Definitely Mabey

The change train is picking up speed

First I would be remiss if I didn't thank each of you who, for whatever reasons, have taken the time to read my ramblings again this past year. I know you have choices and that you make this column one of them is very gratifying.

Stephen Mabey Author

When I look back on 2011 it was clearly a year of change. It would seem to me it has been a mixed bag when it comes to the success of the changes attempted by firms. Irrespective of whether the change you are attempting is on a firm, office, department, or personal level there are four key elements that come into play:

  1. Creating a sense of urgency—without a sense of urgency you won't even get out of the gate.
  2. Obtaining buy-in—if those that you are changing don't buy in you are simply pushing string uphill with your nose and all you will get is a scraped chin.
  3. Capturing their hearts as well as their minds—the mind and the heart are like a rider on an elephant—which one do you think controls where they go.
  4. Communication—communicate—communicate— communicate and when you think you have communicated—communicate—communicate— communicate again.

Neglecting any one of the above elements seriously increases the odds of failure.

I hope none of you are tired of change yet as it is only going to get faster and more profound in 2012. Perhaps it is best expressed by Stuart Popham, a former senior partner with Clifford Chance LLP, when he is quoted as having said: “The legal profession faces the classic choice of seeing the future as a challenge or as an opportunity. But it can only accept change; it does not have the luxury nor the choice to ignore it. That change is overdue and, in my view, is going to be significant—indeed dramatic. For too long the profession has retained the hope that it can hide while change passes it by. No longer.”

  • How many international mergers will include Canadian law firms;
  • how many Canadian law firms who fought change will fail;
  • how many practice groups will be jettisoned out of firms as they focus on what they see as “core business”;
  • how large will the shortage of articling jobs grow before law schools come to the table;
  • how many partners will be de-equitized;
  • how many associates will take flight from large law firms;
  • how far will knowledge management advance;
  • how many technical lawyers will understand the need to convert information into insight;
  • how many firms' management will understand the influence of information comes from its communication and not its ownership?

Lots of questions with the answer not if, but how many.

An interesting challenge that will face many firms in 2012 and subsequent years is the inundation of information and data streams (including e-mails) and the negative impact it is having on effective decision-making in law firms.

The slide below was used in a recent webinar put on for the Legal Marketing Association (LMA) and it attempts to sum up the issue—an issue that is also applicable to the manner in which many firms are delivering legal services and why few of them, if any, will achieve the status of Trusted Adviser with their clients. The book Drinking From The Fire Hose was co-authored by Christopher Frank and Paul Magnone and published by the Penguin Group and is worthy of a serious read this holiday season.


The rest of this article is available in Stephen Mabey's new Book

Book Cover - Leading and Managing a Sustainable Law Firm - Tactics & Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Profession by Stephen Mabey

Available for purchase on BookBaby.



Until the next column, remember as the late John F. Kennedy is attributed as having said

"the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain.”

Comments or Questions?

Go to our Article Index


First Published in Canadian Lawyer December 2011. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant