Often firms are strong on ideas but weak on implementation. Typically, there is lack of management and structure and a general lack of leadership and focus. Communication is generally poor. Partner compensation systems are often not defined nor tied to goal attainment or performance.
What makes strategic management projects so difficult is that they are often complex and results are not immediate and are often delayed into the future. It is extremely hard for a group of attorneys to focus on strategic long term projects when they are up to their elbows in daily crisis. Lawyers must learn how to effectively partition their routines to enable an appropriate focus on long term projects. Lawyers must learn to think differently. This will require changes in skills, behaviors and working relationships.
The primary problems facing law firms are accountability, implementation, follow-up, and a reluctance to explore new ways of delivering legal services. Partners must begin to raise their hands and sign up for special firm management projects and be accountable to other members of the firm.
Any good plan has an action item section with a timeline built into the plan with due dates and names of responsible parties next to each of the action items. Unless there is an action plan with consequences for non-compliance – there is little chance of success.
Also suggest that the firm discuss the issue of accountability in general. A group of lone rangers often have little chance of implementing firm level strategies.
What do you see as the primary management problems in law firms?
We are frequently asked to assist law firms in areas such as management reviews, marketing, compensation, and strategic planning. However, these are often symptoms of another problem – leadership, trust, and accountability. Frequently we find that unless proper leadership is in place we are all wasting time on attempting to treat the symptoms. Without sound firm leadership at the partner level other initatives are never able to get off the ground. Law firm leadership is the top challenge facing the profession today.
John W. Olmstead, MBA, Ph.D, CMC