5 barriers that prevent change in law firms

5 barriers that prevent change in law firms

Over the past 30 years, there have been changes in virtually every aspect of UK law firm operations – from re-organisation of work, to mergers and acquisitions that minimise duplication. This pace of change continues to accelerate rapidly.

Yet despite this new reality, there’s a widespread view that the pace of change within law firms is not keeping up. The consequences of the failure to react fast enough can impact not only the profitability, but the survival of law firms.

LexisNexis held two breakfast seminars to look at this issue and to help provide some answers.

The panel was asked to consider if the case for change is so widely accepted, why have large law firms not responded fast enough? And what are the principal barriers to change?

The discussions, which took place on 15 and 17 March 2016, were chaired by Nigel Rea, Director of Precedents and Drafting at LexisNexis. The panel comprised of Mark Smith, Market Development Director at LexisNexis, Kishore Sengupta, Professor at Cambridge Judge Business School, Tim Skipper, Managing Director at Totum, Paul Browne, Partner at Møller PSF Group, and Robert Millard, Partner and Head of Strategy Practice at Møller PSF Group.

5 barriers to change

Kishore Sengupta undertook research on behalf of LexisNexis to look at what’s stopping lawyers from making the necessary changes in their firms. The ensuing report Changing at client speed – what’s stopping law firms? was the basis for his points.

Mr Sengupta conducted a qualitative research programme of the top 50 law firms. This included detailed conversations with senior and junior partners and associates, and senior executives in business support functions. He found five components that acted as a barrier to change.

  1. He suggested that the first barrier is interpreting implications of the external environment. Decision makers need to judge when to act on external changes and look at the wider repercussions – which is no easy task. If a firm is profitable at that moment in time, why should the focus be on changing things?
  2. The next was an inability and unwillingness to take the lead. If the case for change has been made – and accepted – who should lead on it in the firm? Leaders of law firms are focused on external clients and often don’t want to act as internal managers.
  3. The third was business models and organisational structures. One question frequently asked was what change means in terms of job roles. How do leaders in fir

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About the author:
Sarah Plaka is Editor of Halsbury’s Law Exchange and Future of Law blog. She is Communications Manager at LexisNexis, specialising in corporate communications, content marketing, digital cultures and legal reform.