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The Cultural Dimensions Of Leveraging Institutional Knowledge

Published in Managing Partner magazine
December 2015 / January 2016

Many law firms position themselves as having a client-centred strategy but fail to embrace knowledge sharing about clients and relationships. Generally, it is not a paucity of systems which prevents firms from capitalising on their client knowledge. Whilst systems will drive speed and efficiency, it is attitudes that drive effectiveness and enable firms to fulfil the potential of their client base. The term ‘knowledgeability’ best describes the attitudinal and cultural shifts that are needed. Knowledgeability is a collective term for the many techniques by which a firm’s latent knowledge can be transformed into business assets. The key to realising this opportunity is to shape culture to prioritise the sharing of knowledge and relationships.

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Attitudes to anticipate your law firm’s future

From next month, I will be writing a monthly column for Managing Partner magazine  in which I shall examine the how law firms can position themselves to create a future that is both profitable and sustainable – the concept of ‘future-proofing’. To achieve this will mean being prepared to take decisive actions today (which some may regard as being unnecessary or overkill) to ensure that firms are able to cope with that which is appearing on the distant horizon, as well as whatever is just around the corner.  Read more

Want to disrupt the industry? It’s time to run a different race

My guest article for LexisNexis The Future of Law blog.

We have seen many examples of efforts to improve efficiency and to reduce costs since the start of the great recession. We have witnessed firms conduct restructurings, enter into outsourcing arrangements, implement process reengineering, invest in IT and knowledge management systems, reshape partnerships and consider alternative business structures and external investment.

The core challenge, however, lies in developing strategy which is not centred on running the same race as everyone else, only faster or better. Such “me too” strategies in a law firm context are difficult to sustain in the longer term. This is because, within a peer group, incremental operational efficiencies can be relatively easily replicated and so any cost or profit advantage that has been achieved is fast eroded. The risk is that the reality of pursuing such strategies over an extended business cycle is simply a reduction in fees-charged per unit of activity in what fast becomes a race to the bottom. That is not to say that innovation in operational efficiency is not important but rather that it is unlikely to be sufficient.

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Where did all the fun go?

In the brave new world of Six Sigma, LPO and BPR it is all too easy to forget that, for the vast majority, this approach to legal service delivery isn’t what was signed-up to when entering the profession.

However, with pricing under pressure and a fixed-fee basis increasingly the norm, better management is needed.  But modern business practices, information technology, knowledge management and the rise of artificial intelligence are widely viewed as the enemies.  They are seen as disruptive forces altering a comfortable status quo forever.

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Leading by Example

“Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.” Jesse Jackson

Leading a professional services firm can be an unenviable task but strong leadership, setting a clear sense of purpose and direction for the business, has never been more important. What is also crucial is that leaders, by their actions rather than their rhetoric, create an agenda for change and demonstrate the high levels of energy and resilience needed to alter the direction of their businesses. They need to walk the talk and be seen to do so!

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Temerity in the Face of Turbulence

“The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.” Peter Drucker

The legal sector faces a number of unprecedented challenges in the year ahead. The one with potential to disrupt most widely and deeply is a wholesale move to fixed-fee pricing. Surveys of in-house counsel show that they are resolute in demanding fundamental change over the next twelve months.

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The Themes for 2008

At this time of year I’m often asked for my views on the key themes that will affect firms over the next twelve months. Change will continue at an ever quickening pace with structural reforms and the consolidation of clients, firms and panels adding to the pressures on the leadership team. Also high on the agenda will be the need to build an aligned external / internal brand and the changing nature of the psychological contract between the firm and the Generation Y professional.

The need for clear direction, strong leadership, coherent strategy and a focus on excellent execution has never been greater. These are the key dimensions that will mark out the winners and losers in 2008.