I was at a recent legal conference in London and I expected to hear about all the changes that Law Firms were making in this recessionary marketplace.
You know the sort of thing...stirring stories about Law Firms grasping the nettle and defying the odds to turn their businesses round in the face of economic challenges from the new non-legal service providers such as The AA and SAGA.
There were two great examples of this, but the one thing that came through loud and clear was that the overwhelming majority of Firms still just don't get it.
Firms are going to the wall in record numbers or sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that it will all go away and things will go back to normal.
They've already made people redundant. Existing staff have taken pay cuts. A certain amount of outsourcing has taken place but"..why are we still not making any money"? The remaining partners whail.
I think that there is some kind of mental block. A post traumatic stress. Almost rabbits in the headlamps.
There is limp talk of innovation....a new case management system perhaps or
the odd fixed price agreement if they are really pushing the boat out.
But to be truly innovative Firms must not only do new things but they must also stop doing old things.
They can't create a future until they get rid of the past. They need to accept that it's not Clementi or the Legal Services Bill or the Jackson Report...it's doing what customers want. A social and economic drive not a legislative one. Change the way legal services are delivered.
There is much talk of firms being afraid of change. They don't say it openly, but their actions betray them.
It's not that people don't like change, people love change if it brings a better future...or even hints at a better future.
But this requires leadership and vision and too many firms still lack that.
A Firm needs to know that it's doing the right thing morally not just doing things right for the sake of it.
In March 2009 I wrote an article in The Firm about self-esteem and how some lawyers and Law Firms seem to suffer from a lack of it when it came to pricing their services.
Instead of seeing more examples of firms moving away from competing on price and providing a service of value, there have been too many examples of firms fighting to buy PI claims and taking any customer that calls or at least any customer who pays.
Where is the dignity? Where is the self-esteem to say "we're worth every penny because we look after our staff, we only choose to work with customers we like and respect and who like and respect us"
Where is the experimentation? Not just doing things simply because that is the way they've always been done. Less measurement and more trust would be a good thing for intelligent, articulate, educated professionals. Getting rid of timesheets would be a good start.
If you can find a firm that encapsulates these values... truly holds them...and not just as a sop for the marketing department, but in their core beliefs...then this is a firm to stay with or join.
If you can't find such a firm then set about creating one, because that will be the type of firm that takes all the business in the months and years ahead.