In recent years, we have worked on a number of law firm mergers where one of the firms was in a significantly weakened position relative to its past. More often than not, these mergers fail to move forward because there is too much uncertainty about the stability of the firm, the deterioration of its financial condition, and the questionable commitment of key partners to remain with the combined firm.
In today’s world, there is no shortage of challenges keeping managing partners awake at night. We see one particular set of challenges receiving insufficient management time and attention in the current environment – talent management. For a variety of reasons, firms simply are not investing the creativity and resources needed to ensure effective talent management in today’s unusual and heavily-virtual law firm environment.
It would be a significant understatement to say that negotiating and executing a merger in the middle of a pandemic is complicated. However, it is not impossible. While we expect merger activity among law firms to be down in the second half of 2020, we are seeing an increasing number of firms begin to reinvigorate their growth strategy and consider merger.
In times of economic uncertainty, it is tempting to focus attention principally on business resilience measures. Disruptions in the world around us are causing a number of law firms to ‘hunker down’ and focus on short-term management. This creates the risk of strategic drift at a time when a clear strategy and direction has never been more essential. Not only do firms need to continue to make progress on strategic initiatives in order to avoid falling behind the market and competitors, but they also need to think about how their business and the business of clients will change as a result of the pandemic.
For many law firms, the month of June marks the halfway point in the firm’s fiscal year, a time when leaders begin to more closely assess year-to-date lawyer performance trends, refine year-end financial projections, and evaluate the the need for mid-year partner performance messages. Of course, this June is unlike years past. This June, we face a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the broader economy and also within the legal industry.