I've written previously about the lessons that business professionals can learn by looking at law firms that want to increase their profitability. These professionals bring new perspectives and unique ideas to business law and help law firms to find innovative ways to run their operations.
Smaller firms may not have these dedicated professionals. However, smaller firms may not have the resources to generate innovative ideas.
In the past, I have written about how small law firms must manage their resources wisely with a particular focus on human capital. In an earlier article, I discussed the importance of ensuring that the right resources are available at the appropriate levels to handle matters. Management of the human resources in a law firm is more than just how they are staffed or who is performing what task. This means empowering staff to make the firm a better place.
We can see from the results of the Small Law Firm Business Leaders Report that these business leaders have a broad range of jobs and feel empowered and supported to make changes within their law firm. They feel less confident that their law firm partners are truly committed to improving the quality of legal services delivered to clients.
While 85% of small-law firms' business leaders agree that they have the power and ability to drive change within their businesses, only 21% stated that there was strong support from partners for improving the delivery of legal services. This partial disconnect is further reinforced by the fact 57% of small law firm business leaders disagree with this statement.
This is how you might think about it in the context of your firm. Are you willing to change the way you provide legal services to clients? Even if you don't have to do so, would your partners and you be considered to be committed? What are some examples of your commitment?
Perhaps the most difficult question to answer is: How would your staff answer these questions?
Are you positive that your staff would accept the idea of you making some changes? Do you have given your staff reason to believe you would listen to their ideas and implement them if it was in the best interests of your clients? Do you think your staff would agree with the idea that they have the power to make changes in your company?
Many firms fall into the trap of doing things the same way they have always done them and stop looking for innovative solutions for clients' problems. Unfortunately, this is part of our human nature and can affect how and where we work. However, this can also mean that even firms that are open to trying new things for their clients might limit their access to those ideas. This could limit the number of ideas that can be generated by a small firm with a few people.
Some ideas may not be good.
It is possible to see why we wouldn't be able to land on the Moon without someone advocating for it. John Houbolt, a NASA engineer, wrote in 1961 to NASA officials pleading for "lunar orbit rendezvous" as a moon landing plan. This was one option NASA had at the moment, and it was unlikely that any other would be used. Houbolt's advocacy helped NASA adopt the lunar orbit Rendezvous strategy to land man on the Moon less than a year later.
NASA could have spent years studying a strategy that did not work in landing a man on the moon. NASA leadership would not have been open to exploring other ideas. This amazing event would not have sparked innovation, growth, and success across the globe.
Houbolt wrote to NASA officials describing himself as "a voice of the wilderness".
Let's get on to our law firm. Your law firm is a "voice in the wilderness"? Or to put it another way, do your employees feel confident speaking up to demand better ways of getting the answers? Do your employees feel empowered to advocate for change and are they committed to improving the client service?
These are not easy questions, there is no doubt.
What are your options for making changes? You might need to adopt new technologies or examine your workflow for inefficiencies. This could include changing the way your law firm is presented to the public, such as a change in your marketing voice and brand.
You can get new perspectives to help you make informed decisions about how to position the law firm for success in the future. You could find articles online. You could learn from the leaders of other law firms, which may be as large or even larger than yours. Your staff could offer wisdom and experience.
We don't know the answers. We need to openly listen to them and take the steps necessary to help them realize their vision.
All opinions are those of the author. These opinions do not reflect the views of Reuters News. Reuters News is committed to integrity and independence. Thomson Reuters Institute is owned by Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Mark Haddad spent 17 years at Thomson Reuters and is currently the General Manager for the Small Law Firm business of TR's Legal. Haddad was previously Vice President of the Government Sales and Client Management Channel. Haddad was previously the Vice President for Legal's Corporate Segment before he assumed his current position as Vice President for Government Channel. Haddad started his career in the legal sector as an associate at Oppenheimer Wolff Donnelly, now Fox Rothschild. He specialized in MA and public security work. He earned his J.D. He received his J.D.