Striving for perfection
By Simon McCrum
The perfect legal business does not have to be ‘pie in the sky’, says Simon McCrum
I deliberately and passionately wrote The Perfect Legal Business to help firms to understand, in a couple of hours, what I learned – sometimes very painfully – over a couple of decades.
It is incredible that many (possibly even most) lawyers cannot explain the difference between profit and cash. It is also staggering how profit plays little or no part in the lives of lawyers, as everyone works for the cruel and misleading master that is turnover.
It is also incredible how firms all look alike; and how they are typically addicted to chasing new clients while the gold mine (indeed the diamond mine) full of existing clients is ignored. The reality is that clients bounce off law firms – most adults have used a lawyer, but not many ‘have’ a lawyer.
These are just some of the areas I have sought to bring into the spotlight. Work in these areas – and in a joined up way – will bring far more sustained, profit rich and cash rich growth than merging, opening new offices, bringing in teams from other firms, building new websites, and so on, could ever achieve.
What is needed to make a law firm into ‘the perfect legal business’ is clear. Many firms have got some parts of it right and many have got other parts of it right. But what is needed is getting it all right all of the time.
This is absolutely possible for all firms, but there are three key features of firms where this can and does all happen. First, they are brave and they accept that some ‘old stuff’ needs to be torn up. Second, they make decisions quickly. Third, they listen.
It is amazing how fast even huge, multidimensional and multilevel, firmwide changes can be made to a firm once they have crossed the line, and the excitement that a catalyst can engender is brought to bear – and this in firms where previously they might have been guilty of prevarication and paralysis by being a ‘talking shop’.
Firms I talk with, but who ask me to go back for a fourth or fifth time so they can discuss things even more deeply, are not firms I can work with. Nor are they firms where the perfect legal business model can be harnessed.
So, it is actually the management and the partnership of a firm that will dictate whether or not perfection in its legal business is ‘pie in the sky’.
Covid-19 is not an obstacle to change here, in fact, quite the opposite. In seeking to help firms, I have never been busier, working with firms around the country who want to ‘come out fighting’, while firms around them hunker down.
This is a time of opportunity. Clients still need lawyers, and firms can make sure they stand out; that they set exacting rules when it comes to accepting new clients, that they charge a high price, and that they blow clients away with a great service – every lawyer, every time, which helps a firm to get all the work that clients have got (over the short, medium and long terms). Firms can also make sure that they are a cash business. There is no finer growth than this.
Once the model is perfected internally, externally the firm will have differentiators that will make it the standout, ‘go to’ firm – a brand that delivers on its promise every time. And clients will pay handsomely for that guarantee.
So, whether perfection is possible is a question for law firm owners: are you talkers, or doers? Because it is the doers that will thrive.
Simon McCrum is a law firm management consultant. He is the author of The Perfect Legal Business which was published in September 2020 and is available at mccrumandco.com