Thomas Clay, a principal at Altman Weil and a former V.P. and general manager for a venture capital firm, has recently published a compelling article about the future of law firms, entitled, “What Are the Obligations of Partners in 2012 and Beyond?”
In it, he makes the case that law firms need to get each of their partners to “act like an owner” of their business in order to survive, noting that it’s a buyer’s market for legal services and that clients “have necessarily become less wedded to any one lawyer or firm [due to] onerous budget pressures.”
As an experienced observer and analyst of the legal market, Clay also outlines five specific obligations that should be demanded of each partner in every law firm, the top two of which are centered on:
- Providing superior service quality, as determined by the client; and
- Developing business through the acquisition of skills and habits that each and every lawyer can learn.
For law firms who want to thrive in today’s increasingly competitive environment, this is an excellent prescription, and an action plan to insure the fulfillment of these top two obligations might well begin with the following “to do” list:
- Conduct regular and thoughtful surveys of your clients regarding the quality, value and responsiveness of the firm’s service (if your biggest and most successful corporate clients do this every year as a way of life, then maybe you should too);
- Conduct regular, interactive and engaging programs on business development, marketing and sales for lawyers; and
- Develop a marketing and business development action plan for each lawyer that will act not as a “nag sheet” but as a useful tool for them in developing the value of their own business, as well as the firm’s brand.
As Clay says, true business owners “wake up thinking about the health and well-being of the business and what they can do that day to increase its value.” Law firm partners need to do the same if they want to survive and thrive in this competitive environment.