Surveys & Special Reports

Law Firms in Transition 2019 – What Works

In the 2019 Law Firms in Transition Survey, 69% of respondents indicated that partners resist most change efforts; 66% said firms were not feeling enough economic pain to motivate more significant change; and 60% said that most partners are not changing because they are unaware of what they might do differently. Clearly, law firm leaders are continually challenged in their efforts to facilitate positive change.

Professionals, and lawyers in particular, often ask the question, “What are others like us doing, and are they successful?” Two reasons underpin this question. First, they want to make sure that a change initiative will work, and second, have some level of proof or assurance that their investment will deliver a significant return.

Following are eight charts from the survey that set forth areas where law firms are investing in operational change, including efficiency of service delivery, project staffing, pricing and profitability, as well as firm and practice group leadership and sustainability. These charts show whether or not each tactic in the category has yielded significant improvement in performance for firms participating in the survey.

In each case the chart is a composite of two questions asked in the full survey: 1) Is your firm pursuing any of these tactics? and 2) If so, has each resulted in a significant improvement in performance? (asked only of the subset of respondents pursuing the tactic). One element that is not captured in the following charts is the percentage of those who say that it is “too soon to tell” whether or not a tactic will be effective. That detail is available in the full survey.

It’s important to note that even if a tactic is not producing significant improvement now, that does not mean it shouldn’t be pursued. While some tactics will have an almost immediate payoff, others may be inadequately understood, poorly executed, or simply may require an investment of time over years. Although there is safety in numbers, a firm may achieve competitive advantage through the skilled execution of any of these tactics.

Finally, in considering the best way to pursue change in your law firm, do not forget the ‘why’ of change. Although knowing what’s working tactically in peer firms likely will provide a measure of comfort, you will still need to make the strategic case for change. For our thoughts on that, we recommend that you review the complete 2019 Law Firms in Transition Survey which includes an introductory essay on law firm strategy and change.

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