How can law firms succeed long-term without being distracted the squalls and storms of a fast-changing market for legal services?
This is the second of a series of sixteen articles that will explore the relevance and, for some law firms the existential importance, of W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points, especially for small and midsize law firms.
The first of W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points for effective management calls for organizations to "Create Constancy of Purpose for Improving Products and Services." Though originally crafted with the manufacturing industry in mind, this holds powerful and timeless implications for law firms. This commitment to top-of-the-market client service needs to be deeply engrained in the culture of a law firm -- demonstrated by the actions of everyone in the organization and not just existing only as a marketing slogan on a website.
Deming's "Constancy of Purpose" underscores the need for an organization to maintain an unwavering focus on the continual improvement of products and services. It should be be the central power cable in any law firm's strategic approach, directly impacting its reputation, client satisfaction, and, ultimately, bottom-line success. Legal services, albeit intangible, are subject to the same rigorous demands for excellence as physical products.
The legal landscape is fraught with complexities and continuous change, driven by factors such as evolving regulations, technological advancements, and shifting client expectations. In this dynamic environment, constancy of purpose serves as a reliable guiding beacon, grounding a law firm in its core mission while encouraging never-ending refinement, improvement, and innovation.
By adopting a relentless focus on improving services, law firms commit to delivering superior value to their clients consistently. This encourages a forward-thinking mentality, fostering an environment where change is not just accepted but actively sought as an opportunity for growth. Such a commitment can set a law firm apart in a crowded market, cementing its reputation for excellence and forging deeper, more trusting relationships with clients.
Implementing a constancy of purpose in a law firm can take several forms. Firstly, it could mean refining core legal services. For instance, a firm specializing in corporate law could focus on continuously enhancing its capacity to offer faster, more comprehensive contract review services. This might involve training lawyers in the latest contract law developments, investing in contract review technology, or creating a more streamlined workflow for contract-related tasks.
Secondly, a constancy of purpose could translate to a law firm's commitment to continually improve client service. This could involve regularly soliciting feedback from clients, proactively addressing their concerns, and seeking ways to enhance their overall experience. For example, a firm could work towards reducing response times to client queries, providing more transparent billing practices, or creating more user-friendly client portals.
Finally, constancy of purpose could extend to a law firm's internal operations. Law firms can invest in ongoing training for staff, upgrading technology infrastructure, or refining case management procedures. For instance, a firm could commit to providing regular professional development opportunities for its lawyers, or it could pledge to update its case management software every few years to ensure it remains state-of-the-art.
It's crucial to note that constancy of purpose is not about pursuing change for its own sake. Instead, it is a clear, consistent commitment to improving what genuinely matters - the quality of legal services, the client's experience, and the firm's operational efficiency. In a world where change is the only constant, Deming's first principle serves as a potent reminder that a relentless focus on betterment should be the consistent thread running through all a law firm's endeavors.
Our next post: Adopt the New Philosophy
W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points provide a framework for sustained growth, improved quality, and better client service. Their successful implementation will require commitment, leadership, and an ongoing dedication to improvement. The law firms that integrate these principles into their daily operations will be well-positioned for future success in the ever-evolving legal landscape.
To learn more about the Fourteen Points, consult W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, (Massachussets Institute of Technology, 1982). Future posts in the Walker Clark World View blog, will examine the strategic relevance and practical application of each of the Fourteen Points to law firm operations and management.