Change at Law Firms Must Come from Leaders' Decisions, not Consultants

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(Reprinted and/or posted with the permission of Daily Journal Corp. (2009).) Since we the lawyers are the ones who are responsible for building, or if you want to blame it on our predecessors,then at least tolerating, a business model that in both its structure and process is unsatisfactory to those who choose or are compelled to come into contact with it, as either a consumer or provider, it falls on us to just accept it as it is, or do something about it. One of the first places to start is to recognize that the answer is unlikely to come from consultants. Robert Townsend, the legendary maverick leader of Avis, once remarked that if all the consultants in the world were laid end to end, he would not be surprised. Scores of law firms are chasing down a business or “strategic” plan they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars (in some cases more than a million dollars) for, dashing to, and already in some cases over, the ocean cliffs like lemmings. Firms chased acquisition of “high value” practices, shedding of “low value” practices, raising of billable hours, raising of billable rates, tougher standards to enter the partnership, dismissal of partners whose contributions are perceived as insufficient and implemented simple mechanical adjustments to deliver a metric: higher profits per partner. But for the business of law and those within it, this has become a disaster.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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