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Law firm leaders are getting their arms around 13 issues impacting their strategies — 4 dominate.

Based on the survey my longtime friend and collaborator, internationally recognized law firm consultant Patrick McKenna, and I conducted with more than 200 law firm leaders — we uncovered the top strategic issues standing in the way of law firms getting the edge they want.

The top strategic issues look like this:

Growth at 46.95% of leaders

No law firm wants to let a competitor grow in its client base. Growth is now both offense and defense. But it’s all about growing the right way — offering career opportunities for rising stars, engagement for all, an advantage in attracting laterals, better margins, and protecting market share and clients.

Lateral poaching remains the preferred method to drive growth. But law firm leaders are looking for the industries where it would be wise to double down. Despite the talk of law firm mergers picking up — most firms don’t want to see a merger as their first choice.

Generative AI at 32.65% of leaders

So many lovers and haters. These law firm leaders see Generative AI as a serious disruptor — while others see AI as something to be avoided.

A few firms will make big bets on client-facing tools. Others are betting on workflow. Only 5% of law firm leaders think Generative AI will be a big nothingburger. This contrasts with the 32.65% who think it is the defining issue. The bets are on.

Improving Culture at 26.53% of leaders

Strong and strategic culture drives success. It drives engagement, productivity, branding, client service, business development, and retention. Improving culture solves so many problems law firm leaders face. Strong cultures are also more open to change — something law firms will see more of instead of less.

Talent Retention at 26.53% of leaders

A great lateral means a lot if you are on the receiving end. A loss hurts. Just over 1 in 4 law firm leaders see retention as the top strategic issue. Retention is a first cousin to improving culture. Those leaders able to improve culture are simultaneously improving retention.

(Note: total percentages are greater than 100% as a result of multiple responses.)

Law firm leaders also point to a set of smaller but significant issues. They deserve time and attention — but most can be dealt with by solving the dominant 4. These smaller strategic issues include:

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More Important Than Ever

49% of law firm leaders indicate strategic planning is more important than ever. Another 20% say it is tremendously important.

Law firms have more money at risk than ever. They have more attorneys in their firms to communicate with. And — they are looking at bigger markets and a multitude of new ones. The world is awash in geopolitical risk. And law firm leaders are sorting all this out through strategic planning.

Strategic planning brings all this together by evaluating risk and opportunity — the plan itself defines what a law firm will and won’t do. The strategic path brings about the most informed and thoughtful decisions — and with the amount of money at stake — no firm deserves less.

You can improve your strategic plans — and the process — by including the following:

  1. Bring in client and market perspective
  2. Develop criteria for the level of risk, investment, and reward the firm will accept — in writing
  3. Setting clear milestones and metrics to measure success
  4. Bring in voices from all over the firm — use online surveys to capture all voices — the more voices you include the greater the chance of active support
  5. Invite opposing and alternative views around Generative AI. It offers potential for true disruption — the impacts are wide-ranging. Listening to alternative viewpoints helps law firm leaders understand the risks and rewards — and offers the opportunity to gain new perspectives.
  6. Embrace strategic discipline

Learn how law firm leaders are thinking about strategic planning and the process in our brand-new complimentary white paper Dissecting the Process Strategic Planning 2024 and you can read more here.

Best in the market ahead.


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