Strategising in Law Firms

Strategising in Law Firms

How can law firms ensure they are making the best, most productive strategic decisions? With issues such as Brexit on the horizon, we look at how decision-makers in firms can ensure they improve their competitiveness through effective performance management. Peter Scott, former managing partner of Eversheds Sutherlands’ London and European offices and now a consultant to UK law firms on governance, discusses the questions decision makers should be asking, and what to look out for in the near future.

What factors do law firms take into account when making strategic decisions and why is it important for firms to stay on top of these?

‘The problem is that most senior lawyers think only two months ahead. They have no coherent picture of the future. The planning is not being done. And it is senior lawyers who need to be driving change.’ Professor Richard Susskind (May 2009)

I am not sure whether Richard Susskind’s comment is still a fair reflection of the strategic planning by all law firms, because—to my knowledge—many have over the past decade made serious efforts to plan for their futures, and these plans are now bearing fruit. However, for others there seems to be no forward planning being done, as shown by the problems around succession planning where many lawyers put their heads in the sand when it comes to ‘future proofing’ their firms.

What is strategy?

I have for many years working with law firms, used the following as a template to help law firms think through their future planning. Create a realistic plan or course of action:

  1. to gain competitive advantage
  2. which uses available (but scarce) resources (existing or to be generated)

This needs to be differentiated from unrealistic and unachievable ‘wish lists’ and implementation—the ‘making it happen’.

The above definition raises some fundamental questions which will need to be asked:

  1. where are we now?
  2. where do we want to get to?
  3. how are we going to get there?

In addition, questions such as the following need to be regularly asked and answered as part of the strategic thinking process:

  1. what kind of firm do we realistically want to be?
  2. what needs to change in this firm?

What do firms look for when strategising and horizon scanning and what do clients like to see? What are some current examples of trends that firms are taking into consideration?

The most fundamental strategic issues currently needing to be addressed include:

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