Definitely Mabey

One issue fits all

For the past four years, with a steady ramping up to the "sky is falling" theme of articles and blogs of late, parties inside and outside the legal profession have been actively diagnosing its woes. The remedies offered have ranged from self-serving to a genuine interest in being part of the solution.

Stephen Mabey Author

The most frequently offered remedies include:

  • Complement balancing: everyone must deal with underperforming partners; reducing intake of new talent; de-equitization; raising the bar of partnership admission; contract lawyers; increasing the number of paralegals;
  • Sales: (oops I mean business development): sales training; branding or rebranding; more sponsorships; less advertising; commissioned introductions to targeted clients; law firm associations focused on referrals;
  • Engagement: surveys; focus groups; psychological studies; human behavioural specialists; value statements; vision statements; service statements;
  • Expense restraint: staff reductions; cloud technology; mobile apps; office reduction by size and number of locations; training; pooling; supplies procurement;
  • Profitability: key performance indicators; knowledge management; cost accounting; project management; alternative fee arrangements; task-based billing; rate monitoring; profits per partner; lateral hires;
  • Strategic planning: shorter cycles; more action oriented; less paper; client interviews; annual business plans; check-the-box lists; market mavens; need to be a business and not a profession;
  • Compensation: less formulaic; more formulaic; more to rainmakers; broader income gap between 'grinders' and 'minders'; book of business; compensation for all efforts; reduced achievable top end!

"If you really want to save money, stop paying for solutions 'other firms' have embraced and do what makes sense for your firm!"

I don’t doubt some of these solutions have merit for firms whose circumstances really require such a response, although firmly believe there is no cookie-cutter solution for the ills and woes faced by many firms. If you really want to save money, stop paying for solutions “other firms” have embraced and do what makes sense for your firm!

A lesson was reinforced for me this past month—never judge a book by its cover (or the first 17 pages). I am referring to the “2013 Report on the State of the Legal Market” that is a joint production by The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at the Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor. This report is well worth a slow, focused read.

To be fair the first 17 pages contain some meaningful statistics and indicators, deal with the results of 2012 in a measured way, and cover off—in a practical fashion—some of the significant challenges facing the legal profession/industry (in the interest of appearing balanced to both camps). While the data seems aimed at larger sized firms, there is relevance for small and mid-sized firms if for no other reason than you might appreciate more your vantage point.

For me, the real meat of the report is ...

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 next month, as Bruce Barton is believed to have said:

"Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change—this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”

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First Published in Canadian Lawyer February 2013. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant