Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Very Model of the Modern Law Firm...

In a meeting this week I was asked to provide a model for the modern law firm - what I think it should look like and its governance. This was in response to the person I was speaking with commenting on this blog and suggesting that I was better at saying what people were doing wrong rather than suggesting what they should be doing instead. I'm not convinced that criticism is entirely fair, but in the spirit of his suggestion I offer the following "rules" for the people in a successful law firm and for the firm itself:

  1. Be passionate about what you do. It sounds very obvious to me, but the people involved in the running of the organisation (and, really, that's everyone) should be passionate about the thing they are doing it. I'm sure that most solicitors can remember their reasons for coming to the law and I'd be surprised if many of them mentioned money. . 
  2. Be good at what you do. Yes, I do think this is secondary to passion - but excellence in your chosen area of work is also essential. Work hard at it, practice it, refine your skills every day.
  3. Remember what is important - don't confuse with the urgent. It's very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities of work and to forget what is important. It's very easy for tasks to seem important just because they are urgent. Decide what is important, talk about it, and focus on it
  4. Use experts & specialise. Partners in law firms are very good lawyers - I can't think of many that aren't. They are experts in their fields. Following on from points 1 and 2 above, the reason they are experts is likely to be because they are passionate about it and good at it. The same applies throughout the organisation. Find accountants and IT people who are passionate about their subjects. It is vital that the firm finds someone to be passionate about the administrative task of running the firm. Trained, professional, managers and leaders have that passion. Let everyone specialise - let the lawyers practice law, they the IT people sort the IT out and let the managers manage.
  5. Communicate. All the time. With everyone. Communicate with your clients - as a passionate and expert lawyer (see above) they will be engaged, interested and, eventually, hooked. Communicate with the staff - engage them in the firm. Communicate about strategy - never assume that "everyone knows what we do here". 
  6. Be mobile. Physically and emotionally. Physically - go to your clients. Don't always have them come to you. Seeing them in context can make a huge amount of difference. Wander around your office - don't just walk through reception to your office. It will give you opportunities to communicate  - and remember that communication is a two-way process, so prepare to listen. Be available for the "while you/re here" conversation that would not happen if you were not wandering past. Emotionally - don't be afraid to change your mind or to try something new. "All change is bad" is a mantra that has no place in any good organisation.
  7. Ask questions. You have employed experts to run your firm - but ask them questions. They like to know that you care and are interested in the work they do for you and for the firm. Be interested in the running of the firm and, if possible, get engaged in the strategic decision making process. Question what the firm is doing (in a structured and sensible manner, of course). 
  8. Care. Care about your clients, care about your colleagues, care about your staff, care about your work, care about your environment. 
Simple really. Writing it down certainly is and I accept that actually doing it is much more complex. That doesn't, however, detract from the fact that trying to be and do all the things above is vital to an effective and efficient firm. Remember that they apply to everyone in the firm - partners and associates, paralegals and secretaries, consultants and contractors, support staff and managers. The list also applies to the firm as a whole and as an entity. 

Look at your firm to see how much of this they are doing, You may be pleasantly surprised - and if not, you are in a position to begin the change.

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