While the precise timing of a downturn may be impossible to predict, it is important for law firm leaders to prepare well in advance, and that time is now. It is unlikely that the next downturn will be as sharp or as lengthy as the crisis of 2008, but law firms are increasingly sensitive to market forces, so preparation is critical.
The value of strong law firm leadership is at a premium today and while many firms have sought to develop younger partners as leaders, some of these individuals are opting out because law firm leadership appears to be too great a sacrifice. Ensuring that the right partners are serving in the roles and avoiding future leadership gaps will require addressing leadership disincentives today.
As law firms continue to face a rapid rate of change in the legal industry, strong leadership will be critical to agile and effective decision-making, and too great of an emphasis on democracy will hamper firms in their efforts to compete and adapt to the changing marketplace. By defining the appropriate leadership criteria and selection processes and investing in partner consultation and leadership development – firms can better balance historically democratic partnership models with the stronger leadership models required to succeed in the future.
In an effort to better align services with client needs and differentiate the firm from competitors, many law firms have adopted some form of an industry focused strategy. These efforts have seen varying degrees of success, in part driven by the firm’s internal organization of the industry effort. Like many aspects of running a law firm, there is no one size fits all model.