For Success in Law: What Are You Forgetting?

By: Dennis McCue

Many legal practitioners assume that merely hanging out their shingle will automatically deliver business their way. Though true once upon a time, it’s less and less true in today’s competitive world. Also, though client work is obviously of high importance, it can also distract from other elements of business success such as equitable partnership contracts, productive employee relationships, profitable client fees and retirement planning.

This article will cover success points that are crucial to a law practice’s long-term success but are commonly forgotten and thus never implemented, including:

Equitable Partnerships
1. Are your expectations clearly expressed?
2. Who’s accountable for what? Examining rewards & Consequences
3. Taking good care of documents

A Law Firm is a Business
1. Key characteristics of a successful firm
2. Profit motive: Are you being attentive to your bottom line?
3. How to shift from “business as usual" to profitability

Clear Vision
1. Having a clear vision for the future development and direction of your firm is CRITICAL to success.
2. Yet many firms operate with NO IDEA of where they want to be in future years.
3. Though partners focus their attention on client needs and – hopefully – attracting more clients, they often do not have a real sense of responsibility for the firm nor a significant understanding of the role they play within the firm structure.

Mergers & Acquisitions
1. Turf wars! Growth by acquisition may cause more problems that solutions.
2. Have you examined your motivation?
3. Are you honestly communicating your expectations?
4. Defining roles clearly
5. Don’t forget the culture!

Building Employee Relations & Productivity
1. Job definitions
2. You need a culture of accountability
3. Measuring performance
4. Education needs
5. Install a system of rewards and consequences
6. Paths for professional growth

Partner Compensation – The Basics
1. Examining the role of a partner including:
i. Generating clients
ii. Expanding services
iii. Ensuring quality
iv. Maximizing profits
2. Compensation
a. Avoid “bad" approaches!
b. How to reward for achieving the firm’s objectives

Leadership
1. Every firm needs clearly-defined, respected and engaged leadership.
2. A leader sets the direction for the firm and nurtures its growth, keeps the mission present in everyone’s mind, creating a subconscious alignment of the team, built upon the shared aspirations of the partners.
3. Some firms have titular leaders who do not want to lead or who have no support from their partners. They therefore void being responsible to one another, preferring to minimize risk and accountability in favor of maintaining control of their respective practice areas.
4. Principals must be authentically engaged, and committed to the strategic thinking and planning process before.
5. There must be a clearly articulated values and mission for serving your clients.
6. The principals of the firm must formulate a strategic and tactical process that includes honest evaluations of both the internal environment of the firm and outside factors.
7. Managers embrace and support the direction of the firm and communicate it regularly to the people in the practice areas. Their willing and active participation is critical.

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