Your law firm’s location, the work you do or even how long your firm has been operating doesn’t matter. The reality is that today some partnerships are struggling to address their need for more work. Why? Because the partner’s themselves seem to be unaware of their plight or minimise its significance.
We have put together this Special Report because of experiences we have recently encountered in different cities around the country. It seems many firms are suffering from this issue. There is an elephant in the boardroom of many small to mid-sized law firms in Australia today. Nothing, or not enough, is being done about it by the partners.
Slater and Gordon have attracted much publicity this year with their issues and we all hear of spectacular big law firm collapses when they happen. Namely, Coudert Brothers LLP, Howrey, Dewey & LeBoeuf, Bingham McCutchen and earlier this year Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan but not so much when they are smaller firms.
Don’t ignore your law firm marketing
Essentially the problem is simple enough. It comes down to the need to attract more work, so the lawyers have enough work to keep them busy and generate revenue to keep the doors open.
What we find intriguing is the way different partnerships deal with that problem and how ill-equipped they are at addressing it. Five years ago the Queensland Law Society published a Guide that stated “Lawyers like many other professionals, have come to realise that they cannot be complacent and hope that work will just come through the door”.
In many cases partners only make the decisions they must make. The perceived impact of a problem determines whether or not the law firm must make a decision or not. If the cost of doing nothing is unknown, or deemed acceptable, concerned partners have no chance to address it. Plus they will waste a lot of time and effort on meaningless follow-up.
The identification of the problem and execution of solutions to the problem comes back to the personalities of the partners involved. Some partners have drawn to our attention these personality traits, for example:
- The Delusional Partner…confidently predicts without any realistic evidence, just hope that things will turn around.
- The Partner Burying Himself in ‘Work’…avoids the issue by not being able to meet at all, or wants to defer the issue.
- The “Yeah But” Partner who always raises objections to most marketing proposals. So risk averse he will only act on gold plated guarantees.
- The Frustrated Partner…so confused about marketing he doesn’t know which way to turn.
Why is it so?
This often comes about because the partners have previously managed, over the years, to get found by clients for a long time, perhaps haphazardly. More recently gut feel tells them that their file numbers are down. There is not as much work to do. If your firm has an iron grip on monthly file numbers and values, then this material is easily identifiable.
For some firms that don’t have this data it can creep up. Then one by one, as a staff member leaves or retires (willingly or otherwise) it seems there is no need to replace them. It is often the best of your up-and-coming lawyers who depart first. Fewer people then share the work and no one has really noticed that the firm is shrinking. Worse still, is that the shrinking is somehow justified or explained as a good thing!
As far as a solution is concerned we suggest that you seek advice. If the advice addresses your issues make decisions based on that well-informed process and commit to do something about it.
Respected British author, speaker and adviser to many law firms, Richard Susskind said “I believe that lawyers, in order to survive and prosper must respond creatively and forcefully to the shifting demands of what is a rapidly evolving legal marketplace”.
Many lawyers think in terms of advertising. Whilst we are not “anti-advertising” you should be aware that advertising can be a very expensive solution, just like engaging some so called “SEO Guru”. Many non- advertising strategies are available that, in our view, would certainly be more cash-flow friendly. Most law firms we have spoken to who have embarked on an advertising campaign have been very disappointed with the outcome.
If “No Decision” is the winner in your firm’s partnership meetings, the resulting frustration can lead to “decision fatigue”. This unfortunately causes partners to abandon the effort; a most unhealthy outcome for everyone and you can guess why. If your firm needs help in getting more work, do something about it. If you don’t know what to do, seek help from those who do!