Strategy and the Legal Profession

Strategy and the Legal Profession

James R. McCarthy, MS, CPC

Would your lawyers ever go into court without having done extensive planning for their cases?

Would they ever go to an important new client without doing exhaustive research before setting foot in the door?

Perhaps the most significant challenges faced by law firms in today’s economic and competitive environment is defining and effectively managing their strategic development and their operational performance. The most successful firms in today’s unique business milieu have a capacity, indeed, an appetite for strategic thinking, – for clear, simple, strong, management systems, and internal operating structures

It is essential that law firms be certain that the expertise they bring to their market meets the present and future needs of their business. In practical terms, firms must focus on client needs and the ability of their lawyers to meet those needs. They need to be closely attuned to changes in the clients’ businesses, moves made by their clients’ competitors, and trends and forecasts for the markets in which their clients operate.

Additionally, when planning their strategy, law firms must focus sharply on differentiation and innovation. The most forward looking and astute firms take the time to figure out where they currently fit in the marketplace, and where they want to fit as they move ahead. They create a distinctive and defensible position, and then plan how to get there. Firms need to answer the most basic of questions… Why are we successfully attracting clients now?... How do we want to attract them in the future?

Simply put, the factors driving firms to embrace strategic thinking are:

  • Client issues
    - Mergers and acquisitions (both with clients, and with law firms)
    - More demanding clients
    - Reduction in the use of outside firms by corporate clients
  • Competitor issues
    - Constant competition for clients and resources
    -Countering competitors’ strategic moves that make them more differentiated, and thus directly threaten your firm’s revenue base
    - Commoditization of even high-value work
  • Internal issues
    - Management of expectations and profitability goals
    - Flight risk of star performers
    - The difficulty of running complex organizations

In most law firms, practice areas and client ‘lists’ have grown up almost haphazardly as opportunities have presented themselves. No one in the firm really focuses on the overall strategy of the firm. This lack of a strategic focus can result in, among other issues: marketplace confusion; failure to cross-sell; internal frustration and low morale, loss of key staff, and ultimately, sub-par economic performance.

The most strategically valid positions for law firms must start with the focus on practice areas, client sectors, net income per partner, and the value position the firm occupies in the perception of its current clients, as well as would-be clients.

Strategy is the Sine Qua Non of success for firms of all sizes. The same attention to detail that is the hallmark of an excellent lawyer, or of an outstanding firm representing their clients, is the same attention to detail that must go into planning for the growth of the professional practice(s) and total business development. Good strategic planning is very often the deciding factor in determining who just survives – or who prospers.

Introducing The Prometheus Strategic Planning System™ for Law Firms

The Prometheus Process can help your firm be very clear about its value position in today’s fast-paced, challenging environment. Prometheus is based on a fundamental assumption: You won’t win in the twenty-first century by merely reacting to change, or making incremental improvements to maintain your current position. To win, you must decide what you want your tomorrow to be, and then make it happen faster than the rate of change in your competitive environment.

Prometheus is an absolutely unique, systematic and proven method for designing winning strategies. The process itself is straightforward enough to grasp readily, yet sophisticated enough to use for planning and executing a comprehensive overall strategic plan for your firm. Prometheus guides you to focus on the future and to rapidly decide what the real measurements of success need to be; it teaches you how to quickly find the right ‘targets’ for action that will give you the most return on your investments. For example:

  • practice areas, and their associated value to the firm and its clients
  • market position
  • cross-selling
  • billing and collection procedures
  • etc.

The Prometheus Process shows you how to think about different organizational concepts, and it leads you to plan as carefully for the end of ‘product’ (e.g., services, brand, core knowledge areas, etc.) and business cycles, as for the beginning.

The Prometheus Process demonstrates why the normal serial (one thing at a time) approach to problem solution and strategic development has such a low probability of success; Prometheus provides you with concepts and tools to move to Parallel Operations (moving against multiple leverage points at once), with their high probabilities of success and accompanying low cost and low risk.

As important as strategic thinking and action have always been, in the complex and rapidly changing setting within which the legal profession operates, they are more important then ever. The Prometheus Process is a comprehensive methodology for rapidly creating and executing good strategy throughout an organization; it applies to any size firm—very large to very small—from multi-practice firms to smaller, more focused concerns.

The Prometheus Process is a proven approach to developing and executing strategy in almost any situation. It helps individual lawyers, practice leaders, or firms stay ahead of change and complexity. It is a necessity for any organization wanting to maximize opportunities, minimize risk, and see excellent results on investments of people, time and money.

Its essence is simple: think strategically, focus sharply, and move quickly. Prometheus has a powerful message. You can control your destiny—if you are willing to shed yesterday’s thinking about strategy, and make the future what you want it to be.



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