Legal practice is changing – changing faster than professional practice can absorb.
It is an inescapable fact that there are too many firms all providing a similar offering.
Staying true to the ethos of being a professional in a commoditised market is hugely problematical.
Firms have opted to segment their practices but have been so buffeted by the recession and despite the areas that most thought would provide growth – litigation, insolvency and employment – they have not properly sat down and tried to plot the future.
It is conjecture, but, I suspect, few have undertaken a P.E.S.T.E.L (Political, Economic, Societal, Technological, Environmental and Legal) analysis to see where they can exploit their existing services or where they might need to bolster their offering(s). Or indeed have they done the same exercise with their own clients to see where they might add value?
Should partners back sectors where fees are not discounted? Should they go for emerging sectors like Green Technology/Energy? Should they back a niche sector where the competition is much less? Or should they back a person who has their own following and has the potential to grow a team?
There are no certainties but, like most of us, their decision-making will be informed by what they did in the past. But the past is no guarantee to success going forward.
In my view partners need to start thinking much more carefully about their firm’s offering and their place within it. This goes to my point about working on the business and not in it. In other words moving out of the circle of being a technician and adopting a entrepreneurial perspective.
Sometimes plotting strategy is incredibly difficult but rather than looking at growing a sector, perhaps partners should look more carefully at (exploiting) the potential of their existing clients.
Which clients can they WOW?
Which clients are likely to give the strongest recommendations?
What types of client relationship could be further developed by offering additional service lines?
Who are your raving fans?
Which clients can you afford to drop, leaving you open to concentrate on developing more profitable relationships?
It is hugely important that partners spend enough time working out which clients they really want to act for. This is not premised on how much they can bill but rather do they fit with the practice and the people within it. Stop trying to be all things to all people.
If you can work on the client relationship then chances are that that will give you the feedback that you need to work out where you should be going with the practice. Sometimes the best strategy is just to execute like hell and see what emerges.