so busy with closing the books and compensation meetings that we barely have time to focus on anything beyond what went right and wrong in 2010.  Let me give you a […]