Posted by: johnocunningham | June 26, 2013

The Evolution of the Chief Strategy Officer in Law Firms

The evolution and future of chief strategy officers was one of the timely topics discussed at the LSSO RainDance conference in June, with Chief Strategy Officers Patrick Johansen of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione and Steven Petrie of Faegre Baker Daniels leading the conversation.

Among other things, they noted that 16 law firms have added CSO positions in the last decade, and six in 2012 alone, as increased competition for shrinking corporate legal spending has sharpened strategic focus.

This development was a long time coming for law firms, which now place a high priority on discovering and quantifying potential growth opportunities, as well as planning for the future. The lead speakers noted that law firms now also ask their CSOs to tackle profitability analysis and competitive intelligence, and less commonly, process improvement. and practice management.

These strategic priorities differ somewhat from those of corporate America, which focuses first on competitive intelligence and internal communications, and secondarily on vision, planning and employee education or training.

The RainDance CSOs also noted that law firms are still developing their notions of “what goes in the CSO bucket,” with various firms including or not including:

  • Marketing;
  • Business development;
  • Communications;
  • Community relations;
  • Operations;
  • Execution;
  • Innovation;
  • Product development;
  • Lateral recruitment and integration; and
  • Other responsibilities arguably related to strategy.

The CSOs also recommended two books for legal marketing, sales and service pros on the subject of strategy:

  • “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy,” by Richard Rumelt; and
  • “The Four Disciplines of Execution,” by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling (the title commonly referred to as “4DX” now).

By now, all law firm leaders should have or should be developing strategies, even if they have no CSO. It is now a matter of survival for lawyers to ask themselves what they are selling, to whom they are selling, how they are selling it, and what tools they need to be successful in the execution of their chosen marketplace strategies.


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