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:

… those pricing, staffing, and efficiency tactics specifically undertaken to improve law firm performance–are actually producing results.”

Let’s take a look at that quote a bit closer:

“… those pricing, staffing, and efficiency tactics specifically undertaken to improve law firm performance–are actually producing results.”

There’s always a clause, isn’t there?

… specifically undertaken to improve law firm performance. 

So, not to meet client needs. Not to stay competitive. But to improve the law firm’s performance.


As I dig in a little deeper, I was struck by the last paragraph of the Highlights:

Some of this year’s results should be disturbing to every lawyer, but opportunities also abound. Law firms that seize those opportunities can create important competitive advantage. We hope they will take up the challenge.”

Music to my ear.

And this is where the c-suite comes in. A great team comprised of a COO, CFO, CMO, CBDO, CIO, CRO, CHRO (whatever their titles and positions may be in your firm) are key to seizing the opportunities that ARE there. These are the BUSINESS professionals within your firm. No, we don’t all have a JD, but that’s not our job. Our jobs is the business of law. But we cannot do it in a vacuum. Partnering with the chair/managing partner of the firm, members of the executive committee, key lawyer leaders within the firm, and the client can create a powerful force within any firm. ANY firm.

Come on. Seventy-two percent of those surveyed “believe the pace of change in the profession will continue to increase.” And that “reluctance to change is a significant and ongoing challenge in most firms, especially in adapting robust strategies, systems and procedures in the area that clients crave–provision of more efficient legal work at a more cost-effective price.”

Price matters.

I am sooooooo tired of hearing “price doesn’t matter.” Yes. It does. THIS is the “pull your head out of the sand” moment. 

It used to be that with all things being equal, lawyers were hired by a simple formula of “know, like and trust.” I used to say that my job was to get you “known, liked, and trusted” by those in a position to hire you, or refer you new business. Not any longer.

While I believe that this does remain true, to a certain extent, I would add “price” to that mix, and to the front of that list. Price can no longer be left out of the conversation. Yes, for “bet the farm” litigation and deals, price doesn’t matter. But those are not the rule, they are the exception … and becoming more of an exception every day.

Take a look at the Above the Law Layoff Reports, and compare that to the PPEP for those Amlaw 100 and 200 firms. Law firms are not necessarily laying off attorneys and staff because they are in economic crisis, but to make themselves more efficient, competitive, and profitable. I’m not sure the same can be said for those in position 201 and below.

As technology and time make us more efficient, it takes fewer hours to accomplish the same tasks. Law firms no longer leverage the way they did just a few years ago. Pressure from the CLOs (who are pressured by their COOs and boards) is also forcing law firms to change.

The competitive advantage

And here’s my question for the day: Why do law firms wait for the client to FORCE them to change? Why not change because it is the best for your businesses bottom line, and health of your business?

Oh, wait, I know the answer to that.

Because we’ve always done it that way.

And THERE is the opportunity, the hope, the solution … the competitive advantage.

Take on change, align your firm with CURRENT and BEST business practices for today’s economic climate because it is the best thing for your firm … and, by doing so, you will find that it is the best thing for your clients.