Throughout the last several years, we have witnessed advances in law practice technology, the broadening roles of paralegals, and the outsourcing techniques hamilton divorce lawyers of legal work. Yet despite all of these cost-cutting and time-saving advantages, many Law Firm s, especially the large ones, remain struggling for their very tactical.
Only a decade ago, Law Firm s were enjoying remarkable levels of growth and prosperity. Firm coffers were full and firms were spending significant chunks of money on promoting themselves in order to enter new markets and acquire premium business. Some firms even began trying out branding. In those days, branding was mostly seen as merely another form of advertising and promotion. Truthfully, firm authority rarely understood the branding process or what the concept of branding was actually intended to accomplish. But it didn’t really matter, revenue was climbing and earnings stayed at strong. But what so many of these firms didn’t expect was that, in just a few years, our economy would be shaken by a deep and fierce recession, one which would shake the financial blocks of even the most profitable of firms.
For Law Firm s, the recession that began in 2007 had, by 2010, broken the most almost holy of realms- the proverbial benchmark of a firms standing and achievement- profits-per-partner. For many firms, especially mega-firms, the decline in law partner profits were reaching record lows and it had not been long so that the legal landscape was plagued by failed firms both large and small.
In trying to deflect further losses, firms began to lay off associates and staff in record number. But the problems went more deeply. There simply were too many lawyers and not enough premium work to go around. It was a clear case of overcapacity, and it was also clear it was not going to improve anytime soon.
More than twelve of the nation’s major Law Firm s, to comprehend than 1, 000 partners between them, had completely failed in a amount approximately seven years. Against this background, law schools were still churning out thousands of eager law graduates every year. Highly trained young men and women who were starved for the chance to enter a profession that once held the promise of wealth, status and stability.
As partner profits dwindled, partner infighting grew uncontrolled. Partner would compete against partner for the same joint of business. The collegial “team-driven” identity and “progressive culture” that firms spent quantities promoting as their firm’s unique brand and culture had faded as quickly as it is made. While financial times were tough, truthfully many of the big firms had the resources to survive the downturn. Instead, partners with big books of business were choosing to take what they could and joined other firms- demoralizing those left behind.
To understand why this has been happening, we must first remove ourselves from the specific context and internal governmental policies of any one firm and consider the larger picture. The failure and decline of firms was not really a crisis of economics and overcapacity, it was also a crisis of character, identity, values and authority. Sadly, the brand identity many of these firms said as their own did not suit up against the reality of who they actually were. In other words, for many firms, the brand identity they created was illusory- and illusory brands ultimately fracture in times of financial stress.
Ultimately, the branding process must also be a transformative process in search of the firms highest and most cherished values. It is, and must be, a process of reinvention at every level of the firm- especially its authority. The transformative process is fundamental to building a true and enduring brand. Without it, firms run the risk of communicating an identity that will not represent them, and this is the danger, specially when the firm is tested up against the stress of difficult times.
How this miscommunication of identity was allowed to happen varied widely from firm to firm. But generally speaking, while firm authority was initially supportive of the branding process, in most cases these same partners were rarely ready risk unveiling the firm’s real problems in fear that it would expose their own.
While decline of Law Firm revenue was clearly owing to both a bad economy and an oversupply of lawyers, from an internal perspective the firm’s inability to come together and develop effective measures to withstand these stress could usually be followed directly back to the lack of partner authority. Your plant that proclaims to be something it is not- is inevitably doomed to failure. Say nothing of the email damage it causes at the collective level of the firm. It is no different then the psychological characteristics of the person who pretends to be someone he is not- ultimately it leads to confusion, frustration and eventually self-betrayal.
The process under way have pleasure in self-praise when economic times are good. Some partners might even characteristic their success for all that clever branding they put into place years before. But, when the threat of financial crisis enters the picture, the same firm can quickly devolve into self-predatory behavior- a vicious cycle of fear and hpye that inevitably turns into an “eat-or-be-eaten” culture- which for most firms marks the beginning of the end.
For any firm playing out its last inning, it is just too big late to rally the troopers or grab those so-called cherished values that were expected driving the firm’s success. Truthfully, when times got bad, these values were nowhere to be found, except on the firms website, newspaper ads and brochures.
The point is that whenever your plant is actually driven by its cherished beliefs and core values, the firm will begin to live by them, especially in times of adversity. The firm will pull together and rally behind its authority, and with clarity of purpose, each person will do what needs to be done to weather the storm. But when there is a fundamental contradiction between what a firm says they are, and how they actually conduct themselves both internally and to the world- the vendors with whom they work and the clients they represent- the firm will never reach its full potential. It will remain dysfunctional and it will risk joining that growing list of failed firms.
The financial fold and wear out of so many Law Firm s in the past few years is a compelling testament to the great need of requiring on truth and integrity in the branding process.
In 2014, it is clear that business-as-usual in our profession is no longer a sustainable proposition. For this reason I am convinced that firms driven by fear and hpye are firms destined to eventually self-destruct. That is because, no matter how much these firms try to brand, they will never be able to brand truthfully, and therefore they will never be able to compete against more progressive and enlightened firms- those that do not worship wealth and power, but alternatively delight in personal and professional fulfillment.
There is a choice for those who believe their firm is worth saving- reinvent yourself to reflect values that are truly worthy of cherishing, or risk devolving into something less than what you aspire to be and risk your firm’s heart and soul in the process.
We as lawyers find a way, indeed the obligation, to play a very important and constructive role in this transformative process. And, through this process, we finally have the chance to redefine our profession. I discuss about it what Justice Berger referred to when he prompted our profession to become “healers of human conflict. inches
I often wonder what it would be like professionally if we were viewed by the public as healers of conflict rather than perpetuators of conflict. I wonder what practicing law would look like and what values and choices we would make as healers. Perhaps we would choose values like union over division, introduction over different, and wisdom over cleverness.
Naturally, it is not easy to think about the legal profession as being composed of healers. It takes some imagination, and yet personally, the very idea of it actually materializing in my lifetime or even in my children’s lifetime deeply moves and motivates me.
To achieve this we must move from a state of woolgathering to a state of believing. To a state of living out the values we have chosen to embrace. It dares us to be more than what we ever thought possible both personally and professionally.