Most law firms that we have met and talked with are very much aware of their goals and their market profile. Many of them have also agreed and developed a strategy on how to maintain or improve their profile and achieve the goals they set. But, all admit that they feel they are failing in executing on their strategy. Three scenarios are most described:
a) nothing happens, or
b) things are achieved with large delays, or
c) only fractions of the goals are realized.
For one firm, it takes months to agree on whether or not to use a head hunter to search for the extra specialist that would complete your offering in environment law on a national level. Or, for another firm wishing to progress in a market development effort to reinforce its presence in the life sciences market, lead partners are so busy with a series of new deals that meetings don’t get organized and actions are slow moving. Good strategy execution almost always requires some change and change management is not a strong competency in law firms.
Change management is really about being focused on a limited number of actions that will lead to executing your strategy and achieving your goals. This focus implies: first, commitment, second, structure, third, discipline and forth, skill. Let’s look at theses factors more in detail:
Once as a firm you have internally agreed on your strategy you should break it down into comprehensible steps with actions by area of responsibility. For each action you should involve relevant lawyers and support. Engage the right people (ideally a team of minimum 2 to maximum 5) to take responsibility and true ownership of their actions. Let them define what the outcome will look like and when they feel they can deliver. Make sure to provide them with all necessary tools and that you capture their needs. Ensure you meet these needs timely so progress can be maintained. This will create the commitment that is required.
The structure is not only in the breaking down of what you wish to achieve in logical steps but equally in how you follow-up, organize reporting on progress and ensure communication around your complete process. The key to success in this area is discipline and communication. The discipline is in the small repetitious steps on tracking progress and making sure action after action is completed;
Communication is key in achieving results: as you move through the execution stage you ensure information flows as required to ensure engagement. Communication also implies that you ‘celebrate’ intermediate success. As action after action gets completed; make sure you share on a wider basis what is being learned as your teams are making progress. For sure you will embed the results from each step in your regular internal communication, highlighting the impact and benefits to all involved.
Skill comes into play in that very often the agreed course of action requires doing new things or doing things differently. You should judge if that skill is present in your firm and how you can best mobilize it. If it is not readily available, then make sure you can acquire the skill through external help and consider developing the relevant skills from that for the next wave of change.
So whether you are carving out a new market for your firm or working on improving your margin whilst maintaining top quality service to your clients, do realize each time that what you are trying to achieve will be realized only if you consider it as a change management process. We at Bignon De Keyser have successfully supported law firms and legal teams in bringing the change about. Our contribution helped adding the discipline and creating engagement necessary for executing the strategy. Come talk to us on how we can be of help.