Lexpert Magazine

March/April 2018

Lexpert magazine features articles and columns on developments in legal practice management, deals and lawsuits of interest in Canada, the law and business issues of interest to legal professionals and businesses that purchase legal services.

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LEXPERT MAGAZINE | MARCH/APRIL 2018 65 | COLUMNS | MARKETING Heather Suttie is a legal marketing and business development consultant working with firms ranging from global to solo, Big Law to New Law. Reach her at 416-964-9607 or www.heathersuttie.ca. BY HEATHER SUTTIE Until last year, it had 274 lawyers in seven U.S. cities and in London, England. While it's suspected that the firm faced revenue challenges well before last year, 2017 saw talent departing so quickly that over a third of its attorneys were gone by November. Underperformance and how long it is tolerated can undermine a firm's market position, while perceptions of owners, staff, clients, suppliers, law schools and more can conspire to bring it down with surprising swiness. When problems are le unchecked, a firm can experience loss of market con- fidence, clients, legal talent and revenue, which oen trigger a death spiral. KILL YOUR DARLINGS American writer William Faulkner noted that "In writing, you must kill all your dar- lings," meaning letting go of personal and cherished favourites. at same rigour ap- plies to a firm's overall business strategy and its marketing and business development tactics that may have continued without challenge because 'that's the way we've al- ways done it.' e key to killing your dar- lings lies in change management. Anyone who has broached an awkward subject knows that initiating this type of conversation is as painful as hearing it. It can be especially difficult within a partner- ship where each equity stakeholder has an opinion and feels that he or she is right — and none the more so where compensation is concerned. DATA PROOFING Firms wanting a vibrant and solvent future trim down to fighting weight. is means rightsizing where, instead of removing individuals here and there, practices and teams better suited as independent bou- tiques are spun off from the firm. Understanding your firm's industry strengths is critical to retooling or spinning off. A firm that faces its markets by indus- try sends the unmistakable signal that it reflects the world of business, since no busi- nesses other than those in the professions refer to their work as a practice. Clients don't care about your practice; they care about their industry. When industry alignment happens, business development falls easily into place. is is because sector strengths are crystal- clear, and a data-defined client industry map determines how the firm's time, re- sources and money are best invested. THE ENGINE ROOM Smart law firms invest in and empower industry-experienced marketing and busi- ness development professionals as major assets of a revenue-driving engine room. It's oen said that marketing and BD professionals are order-takers; ironically, these complaints are usually made by order- givers. So, vaulting from a perception of marketing and BD as a commoditized sup- port service to that of customized revenue drivers means hiring highly qualified talent from key industries. ese experts know what their sectors need and expect, and how to best position a firm's offerings for maximum impact. Re- taining this valuable talent means consist- ently instilling the message that these pro- fessionals lead on determining and nurtur- ing qualified client relationships that will deliver new or more sophisticated work that sits squarely within a firm's rightsized and tightly defined legal service offerings. is, in turn, will liberate lawyers to do what they do best: lawyering. Law firm change management means having difficult conversations, and empowering business development staff A SENIOR PARTNER who has prac- tised law for 45 years recently observed to me, "e traditional firm pressures are huge. A few big failures and we will see radical transformation." Nobody talks about law firm failures in voices above a murmur. It's almost as if enunciating such remarks in anything other than hushed tones will summon the forces of doom. e ugly truth is that, like an infestation of termites or plague of lo- custs, parasite-like forces have been gutting many a law firm, leaving behind little more than a husk. e year 2008 saw a global financial cri- sis and with it the end of the traditional law firm's 20-year bull run. Now, a decade later, 2018 will be a make-or-break year for many firms. Some will fracture while others will crash and burn. Smart firms will retool. Retooling requires ruthless examina- tion of the firm from the perspectives of its target markets and its clients. Firms that retool must then have the intestinal forti- tude to right-size and reposition their offer- ings, throttle back on lawyer controls, and empower marketing and business develop- ment professionals to take a leadership role in driving revenue. DEAD ON ARRIVAL San Francisco-based Sedgwick LLP shut- tered in January aer 85 years in business. Reckoning and Retooling PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

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