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The Law Firm of the Future

Adapting to a Changed Legal Marketplace

John M. Westcott

During the “golden age of law firm growth” from the late 1960s until 2007, most large law firms adopted a default growth strategy, increasing practice areas and offices, aided by the momentum of the tail winds of law firm growth. Since the recession of 2008-2009, however, the legal marketplace has drastically changed. In this timely book, Jay Westcott suggests strategic building blocks that firms can adopt in order to adapt themselves to this radical change and prosper as lasting institutions.
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John M. Westcott

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1    Large law firms and the success of the growth model

1.1   Introduction

1.2   Firm growth

1.3   Specialization

1.4   Client relationships

1.5   Rising billing rates; billing alternatives

1.6   Recruiting; mobility

1.7   Pressure on lawyers to bill more hours

1.8   Consolidation

1.9   Firm culture and governance

1.10  Profitability

1.11  The legal marketplace of today and the future

1.12  In-house legal departments

1.13  Government lawyers

1.14  Evolution of the legal talent pool

1.15  Financial rewards

2    New business models for the future

2.1   Introduction

2.2   The right strategy for the changed legal market

2.3   The advantages and disadvantages of large size

2.4   Geographical scope

2.5   The advantages and disadvantages of controlling or restraining growth

2.6   Financial disadvantage of ungainly size

2.7   Strategy for firms that need to pare back

2.8   Why certain firms are not facing overcapacity

2.9   Establishing priorities; even-handedly evaluating practices and offices

2.10  Evaluating lawyers at all levels

2.11  The importance of a high partnership elevation standard

2.12  The importance of a fair compensation system

3    The key building blocks of a lasting and successful law firm

3.1   Introduction

3.2   The key building blocks

3.3   Logically and objectively setting strategy

3.4   Building an attractive firm culture

3.5   Building a lasting institution

4    Effective governance

4.1   Introduction

4.2   Comparison of the governance structures of large law firms and business corporations

4.3   Setting strategy

4.4   The critical role of practice leadership

4.5   Listening to partners

4.6   Individual partner leadership

4.7   Motivating partners to be leaders

4.8   Who sets the strategy?

4.9   The balance between the management committee and the managing partners

4.10  Should the firm revise the governance structure to charge someone with setting strategy?

4.11  Implementing changes in strategy

4.12  Presenting the firm strategically

5    Client service

5.1   Introduction

5.2   Negative comments from clients

5.3   Positive comments73

5.4   Learning from other client service businesses

5.5   Delivery of value to clients

5.6   Practice management

5.7   Setting and meeting a budget

5.8   Providing free benefits to clients

5.9   Forgoing work that doesn’t add value

5.10  Diversity and advancement of women

6    Assessing firm performance

6.1   Introduction

6.2   Review of performance of a practice or an office

6.3   Department and practice group leaders

6.4   Office leadership

6.5   Assessment from an institutional firm-wide viewpoint

6.6   Supporting strong practice groups and offices; withdrawing support from weak ones

7    Evaluating lawyers

7.1   Introduction

7.2   Evaluating associates

7.3   Evaluating partners

7.4   Evaluating lateral partners

7.5   Compensation consistent with evaluation

7.6   Explanation of the evaluation to the lawyer; firm standards

8    Fair compensation

8.1   Introduction

8.2   Associate compensation

8.3   Partners’ compensation

8.4   Feedback to partners

8.5   Information statement or business plan

9    Strong administrative staff

9.1   Introduction

9.2   Executive director

9.3   Other essential support staff

9.4   High-level managers

9.5   Practice management

10    Treating everyone professionally

10.1  Introduction

10.2  Encouraging positive behavior

10.3  Smoothing the rough edges

11    Balancing professionalism and quality of life

11.1  Introduction

11.2  Maintaining a healthy non-professional life

11.3  Building a culture of consideration for the individual

11.4  Policies to foster a sense of support from the institution

11.5  A culture of training and mentoring

11.6  Respecting the individual

12    Succession planning

12.1  Introduction

12.2  Involving many partners in management

12.3  Developing young partners’ management skills

12.4  Creating a firm worth preserving

12.5  Facilitating succession

12.6  The nature of the continuing firm

13    Retirement policies

13.1  Philosophy of retirement; prevalent attitudes

13.2  Rationale for mandatory retirement policies

13.3  Range of attitudes regarding retirement

13.4  Early retirement

13.5  Managed withdrawal

13.6  The importance of a retirement policy to firm strategy

14    The future of the profession

14.1  Introduction

14.2  Hiring patterns; associate compensation

14.3  Elevation to partnership

14.4  Flexibility of legal roles

14.5  Size of the law firm; economies of scale

14.6  Marketing a firm’s authentic strengths; recruiting lawyers to a strong practice area or office

14.7  Attitudes of lawyers

14.8  Future consolidation of law firms

14.9  The profitable business model for today’s market

14.10 The future marketplace

15    Conclusion

15.1  Introduction

15.2  Make your firm distinctive

15.3  A culture of excellence