Last month came the news that another law firm is closing its doors. This time north of the 49th parallel.

One of Canada’s largest firms seemingly collapsed overnight. But, like most law firm failures, the collapse was a long time coming.

Canada’s online legal magazine, SLAW, sums it up well in this post, Requiem for Heenan Blakie:

Heenan Blaikie died from a combination of greed, poor management and failed leadership wrapped together in an antiquated business structure ill-suited to “more for less” client demands in a marketplace gradually filling with non-traditional competitors.

As I have said repeatedly, the Canadian legal profession is now entering the most disruptive period of time in its history. It has never faced such strong client demands for value and efficiency. It has never faced competition from non-traditional legal providers.

These are structural changes that never go away; they amplify.

And all of this in an environment of flat legal services demand, over capacity and legal tech entrepreneurs!

Layer in partners who are more loyal to themselves than to the firm and one can see that Heenan Blaikie (like every other law firm in Canada) was a house built on sand, not bedrock.

I fear that many of us can insert “name of American law firm” in place of Heenan Blaikie and tell the same story.

Yes, we’re chatting about this in my circles. What does this mean? Why? What will it take to change law firm culture and business models?

Some argue for the ability of non-lawyers to co-own law firms, thereby giving more control of the actual business function to the true professional business people.

Some argue we need true business development and sales people. Lawyers are not necessarily cut out for this.

Some argue that the services themselves need to be repackaged and sold (think AFAs).

Some argue that the growth through lateral hiring binge is unsustainable and a leading cause of law firm failure.

It’s the compensation plans. No, it’s the commoditization of legal services.

And then there are those lawyers who just want things to go back to the way things were. Institutional clients. None of this business development crap.

There are no single right answers. And there are no single wrong ones here either. These are all contributing factors, leading to a perfect storm that will continue to result in the roller coaster of growth through acquisition, and big law failures, along with a lot of mid-sized failures as well.

I’d like to add another layer to the conversation of change and disruption in the legal industry: There is a generational shift taking place and very few people are talking about it, nor the impact it is having on our sales culture, nor our business culture.


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I began my discussion of generational marketing with Talking ’bout My Generation:

In short, generational marketing recognizes that the different generations make purchasing decisions in different ways from one another.

The different life phases we are in presently, coupled with our upbringing and societal norms, provide us with different perspective than those we follow, or those who follow us.

I immediately got an email from my friend and legal marketing peer, David Bruns. He recommended I download and read “I Would Die 4 U:  Why Prince Became an Icon,” by Touré.

In short, the book discusses how Prince, a Baby Boomer, became such a huge icon for Generation X.

No icon is so talented that they don’t need the right generation to receive their message. Of course, some icons transcend their time, but that’s nearly impossible without first connecting deeply with the generation that’s consuming culture when you’re at your peak. The difference between being famous and becoming an icon is, in part, having the good fortune to have a generation that’s interested in your message. Pg. 17

It’s the Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, theory of 10,000 hours of experience to achieve mastery, plus the luck of timing when that knowledge/skill is needed, the audience is ready, as in the case of Prince.

The author goes on to discuss Prince’s less than welcoming response when he opened for the Rolling Stones on October 9 & 11, 1981, here in Los Angeles. He was pelted with garbage and drinks, and literally booed off the stage. Twice. (FYI. The Sports Dude and I were at that concert. He even saved the ticket stubs).

Controversy was just too controversial for the crowd of hippies and boomers. We up and coming Gen Xers got it, though … we were waiting and ready for the Purple Revolution that was about to come out with “1999.” And we were really confused why the adults in the crowd didn’t get it.

So what does Prince have to do with legal marketing and generational marketing? It’s all in how we interpret his experience to our industry.
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Where they Boomers got their name.

Generational marketing is a term that I picked up at the Chief Marketing Officer Institute earlier this year, and something Jonathan Fitzgarrald and I continue to toy with in terms of how this applies to legal marketing.

In short, generational marketing recognizes that the different generations make purchasing decisions in different ways from one another.

The different life phases we are in presently, coupled with our upbringing and societal norms, provide us with different perspective than those we follow, or those who follow us.

Roger Daltry is now 69. What happened to not trusting anyone over 30?

For example, I’m an earlier member of Generation X (born 1961 – 1981). I came of age during the Cold War.

I was raised by my Silent Generation parents (1925 – 1942), who came of age post-WWII. Only one of their five kids are a Baby Boomer (1943 – 1960). The rest of us are Gen-X.

And my parents were raised by their G.I. Generation parents (1901 – 1924), who grew up during, and were shaped by, the Great Depression.

One of the greatest challenges I face in the work place is working with the Millennial generation who were raised with technology at their fingertips (sometimes referred to as Gen Y; 1982 – 2000). The Baby Boomers really don’t get them at all.


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(Image:Matthias Clamer/Stone+/Getty)

I broke out of my legal marketing industry bubble this week and have been attending the Chief Marketing Officer Institute in Vegas. For fun and comfort, I dragged along Adam Stock and Jonathan Fitzgarrald.

The CMO Institute has been a small and intimate, yet high-level and well-crafted event.

For those who attended the Legal Marketing Association‘s annual conference in Orlando last week, it was an incredible few days of education, networking and camaraderie. Perhaps it was the location, or maybe there is truly a sense of “recovery” from the recession, but the mood was light, up beat, ENERGETIC. Many of us took