This article was first published in Lex Witness March 2015 issue.
Excelling in a law firm practice takes much beyond being just good lawyers or being able to brand the firm right and loud. In one of the previous issues, ‘The Branding Tripod for Law Firms in 2015’, one such advice was to Focus on Internal Practice and Resource Management.
In this issue, we will discuss the ways a firm can focus on internal practice management and development, and go a step beyond the obvious tricks of the trade like branding, positioning etc. in order to become successful.
HOW STRONG IS YOUR MANPOWER MUSCLE
Now is the “era of the client,” and law firms are expected to deliver high-quality legal services that provide value to the client. Every law firm, irrespective of its size, should consider investing time and resources in professional development training and mentorship programs as part of their overall strategic plan.
Why should you invest in developing your talent?
Your employees are your assets. In a service based industry, your talent is your product and your capital, and it is crucial to value and develop your in-house talents. Investing in the development of your talent is a guaranteed approach to not only new client acquisition, but also ensuring your existing clients are satisfied. In this highly competitive industry, clients have too many choices for legal service providers.
What skills should you develop?
The key five skill development areas for any firm should be:
2. Client development and management
3. Team development
4. Practice management, and
5. Business management
You should be aware if the leaders at your firm are effective at setting clear direction, focus and strategy for your firm, and can they actually use emotional intelligence in leading people?
A senior firm leader should be adept at leading and managing change efforts which may benefit the firm, and also simultaneously developing other leaders around them.
However, an associate development programme at your firm should have three-part focus:
- Mentoring – which includes an annual mentoring week for associates and which highlights exceptional firm mentors.
- Assigning goals – Associates should given development goals that target skills by seniority level.
- Focused training – Associates should receive training on legal skills specific to their practice areas and department as well as on leadership, business development, networking and case management.
INSTITUTIONALIZING CLIENT SERVICE
For effective growth in terms of business and practice, ensuring innovation in service and fostering value-based relationships happens to be inevitable. Innovation at service begins with adopting a “client-centric” approach as a part of your firm’s mission statement.
The 80/20 Rule
Eighty percent of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Identify your top 20%, and then work with them to create value-based relationships. What clients really need is for you to spend time with them looking for ways to find and deliver more value.
A common response by law firm clients when asked about which factors develop superior client relationships are – highlighting understanding of the client’s business; being a business strategic advisor and not merely a legal advisor; anticipating the client’s needs and effectively handling them.
Your key attempt here should be to consider the service you provide from the client’s perspective, and re-think on how you do, what you do. It is important to establish a client advisory board within your firm, and discuss the board’s experiences and learning at your quarterly or semi-annual group meetings, and in turn promote best practices for others to adapt.
For any firm to grow by implementing the changes that a firm requires to grow, you must Find, Build and Offer/Ask.
Identify and choose people at various levels within the firm who can be your change makers. These team members will be driven succeed at the firm; they will like to become a leader and work in teams, while at the same time helping other lawyers succeed.
Invest time in getting to know the selected change makers, and understand them and identify the opportunities where you can collaborate. When you’ve determined how they can help you in making the necessary changes within the firm, focus on how you can go about implementing them.
Ask your change makers to create the difference. You have to explicitly offer to lead the initiative and ask for their help in implementing the changes firm wide.
In conclusion, remember that results have a unique way of influencing change. Let the whole firm know what has been achieved. Once a number of your leaders and associates in your firm start adapting the changes, positively and with proven results, more lawyers within the firm will want to adopt a similar approach. Be clear on what has been accomplished and how and why it makes sense. Regular and consistent communication about results will support your long-term vision.