Getting in Front of the Curve

A lot is written about the first mover advantage – identifying trends early and pursuing them before competitors.   It’s a great concept and makes for some great consultant and academic articles (I know, I’ve written some of them).  But saying it is one thing, doing it is another. To be successful in getting ahead of […]

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…”  […]

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 […]

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.  […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Minding the Gap

Dominance of a marketplace is the most valuable strategic position a law firm can hold.  But the ongoing recession has been corrosive to the competitive situation of many of the most dominant firms in their key markets.  Achieving a dominant position is difficult but it turns out that maintaining dominance may be even tougher. Dominance […]

The Five Questions: Creating a Vision for Your Firm

As law firms begin a strategic planning process they often seem to get fixated on creating mission and vision statements.  Now, having a clear vision of what the firm is attempting to become is essential to creating a strategy, but it is easy to devote so much attention to the vision that the planning committee […]

There are a variety of ways of defining legal marketplaces.  Certainly there are markets for specific practices and there are markets within industries.  But the licensing of lawyers largely dictates that much of the buying of legal services occurs within geographic markets.  Accordingly, the size and growth potential of geographic markets should play a major […]

There are a variety of ways of defining legal marketplaces.  Certainly there are markets for specific practices and there are markets within industries.  But the licensing of lawyers largely dictates that much of the buying of legal services occurs within geographic markets.  Accordingly, the size and growth potential of geographic markets should play a major […]

Strategic Pricing

One of the most powerful strategies available to any professional service firm is pricing. Regardless of the service, the reputation of the provider, the sophistication of the buyer, the quality of the service or any other aspect of a firm’s position in the marketplace, price plays a significant role in a client’s decision to purchase […]

Going Global: a 10 Point Checklist for Considering a Foreign Office

Among the highest risk decisions a law firm can make is the opening of an office in another country.  But firms can mitigate some of the risk by making an informed decision laced with a healthy dose of skepticism. The explosion of U.S. firms’ overseas offices has reached the point where it is comparatively rare […]

Swimming in the Blue Ocean

Law firm leaders frequently ask, “Where is the blue ocean?”  What they really mean is, “Where are the opportunities? What practices, locations and industries are not being fully served; where could the firm gain a “first mover” advantage?”  But when faced with a rare opportunity to be a first mover, most firms balk precisely because […]

Good Strategies Gone Bad

I used to think that there was no such thing as a bad strategy – just bad execution.  I thought that any strategy was better than no strategy and that a law firm with a plan of action couldn’t possibly be bad.  I’m pretty sure I was wrong. Here’s the problem.  A strategy is a […]

Lateral hiring is among the most frequently used strategies by law firms as a means of increasing profitability.  Unfortunately, for many firms it doesn’t work out as well as the firms hope.  But that doesn’t necessarily make it a flawed strategy.  The problem may be in the execution. Almost every law firm’s strategic plan is […]

It Ain’t Brain Surgery

For years I have talked about the most sophisticated legal work being like brain surgery where clients look for the absolutely best possible person to do the work regardless of cost.  But now that I have been in the position of actually using a brain surgeon, I’ve found out that the analogy may be more […]