Ed Poll in his recent blog post argues that while law firms that fail, fail of their own “unique paths to destruction,” yet successful law firms are all alike.

According to Ed, these firms:

  1. Have a comprehensive business plan.
  2. Remember that the client comes first.
  3. Sell solutions (“provide value”) to clients.
  4. Begin each matter with an engagement letter.
  5. Prepare budgets for each matter.
  6. Understand that their inventory is not “billable hours,” it’s the cash those hours represent.
  7. Practice effective cash flow management.
  8. Recognize that technology cannot replace personal relationships.
  9. Work with a coach or mentor to achieve business and practice success more quickly.
  10. Have a disaster plan in place and keep it current.

(I have edited the list … you’ll have to read Ed’s full post to get the details).

Two things I immediately see missing from this great list are 1) compensation system that benefits the client first. If a comp system takes into account the holistic needs of the client, it will in turn benefit the firm and the partners overall; and, 2) positive internal communication/ Knowledge Management tools. Too often the bad news travels fast, but the good or innocuous news gets lost.

For those of you working in successful firms, what do you see as your most successful traits?