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The toughest competition of all

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for small law firms in small legal markets is to recruit and - sometimes even more difficult - retain high-quality associates. The assumption is that the small markets and the small law firms are at a substantial disadvantage. Our firm's observations, advising...

Free Lunch

A surprising number of otherwise sophisticated law firms spend a horrifying amount of time and money pursuing strategic alliances, partnerships, or other relationships with other firms. Some of these relationships work well. Most, however, produce disappointing results for both parties. This is the...

'Do you come here often?'

Sometimes finding the right strategic partner is like looking for a new romance in a bar. The key to success is finding points of affinity upon which to build a relationship, whether for the rest of the evening or for a lifetime. This is a second of a series of posts about common mistakes law firms...

Two very important new articles on psychology and law firm management

My partner, Lisa M. Walker Johnson , has recently written two articles applying counseling psychology to two important challenges to law firm management. Until Death...or Retirement: Thinking Differently About the End of a Law Firm Career This is a pioneering consideration of how a trend toward...

Past success does not guarantee survival.

Today the Law Society Gazette reports that a well-regarded century-old Sheffield law firm, Ashton Morton Slack, LLP , has failed. The firm had five equity partners and 67 staff, and was a general service law firm. The firm cites falling fee revenues and rising overheads as the major causes of a fatal...

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...

I hope that I am wrong, but…

In the past few weeks a number of our firm's clients have asked me what our firm thinks about the economic outlook for the United States in 2011. I have to be less than optimistic about 2011. As Paul Krugman pointed out in his column in yesterday's New York Times , the U.S. economy is still...

Oops…ouch!

There is a great e-mail "horror story" on law.com today, about a friendly, helpful auto-complete function in a lawyer's e-mail software that resulted in his disqualification from a Federal case and an assessment of $40,000 in fees and costs. The title is " E-mail 'Oops'...

Getting serious about associate profitability

Associate profitability could be the most important management issue for many - maybe even most - law firms over the next three to five years. One of the central features of law firms that have managed to increase profits against declining fee revenues has been a serious inquiry into the profitability...

Risky business

The new year brings an upsurge in risky business. To hire a partner from another law firm is one of the riskiest decisions that lawyers and law firms make. As we begin the new year we are already observing an upsurge in lateral recruiting and hiring of law firm partners. This is the time when partners...

“Selling” a new compensation plan to your partners

As noted before in this blog, the past three months have been an unusually busy time for our firm's partner compensation practice. Law firm partners worldwide are asking whether their present partner compensation plans are still relevant to the changed business conditions and internal professional...

Are law firm newsletters worthwhile?

I recently participated in an interesting discussion with a group of law firm partners about the value of newsletters. About half of the group said that their firm's newsletter was worthwhile overall; but the other half argued that it was a complete waste of time and resources. Research that...

The 10% Solution

I was recently asked about the improvements that law firms can expect to achieve when they establish a serious quality assurance program. "Does all this quality stuff really produce results?" We need to be clear that quality assurance is not just a lot of slogans or exhortations to the...

Why take the risk?

This is a the second in a series of nine posts about successful - and profitable - innovation in law firms. As readers of this blog already have observed, Walker Clark, LLC, takes a strong risk-management approach to many aspects of law firm strategy and management. However, we also recognize that...

Ready, fire, aim… oops!

This is the fourth in a series of nine postings about the secrets of successful innovation in law firms. Successful innovations are not brainstorms that are instantly transferred from the flip chart to business reality. Instead, there must be a disciplined investment of intellectual energy to ensure...

Prudent planning for innovation

This is the fifth in a series of nine postings about successful innovation in law firms. Today we look at the third secret of successful innovation. Write a conservative plan. Conservative - even skeptical - planning might seem to be antithetical to concepts of energetic innovation; but it is actually...

Year-end countdown: accounts receivable

As we approach the end of September, firms with fiscal years ending in December should already be taking the first steps in their year-end fee collection campaign. Your firm's billing team will probably do most of the heavy work, but in well-managed law firms the billing partner for each file...

Lawyer with a video game addiction

I just received the monthly newsletter of the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Board. Not Fun and Games: Lawyer with Video Game Addiction Suspended This month's most interesting disciplinary decision is the case of Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Matthew J. Eshelman . By order dated August 17...

Getting beyond the myth of the rainmaker

Too many lawyers believe that only "natural rainmakers" can win new clients. This is possibly one of the biggest factors in poor marketing and business development in law firms. Not believing that they can be good at marketing, many lawyers discourage themselves, and sometimes are discouraged...

Year-end countdown: individual business plans

Do partners in your firm have individual business plans? My colleagues and I have observed that in some law firms the combined strength of the individual business plans of each partner can be more important that the overall quality of the firm's business plan. This is not to say that firm...

“Dead files” — but do they need to smell bad?

One of the best sources of entertainment about professional ethics is the monthly newsletter of the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania (USA) Supreme Court. Because I cannot begin to approach the wittiness of their writers, I beg their pardon for quoting this month's example of bizarre professional...

Leadership: actions and words

In September and October 2011, our firm conducted a worldwide survey about law firm leadership, as part of our ongoing support of the Law Firm Management Committee of the International Bar Association . 374 lawyers participated, more than half of whom are or have been managing partners of law firms...

The challenges of change in managing lawyer careers

Our firm is currently advising several law firms about improvements to their career management policies and procedures. In some legal markets this has become a very important strategic issue - not just one of internal human resources management. In order to make the improvements that are necessary...

Market leaders lead the market

When a group of law firm partners discusses significant changes in their respective firms, one of them will almost certainly say: "But no other firm in our market does this..." We have three responses that we ask our clients to consider: First, are you sure? We have frequently discovered...

Required Viewing: Paddy Ashdown on the “Global Power Shift”

My colleagues at Walker Clark and I frequently stress the critical importance of informed strategic planning. Part of that information should include an in-depth understanding of the major trends that are shaping our changing world. Although global in scope, such forces have powerful effects on national...