Why lawyers fear change

In a nutshell: they have worked in an environment where hitherto there has been no pressing need.

The problem is that those people who fear change the least are the ones that are least empowered. It is the inverse dynamic that should be harnessed.

Can you imagine saying to all the newly qualified solicitors, here you run the place? Whoops there goes a flying pig.

Change is never easy. Look at your own life.

Most people would rather stick with easy, cosy and predictable than try something that was hard, uncertain and risky.

Of course, the economy may be stifling change for lack of money but this is a poor excuse.

Change starts with little but momentus things. You know, like talking to your clients more and not charging them.

Or having a cross-functional task force whose sole purpose is to win more work from existing clients.

Or a recommendation system that was purposeful – all action and no talk isn’t going to get you very far.

Or perhaps saying thank you a few more times a day.

I have to say though that had the economy not crashed, it is highly likely that law firm management would have been even less likely to accept the need for change. They would have been content to sit on their hands.

Now I am not  advocating blind change, or change for changes sake – God knows there has been enough of that in the past. No, I am advocating that you drop the excuses and talk in terms of things that can and should be done. Stop making hard work of things.

Where to start? The $64,00 question.

People.

People.

People.

Engage everyone in the firm. Talk to them about something other than the damn work in progress, unpaid bills and chargeable time.

Inspire them. Find out how to reach inside and reignite their passion for law or the business of law. Anything other than those damn figures all the time.

If you have run out of ideas get someone in from outside the firm. An actor, artist or entertainer. Somebody who knows how to tell stories, practices customer service for real and is used to getting the most out of a team. The point is that you want to show that there is something outside of the world of law but has immediate applicability to your firm. One of the best in-house courses I attended was by a former opera singer who worked with everyone on voice projection, confidence and just being a bit less robotic.

The point is, if you can inspire and enthuse your people then it will be far easier to start having difficult but necessary conversations about the issues that all firms are facing, chief amongst those being staying in business.

I keep banging on about Zappos and it would be nice if someone in legal practice would come back and say: “You think they are good, check out what we are doing.”

I know it sounds very American (no disrespect to our USA cousins), but “Get Over IT!”.

Just accept that change is inevitable and the quicker you embrace it the greater that you will be around to tell your grandchildren the ‘horrors’ of running a law practice in 2011.

The only way to drive through change is to stop working on the business and instead work on the business (see the the E-Myth by Michael E Gerber). Stop acting like a technician. Yes you will worry about who will do your work but if you don’t lift your head up and start thinking like an entrepreneur then by the time you look around the vista will be so empty that you might as well shut up shop now.

Embrace change and treat it as important as how much you get paid and how much profit you make. You might just be surprised with the results.

~ JS ~

6 responses to “Why lawyers fear change”

  1. Miriam Said says:

    I think a lot of law firms should start to embrace a research and development annex to their firms. This would alleviate a lot of fear they may be experiencing with implementing changes to the business.

    A legal team that looks into innovative choices to implement change and test ideas out before going “live” with those changes. Or in effect a damage limitation of any risks involved.

    It would also show that an idea or a change could also work smoothly once it is implemented, thus reducing the fear and worry.

    However the key to this is to involve every one in the company.

  2. Miriam Said says:

    I think a lot of law firms should start to embrace a research and development annex to their firms. This would alleviate a lot of fear they may be experiencing with implementing changes to the business.

    A legal team that looks into innovative choices to implement change and test ideas out before going “live” with those changes. Or in effect a damage limitation of any risks involved.

    It would also show that an idea or a change could also work smoothly once it is implemented, thus reducing the fear and worry.

    However the key to this is to involve every one in the company.

  3. Thanks Miriam. Great post.

  4. Thanks Miriam. Great post.

  5. Yvette Rooke says:

    Julian….what you say just makes so much sense to me. And you speak from experience of being a lawyer which makes your point even more forcefully.

  6. Yvette Rooke says:

    Julian….what you say just makes so much sense to me. And you speak from experience of being a lawyer which makes your point even more forcefully.

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