Law Firms like Richards are not uncommon. But unless they do something and make some changes, they will go the way of Cobbetts, Wolstenholmes, Halliwells or Fox Hayes
There is no such thing as a bad law firm…only badly managed law firms.
Here is something else badly managed firms have in common;
Staff are treated like cogs in a machine rather than people.
Employees have no real sense of control.
Mostly, they are not big happy families as they would like you to think, but they are made up of silos where partners compete for power and credit and set their associates off against each other in subtle ways designed to undermine their rivals and make their own positions appear superior.
Don’t think that’s true?
Let me ask you a question. Do you have a company handbook? You would have been given it on the day you started and it would include all the administrative details that you need about internal phone numbers, staff holidays, pension plans and so on.
But what would you tell someone new about how things really work in the firm? One thing’s for sure is that it wouldn’t be anything in the handbook. In reality it would be about how to manipulate bureaucracy to get things done. Who has clout. What secretaries you can go to and what ones to avoid. Probably with advice on all the informal power struggles and advice on relationships to harness and ones to avoid. In short it will be how to make things happen by calculating a route through the emotions of the people who work there.
And that’s why things won’t change at the firm. Nothing will change until the individual emotions of the top people in the firm change.
This was first identified in a book published in 1982 called An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change by Professors Richard Nelson and Sydney Winters.
You won’t have to read the book because their central conclusion was that “much of firm behaviour is best understood as a reflection of general habits or routines…coming from the firm’s past”
The crucial word there is “routines”. These routines or “ways that things have always been done” create a truce between the silos or warring individuals and allow them to carry on a day-to-day working existence that doesn’t kill the firm but allows it to plod on but the price is that it totally stifles innovation and change.
Another way to put it would be to say that underperforming firms are riddled with bad habits.
Now to the firm and the people working there it might not seem like there are any bad habits. In the same way that an alcoholic won’t admit to a drink habit being a problem. “I drink, I enjoy it…what’s the problem?”
The problems for alcoholics are well known by everyone except the alcoholic.
Once an alcoholic accepts that there is a problem, he is on the way to recovery.
How does AA help alcoholics? By turning bad habits into good habits. They don’t try to take away the urge to drink, they don’t try to change the person, that doesn’t work. They simply replace a bad habit with a good habit one day and one small step at a time. And they use a sponsor and support group system to do it.
All that badly performing firms need to do is replace their badly performing systems with systems that work more effectively. Preferably with a qualified sponsor a support system, one small step at a time.
There are lots out there, such as Shirlaws, Solicitors Marketing Success, Remarkable Law to name but 3.
And a great book for you to read would be: "The Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg