Law firms, which must generate revenue like any business, find themselves in a perilous market that is constantly changing. Accordingly, lawyers must stay vigilant about avoiding the pitfalls that often drive law firms out of business.
Change in the legal industry is constant. The rate of change has also accelerated in recent times. The legal landscape of 2021 looks markedly different than just a year ago and a year from now will likely appear wholly new again.
Looking Forward, Not Back
As a business owner, developing a successful strategy for long-term growth requires excellent forecasting skills in terms of predicting what the market will demand your goods or services and how you can meet the supply. Glimpsing the future comes with the territory.
Generally speaking, the legal profession does not share the same outlook. As a discipline, law is conservative in the sense that it is forever looking backward for guidance – in the form of legal precedents, etc. By design, the past largely dictates the path forward in law. When the Founders were drafting the US Constitution, for example, they intentionally created a lawmaking process that is protracted to prevent sudden destabilizing events.
In times of slow social and economic change, this perspective is not a liability and even be an overall benefit in terms of mediating such systemic changes that can have a truly destabilizing effect on society. However, in times like this when upheaval is the name of the game, the law can often lag behind to the detriment of participants in the legal system, which at some point will include nearly everyone in society.
How to Enact Strategic Change in a Law Firm
Law firm leaders have been forced to rethink how they enact change in their business. Rather than reacting to a changing environment after the fact, the ideal strategy (per the previous section) is forward-looking, attempting to analyze how planned changes might affect both the internal operations of the business as well as the firm’s viability in the broader market.
Generally, the four basic requisites for strategic change include having an identifiable objective, competent and adaptive leadership, the right competencies, and appropriate reactions to emerging challenges.
Understandably, many people, including law firm staff, resist change. However, survival in the law market requires flexibility and continual adaptation.