We are in the midst of the largest transformation in the legal world, and we are only one year into it — two more years are imminent.
This unprecedented shift heralds a substantial change in the direction, strategies, and role of business professionals — and the ethos adopted by law firms. It demands new perspectives and approaches to all the tested paths coming before.
BTI research reveals that 40% of law firm leaders have assumed their role in the last three years. It takes two years for a law firm leader to get their sea legs. The first wave of change is just setting in. As the emerging leaders find their footing, they are making decisions about:
The primary focus is on AI, in terms of what it can do and how to leverage it effectively, both internally and for clients.
2. Talent Retention
Engaging and retaining partners is becoming increasingly competitive, and these new leaders are bracing for a fierce battle to attract lateral hires.
3. Upskilling Talent
Many new leaders believe that attorneys who have become partners in the last five years lack essential skills in client-facing activities, including client service and business development.
Leaders want flexible and subjective comp to achieve 3 objectives:
• Keep partners: The war for talent has no boundaries or rules — every partner is vulnerable
• Reward partners: How to match compensation to the behaviors that success demands
• Recruit partners: All law firms are looking to build new or stronger benches
5. Client-Centric Approaches
Clients loom large in any law firm’s success. New leaders see this as the source of competitive advantage it is.
6. Role of Business Professionals
The word about the success of business professionals is getting out, especially in HR, CMOs, client-facing relationship managers, and digital marketers. New leaders are trying to build the most robust teams. How new leaders start on this path impacts implementation and the careers of these business professionals.
7. The Right Markets
There isn’t a new law firm leader who hasn’t watched Kirkland run away with the Private Equity market. These emerging leaders want to do the same — resulting in pivots into new markets.
After years of trying to put programs in place — this too is a new dawn. New leaders face the challenge of meeting DEI objectives with innovative ideas. They also have to worry about firmwide backlash for any perceived weakening of the spirit.
These are all strategic issues. The decisions around the direction and approach to each of these defines the law firm’s path — implementation will drive success.
Back to the Sea Legs
Most new leaders from the last 2 years are still getting their sea legs. This presents a rare opportunity for law firms to make an impact. I recommend:
- Ask new leaders about their priorities and thoughts on the issues above — and others
- Engage with your ideas and strategies
- Share your fully informed opinion about the issues in your domain
- Evangelize for the issues around which you have real passion — and let the passion show
- Make a compelling case — passion and numbers are equally important
Additionally, we expect 15 to 20% of current law firm leaders to step down in the next 2 years (the 2nd unseen change). Expect more transformation to come.
The future is unfurling its canvas — new law firm leaders can paint it with bold strokes of visionary strategy and leadership. Transformation is not for the meek.