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Strategy for a Growing Law Firm

The challenge
Difference in opinion among partners as to the future strategy for growth.
Individual partner interviews followed by group sessions to iron out what were the key issues before making significant changes to the way the partnership operates.

This client has over ten equity partners. They have grown steadily and consistently, but were reaching a point where decisions about the future needed to be made. Their issues were largely the consequences of their success and they were moving into another league. They had had a number of partnership strategy sessions over the years and we were asked to see if we could help them to move on to further success.

Already a Successful Partnership

Although they had been successful, this had produced a number of tensions. As different parts of the firm had grown at different rates and as the markets had changed, there appeared to be different agendas emerging, as well as generational differences between the younger partners and their more established colleagues.

The workshop itself was set for one day at a weekend. Two weeks prior to the workshop we interviewed all of the equity partners for 45 minutes. We had a standard set of questions but each of them was encouraged to express their concerns and ambitions for the firm, and to describe in the broadest terms how they felt their role fitted in the firm and what contributions they were best fitted to make. Not surprisingly, a number of themes emerged which allowed us to create a draft agenda, which was then agreed with the management committee.

The day included both large group sessions, including all partners, and a number of break-out groups which were addressing the key themes that emerged from the prior interviews. Each break-out group was chaired by a partner - but always one of the more junior partners. Each group had a detailed brief and reported back the considered view as to what the firm should do about the issue. To say discussions were full and frank would, perhaps, be an understatement. By the end, there was no lack of clarity about the issues. Towards the end of the day, we then invited another of the junior partners to manage a session in which they picked the top priorities out of the matters which had been discussed. Three of the six main subjects were deemed to need detailed follow-through.

Setting the Law Firm Management Agenda

Commendably, the partnership then agreed to set up three working parties - all partners were included in one of the working parties which then had to work through the issues in greater detail and, over a period of six months, implement significant changes to the way that the partnership and the management operated.

The process proved to be extremely enlightening to most, if not all, of the partners. In the process some of the things which were thought to be major problems were found to be far less serious. They discovered as a firm that, in practice, they were far better at many things than they believed they were - but a few areas of overconfidence had also crept in and these have since been addressed.

The firm has been particularly good in following through on the workshop and we have seen a number of the results. For us, to be told "I have been a partner here and in another firm for over 15 years and that was far and away the best such session I have ever been involved in," was extremely satisfying.

Not all of the problems have gone away. The pace of change in the legal market has not slowed down in the meantime; this client is navigating their way through the change at least as well as most of their competitors. We are pleased to have played a small part in helping them to do so.

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