“How should I know how ….

~ To allow the partners to keep drawing profits at the same level as 2007/8.

~ To cut the Gordian knot that binds the profession to its historical perspective.

~ To keep the partners motivated.

~ TO KEEP MY SANITY.

~ To keep the bank from losing its nerve.

~ To keep the staff motivated and on target (I dare not give the game away).

~ To understand which horses to back.

~ To know how Jackson/Ken Clarke will affect our PI/ClinNeg practice.”

These and many more unanswered questions will be running through the mind of many Managing Partners. It is a lonely job at the best of times but, right now, they will feel a complete sense of despondency in having to face up to so many issues, many of which do not evince of an answer.

No one likes failure but there will many partnerships who are staring into the abyss and many who will be teetering on the edge of disaster. I would not be surprised if you don’t see a few throw in the towel or get rapidly absorbed.

I have lived and worked through a number of recessions but this one is entirely different. We are so far down the rabbit hole that it will be many years before we can expect to see sustained growth, and I think for my generation it will manifestly affect the way we manage our financial position.

There is no simple answer to the woes of the profession. The best advice may simply be to keep the purse strings pulled shut and carry on as before. But I think that is far too conservative and a missed opportunity.

Right now those firms who have the mildest of entrepreneurial spirit should be focusing on what they really stand for. They need not become inward-looking but instead must identify their very best (service) features, continue to improve those and look for a big fat edge in the market. Sure they offer similar service lines to other firms but if they can get the right people to deliver the service in a way like no one else, then sooner or later they will see an upturn in their client retention, WOM referrals and new client wins. Clients, no matter how loyal, will want to know that if they are paying for a personalised, premium service that they will be treated as something other than a commodity.

This is not rocket science but it is amazing how many firms are not making any effort to differentiate their service offering.

If you are not convinced that this provides a way forward, then start spending more time developing your people. That doesn’t have to mean spending oodles on external training but just getting your partners to practice MBWA (Managing by Wandering About), which is still rock solid even though it was spoken about by Tom Peters as long ago as 1982.

And finally if that wasn’t enough, and no doubt the toughest proposition to embrace, is to get the partners to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves, like any other business owner, should they be taking less out of the business and putting more effort into generating work. Too many partners have sought shelter behind their desks when they should be out meeting clients.

The legal profession still has a future but it won’t look anything like the here and now. It will be smaller, more specialist and lawyers will be doing more for less.

~ J.S. ~