All the ingredients, but no cake

All the ingredients, but no cake

My colleagues and I at Walker Clark, LLC, occasionally encounter a law firm that should be much more successful than it is.

It has all of the ingredients:

  • Smart, experienced lawyers
  • Admirable dedication to the client
  • An almost religious devotion to professional excellence
  • A strong work ethic
  • A professional culture that claims to value teamwork and collaboration

Despite all of these apparent strengths, the firm seems never to move forward. The firm never is in a life-or-death crisis, but:

  • The firm seems to have more problems than most law firms in recruiting and retaining good legal talent.
  • The partners do not seem to be able to implement any significant decisions or plans.
  • Profitability remains flat.
  • People talk more about past triumphs than future goals.
  • The partners spend a lot of time on trivial issues.
  • One frequently hears the words "disappointing" and "mediocre" used to describe the firm and its business results.

Having all of the right ingredients does not automatically produce a delicious cake.  It takes intellectual discipline to follow a recipe.  It takes an investment of time, effort, and resources.  The proper tools must be used in the right way.  There is also the risk that, even with all of the best ingredients and resources, the cake might either burn to a cinder or undercook into a gooey mess, if someone doesn't watch the oven and keep track of the time.

We have certainly seem this happen to law firms.  It takes ongoing attention to the end goal, not just the assembly of the "ingredients" of a good law firm .  In other words, even the most brilliant lawyers must ensure that their law firm is managed as an integrated business enterprise, and not just a collection of individual legal practices operating out of the same offices.

Without attentive management, even good lawyers can - and usually do -  produce mediocre law firms.

Read more on the Walker Clark Worldview Blog.