The Michelin *Starred* Law Firm
Ever since Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver and Nigella, we have become a nation obsessed with our culinary delights. Oh, and don’t forget my favourite, Keith Floyd.
But this group of cooks has been superseded by a number of incredibly talented, Michelin star chefs, most notably Heston Blumenthal.
Watching the latest series of Materchef, the contestants, in the semi-final stages, have been given the opportunity to cook at some of the most outstanding establishments that this country has to offer. What has struck me is the absolute passion, dedication, mastery and matchless effort that each service requires, and a number of the contestants have been found wanting.
The Michelin starred Law Firm
Law firms have very many regulatory hurdles to overcome, and that must be right. There are also innumerable quality standards – Investors in People, Lexcel, ISO and self-imposed programmes – but there is no such thing as a Michelin star/or stars for law firms.
Part of the problem is that, fundamentally, law firms have not (yet) figured out their identity.
Do they want to be:
1) A high street firm?
2) A virtual firm?
3) A single sited practice or a multi-sited practice?
4) A niche practice?
5) A firm that focuses on a few key sectors?
6) A firm that separates out various types of clients, and considers a rebranding to deal with one type but retains the core brand for the most profitable clients?
7) A firm that decides to fully adopt an on-line model for the delivery of services?
The litmus test is usually profit, but over what period? Even those firms that are looking 5 years hence are doing so by reference to past behaviour to an extent. Many firms, wrongly in my view, are looking at their nearest, most successful competitor and making judgments, sometimes key judgments, based on what they are doing. If that is the case then they would be wise to read Seth Godin’s book, The Purple Cow. In that he states at p.20:
“What all those companies [who are remarkable] have in common is that they have nothing in common. They are outliers. They’re on the fringes. Super-fast or super-slow. Very exclusive or very cheap. Very big or very small.
The reason it’s so hard to follow the leader is this: The leader is the leader because he did something remarkable. And that remarkable thing is now taken – it’s no longer remarkable when you do it.”
I wonder how many firms have as part of their stated aim to be remarkable. I never came across one in 14 years of practice. Sure they wanted to offer a quality service but that is no different to any other law firm. But the point is you have find what works for you and makes you stand out.
This brings me back to the point of my post.
What if you were going to be judged by a team of Michelin inspectors, who would arrive unannounced and you could either gain or lose a star, depending on the results of their inspection?
What would this do for the brand, the firm’s charges, recruitment, marketing, exposure, talent retention and appointment and attracting ever better clients. Would you be prepared to try that much harder?
Lawyers in my experience make a big play of saying that they thrive under pressure and most of them do have a proclivity to work better to a deadline – I am sure that applies to most people. But when it comes to the annual audit process – which is based on what was done in the past – they pay lip service to it and very often there is a last minute scramble to get the forms completed. Was the client ever consulted as part of the process? No, never. Wouldn’t that be a much better test of the firm’s service delivery? Now I know that doesn’t happen with a Michelin inspection but at least the inspector is eating the food and experiencing the service before passing judgment.
Now I am not advocating more Red Tape, bureaucracy or nonsense around a meaningless audit process, but I would love to see how lawyers engaged with a significant and meaningful and World Wide standard? My view is that it would very quickly sort the wheat from the chaff; and you would see emerge those people that were up for the challenge and were willing to go the extra mile to make a difference. I also believe it would bring people closer together.
Next time you are thinking of your firm’s mantra, vision or mission statement, I would encourage you to think like a Michelin starred chef. The key point is that if your firm is going to expand, develop and become more profitable you have to a goal that is meaningful and sufficiently aspirational so that everyone believes in it with all their heart and soul and can see themselves growing and developing as the firm does.
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