Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition

Under performing law firms are nothing new. Some under perform themselves into a merger, and others under perform themselves out of business. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the path or the way.

Altman Weil recently released their Law Firms in Transition report for 2017. Yesterday I posted the `first in this series, tackling the ABA Journal’s Law firm leaders report lawyer oversupply and ‘chronically under performing lawyers’ and the survey highlights.

In it’s ninth year, the survey, for the first time, is looking at change efforts in law firms. Having spent 19+ years working inside law firms, my interest is peaked: Continue Reading Under performing law firm? I hope you are disturbed. (Pt. 2)

I’m going to blog my thoughts while reading the 2017 Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition (PDF) (Report). Here are their highlights from the survey (Highlights). I might end up writing a separate article at the end, with these just being my raw notes and first thoughts. We’ll see how this goes.

I can’t even begin to express how riled up I am just from reading the ABA Journal’s article, Law firm leaders report lawyer oversupply and ‘chronically underperforming lawyers’ (ABA Journal) and the executive summary from the Report. Here’s a quick warning, the PDF is locked and encrypted (which is frustrating the hell out of me right now. I’m going to have to retype everything I want to quote. Although people are sending me solutions to this … so fingers crossed).

From the ABA Journal:

  • The continuing erosion of demand for legal services continues to be a threat to traditional law firms, according to a survey of law firm leaders in which 61 percent said overcapacity is diluting profitability.
  • Fifty-two percent of law firm leaders say equity partners are not sufficiently busy. Sixty-two percent said nonequity partners are not busy enough, and 25 percent said associates don’t have enough work.

heads-in-sandAnd from the Report (See, AW, I typed out what I wanted to quote, and gave you attribution. I’m TRYING to help you here):

  • “Law firms are slowly changing—more slowly than we think is wise, but changing nonetheless. Clearly not all change efforts are resulting in overnight success. Some efforts require long-term investments that can be a tough sell with partners. Other initiatives may work quickly, but are one-time fixes that can’t be replicated for year-on-year gains. We see firms making only cursory investments where they should be aiming for broader, deeper transformation. And still many partners resist change in all its forms.”

And from the Highlights:

  • The problem of partner resistance: 65% of law firm leaders say their partners resist most change efforts, and 56% say most partners are unaware of what they might do differently.  This reluctance to change is an intractable problem in many law firms.

But there’s good news.

What those of us in the C-Suite have been pounding our leaders about for YEARS is working:

  • “… pricing, staffing, and efficiency tactics specifically undertaken to improve law firm performance—are actually producing results.” (Report)

And a bit of a road map to get started:

  • “Lawyers are very good at interpreting data that’s set before them, but they also need to ask: What don’t we know that might matter?” said Altman Weil principal and survey co-author Tom Clay. “Adequately educating partners about current market realities is a critical first step in achieving necessary strategic change.” (Highlights)

Above the Law and their recent guest poster in Marketing and the Law (enjoy the comments on the Facebook feed) need to take a deeper look at what legal business executives have been doing (or trying to do) for years. In one sense they get it right, many lawyers do struggle with this “fundamental part of the business.” I would just argue that they are most likely part of those 52% or 62% of under-performing equity and non-equity partners. And that the solutions (LEADERSHIP) are there.

Off to read the Bloomberg Law article now. Then I have to do a Costco run. More later today as I really dig into the Report itself.