Orrick’s new vacation policy, according to news sources, offers to foot the bill for a getaway (up to $15,000) for Associates who hit their 2,400-hour minimum. It has been heralded as a move to encourage Associates to disconnect, unwind, gain balance and perspective and, ultimately, avoid the burnout and negative mental health impacts that plague the legal sector. Yet how does a bonus vacation, in reality, truly change the life or mental health of Associates who spend two-thirds of their waking weekday hours billing (not at work or commuting, as that figure would be greater); whose worth is measured and rewarded in 6-minute increments? It doesn’t.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer.
The rise of data—and the associated analytics and tools to turn that data into insight—has been a godsend in the eyes of many. Yet on the path to adopting more data-driven frameworks, pitfalls lurk. From the obvious (poor data) to the unforeseen (a purely analytical approach to motivating change), the data frontier is fraught with perils—dangers that, to the untrained, can have unintended and undesirable consequences.
Originally published in The American Lawyer.
Being in the middle has never been easy. The middle child, the middle manager, the midsize company—all come saddled with a litany of burdens from not being big enough to do something to being big enough not to do something. The middle is large enough to create expectations, yet not large enough to deploy vast resources in pursuit of a mission. It demands juggling priorities, enduring sacrifices and making sometimes difficult choices. The middle is where we find the Am Law Second Hundred.
In case you missed it, this recording of AmLaw’s webinar analyzing the Second Hundred delivers deep insight and perspectives on what the rankings tell us (and don’t) and why management and leadership are increasingly the true differentiators driving varying financial performance. A conversation between Nick Bruch, Gina Passarella and Marcie Borgal Shunk.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer.
There is a crisis brewing in law firms. In an era of volatility and transformation, law firms are now, more than ever, reliant on their culture, vision and operational approach to drive performance—all of which, at their core, rely on effective leadership. Multiple recent longitudinal analyses of the AmLaw 200 illustrate this connection, repudiating that size alone creates an advantage. Few firms, however, have the processes, tools and structure in place to develop and select the best leaders for their organizations. Moreover, the most revered leaders in law firms may not be those who have significant, positive, long-term impact on their firms.
Originally published on law.com.
Over the past decade the primary objective of many large law firms has been a simple one: get bigger. Firms of all sizes and regional origins have made deliberate moves (and some explicit announcements) that indicate their intention of becoming national or international players in the legal space. The trajectory from regional to super-regional to national to international is well-worn; and the benefits of being an international or national law firm seem indisputable. A new regional analysis of law firm geographic profiles and growth, however, reveals the payoff from being a truly national or international law firm just may not be what it used to be.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer.
Recently, Hugh A. Simons wrote for American Lawyer an enticing argument advocating elite law firms increase their rates. In one striking comment, Simons suggests elite law firms jettison any and all commodity services. While catering to high-end needs may certainly simplify operational management, the practicality of this approach is limited to no more than a handful of truly elite firms—leaving the vast majority of firms—including some of today’s highest performers— demanding a different modus operandi.
Originally published in New York Law Journal, January 2018.
Realization rates continue to decline in the legal industry, according to the most recent Georgetown Law/Peer Monitor report, demonstrating the growing disconnect between the hours worked and revenue generated by lawyers. As the connection between the billable hour and financial success becomes more tenuous, so too does the premise for advocating a highly leveraged business model comprised primarily of lawyers.
Originally published on Law.com, December 2017.
Recent news and awards indicate law firms are increasing their investments in innovation. Stories of recently launched innovation committees, R&D teams and idea labs routinely grace the pages of industry publications. Yet despite these investments, the trajectory of the industry as a whole seems to have remained largely unchanged. Why are innovation efforts by larger law firms failing to make a meaningful impact?
Originally published in New York Law Journal, September 2017.
Taking a cue from some of the organizations that have displaced traditional Fortune 500 companies, if we abandon all that we know to be true—the billable hour as the pinnacle of measuring performance, the pyramid structure comprised predominantly of trained lawyers, the adulation of sophisticated legal services—what’s left?
Co-produced with Acritas.
Law firm competitive intelligence (CI) is not new. Approximately half of the law firms participating in this study have had resources dedicated to CI for five or more years. This report, however, reveals there is significant work to be done to build CI capabilities to keep pace with the competitive and dynamic industry law has become. Download a complimentary copy now.
Unfortunately, at most firms, the planning process has become more an exercise in checking the boxes and filling in the blanks than one in energizing action. Introducing a new approach to planning can help to spot untapped opportunities and revitalize stagnant business development efforts.
What can the law firm executives of today do to make the incremental, fundamental changes to prepare their firms for what’s to come? As with any other attempt to prognosticate, the very premise of “future-proofing” a law firm is wrought with caveats and “what-if” scenarios. There is no magic bullet, no one size fits all solution. There are, however, a set of fundamental, intertwined elements that together will combine to determine the market position, financial health and, ultimately, sustainability of a law firm.
A BigLaw Director of Business Development recently lamented to me, “we want to do more with our data and CI function, but I’m just not sure the firm is ready.” Despite her firm’s best efforts to give the lawyers access to information, little was changing. Actions continued to stall, decisions weren’t being made and, most importantly, the firm wasn’t generating better outcomes as a result of the insights and analytics.
Listen to a compelling discussion of the changing business of law featuring Marcie Borgal Shunk of The Tilt Institute, Ian Turvill of Freeborn & Peters. Moderated by Geoff Frost, Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on May 12, 2017
Not unlike law firms, large companies constantly struggle to drive change within their organizations. When faced with monumental shifts such as the internet boom, iPhone or, more recently, analytics and artificial intelligence, several companies have profited—financially and, at times, strategically—through investments in the entrepreneurial, often smaller, companies pioneering change. Many, including big brand names Microsoft, Intel, Merck and even General Mills, do this through corporate venture capital arms, or CVCs.
Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer, April 21, 2017 (subscription required)
The past several years have seen a remarkable rise in demand for pricing and project management professionals at law firms. Consultants, businesses and entire conferences, such as The Legal Marketing Association's P3, have evolved to tackle the challenges evoked by increased rate pressure and client demand for efficiencies. For some firms approaching the concept of efficient service delivery holistically, the results can be impressive. Yet for others the improvements are isolated, limited or nonexistent—
Strategic planning exercises are rampant in the legal sector right now, and for good reason. The market dynamics demand a better way – a new way – to approach clients and outpace the competition. Alongside this shift is a seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge. There is an industry-wide yearning to understand where markets are headed, how client needs are changing and what the future holds.
Perfectionism is a tendency with which many of us have an intimate familiarity. In our personal lives, we acknowledge that demanding perfection from those around us, such as our spouses or children, is detrimental and can harm our relationships. In ourselves, we tolerate perfectionism as part of who we are, sometimes embracing it and other times reflecting (or needing to be reminded) that “to err is human.” Yet perfectionism in our professional lives, particularly in our approach to deliverables, is often regarded as an acceptable norm. As an extension of that, perfectionism embedded in a firm’s culture...
Just a handful of today’s law firms boast a truly sophisticated CI function; one capable of contributing at a high level to the firm’s most vital decisions: where to open a new office, whether a new service offering responds to existing client needs, what are the vulnerabilities in a competitor’s position (and how to capitalize on it), what innovations are capturing client dollars, which strategic priorities demand the greatest investment of resources in the short- and long-term, etc. Yet it is here where CI offers the most promise for the future. Why not make 2017 the year to take your law firm’s CI to the next level?