The Relevant Lawyer

30 12 2016

The chapter I wrote on the changing nature of the legal profession in the United Kingdom was published by the American Bar Association and is available from the following link:.

The Relevant Lawyer, published by the American Bar Association

The Relevant Lawyer, published by the American Bar Association

http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=187108732

The chapter was written for love rather than money, but if you enjoy my writing on this site or are just interested in the huge shifts in the profession, I’d encourage you to have a look. The other chapters are hugely insightful and I feel privileged to have been part of the project.





The writing on the wall #7 – location, location, location

18 12 2014

Location, location, location...

Let’s for a moment put aside the discussion as to whether an investment by a law firm into premium real estate makes sense. Let’s assume that clients don’t object to funding acres of marble and an atrium full of lush vegetation. This question is about where your firm’s offices are, not what they are.

The location question is very personal. For some firms it might be simply be about growth – we are outgrowing our current premises – do we just need a bigger office, or should we open a second office (and if so, where). For other firms it might be about national expansion, or response to an existing or future competitive threat. However for many firms the stakes are higher, and it’s about international expansion.

It may be an understatement, but international strategy is not easy. Aside from the economics, the cultural, regulatory and language differences, suddenly the complexity and management overhead increases dramatically. Whether the market entry strategy is through acquisition, merger  or lateral hire, you can then throw a whole host of political and personal factors into the mix.

With that in mind, opening a new office seems like a decision to be made thoughtfully, but in a fast moving market that is changing more than ever, how can you make the time you need to really assess where the right locations are for you?

 





The writing on the wall #6 – quality talent equals high price?

17 12 2014

Quality talent = high price?

As the economy picks up, the gladiators pick up their weapons in the fight for talent again. With a raft of restructurings in the past five years, now that work is picking up, there are structural gaps in the talent profile of a number of similar firms. Make no mistake that the recession was long and deep enough that some very good people were cut adrift. Some of these remain available to the big law firms, albeit that they may look at firms through different eyes (and as a result seek to negotiate a different type of employment relationship). However, plenty of talented lawyers have left the pool of potential employees. Many have found a more natural home in one of the many flexible resource pools that have grown significantly even during tough times, and these “nomadic lawyers” are less likely to be tempted back to the mothership.

The lever many firms will look to pull, will be the big red salary one – paying premium wages for the best talent, and making a business case on the basis of the work these lawyers will not only service but help bring in. The challenge of course is that the market has changed, with general counsel now being far more price sensitive.

If the clients are not willing to pay increased fees to pay for the influx of talent at premium wages, what gives?





The writing on the wall #5 management complexity

15 12 2014

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Firms are getting bigger. Mergers and International expansion may be the main culprits in recent years, bit add the economy slowly returns to growth, plenty of other law firms face the challenges associated with getting bigger.
Some, like the competition for talent are frequently mentioned, but there is another that is less talked about and yet arguably harder nut to crack. It’s the management overhead. Aside from the difficulty and effectiveness of management, how can firms manage the spiralling cost and resource drain?

Whether it’s professional management cost or the time of the most competent partners, it’s easy for it to grow unchecked. What’s the story in your firm?





The writing on the wall #4 – the commodity game

12 12 2014

 

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It seems that whatever the practice area, lawyers talk in hushed tones about their work becoming a commodity. Corporate law, employment law, technology law are among the areas where there is much gnashing of teeth and squeezing of margins.

Much of the debate focuses on whether to do the commoditized elements and if so how to do them profitably, but there is little discussion of what will replace that work at the high end. I suspect the implications of this will be felt in the not-too-distant future.





The writing’s on the wall #3 – resistance to change

11 12 2014

IMG_4954.JPGThere is no shortage of commentary about the need for law firms to change in what is the most significant transition in the profession in a lifetime. Theories from Darwin to Kotter are cited yet firms still struggle with the day to day reality of change.

Partners speak of their frustration that things don’t move fast enough and clients are increasingly outspoken about the growing gap between their expectations and the service delivery they receive.

So for your firm, what’s at the heart of the resistance to change, and critically what can you do to address it?





The writing’s on the wall #2 – scale back your offices?

9 12 2014

Given property is often the second biggest cost of a law firm behind head count, I wonder what the impact would be of scaling back prestigious offices and reinvesting some of the capital in technology that would make a real difference for clients.

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