« | Main | »

Jun 28, 2011

Model For Sustaining a Law Practice: Managing the S Curve


In a recent firm meeting the question was raised as to whether law firms hit a wall when they run up against new competitors, new technologies, new business models, or when their talent peaks. Is there a general model  of sustaining a law firm?


The mechanics of managing a law firm are too complex to address in this forum. It would be better to discuss what to tell you what to look for that tells you, well in advance of a fee revenue plateau, that your practice needs some work. Once you know where your practice is getting wobbly, then you will have a clearer idea of how to fix the mechanics.

We tell our clients that they are on an "S-Curve" in which slow and steady growth often occurs at the start of the law practice, followed by gaining momentum and rapid growth, then tapering off as practice areas get saturated or competitors enter the practice areas in which the firm is engaged. Watch these components for advance warning:

  1. Competition – any practice area attractive to you will also attract other law firms, so monitor new entrants starting to chip away at your clients.
  2. Capabilities – you created or bought some new technology, skills or other assets to start your firm/growth, but the distinctiveness of these eventually wears off and they are likely to be available to competitors once their value is clear.
  3. Talent – you had it when you started your firm, but attorneys and staff have become "free agents" and increasingly move between law firms more frequently and you may lose a key asset.

There may be other components unique to your practice and market. The point is that there is more than meets the eye in a simple growth curve. Figure out exactly what assets and activities are part of your particular growth and watch each one, as well as how each component affects the others (e.g., a departure of talent from your firm to a competing law firm, along with knowledge of specific major case or a key technology is a triple blow.)

Click here for our blog on strategy

Click here for articles on other topics

John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC

Posted at 11:13 PM in Competitive Business Models, Strategy
Tags: Law Firm Business Model for Sustaining a Law Practice

    Subscribe to our Blog