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Written by Norman Clark
Published: 12 March 2015
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Marcel Proust: photographer unknown

Opportunity or risk?  How do you and your partners see your law firm's future?

I recently participated in an interesting discussion with a group of partners and shareholders from several law firms in North America. (I mention North America in order to give some context to my observations, but this same discussion could have happened among lawyers from anywhere in the world.)

The topic of our discussion was whether and how small and midsize law firms (fewer than 150 lawyers) that operate from only one office should expand their presence into new jurisdictions.  As one can imagine, it was a very far-reaching conversation, involving a broad variety of scenarios, possible tactics, and issues. One of the most interesting parts of the discussion, however, was the fact that some of the partners always described expansion as an "opportunity," while others spoke of it only as a "risk."

Any serious strategic planning effort must evaluate both the opportunities and the risks.  Each of us, by virtue of our highly individual experience and temperment, tend to approach an issue at least somewhat from one perspective or another.  In my experience, facilitating strategic planning for law firms and other legal service organizations over the past 20 years, I have found that one of the best ways to bridge the sometimes deep perceptual gaps between those who see only opportunities and those who see only risks is to use a fully-informed, intellectually disciplined process, such as the Walker Clark Strategic Priorities Review.  

Only when we can begin to see our practices, our firms, and our futures through the eyes of our partners can we begin to work together to set and achieve goals that none of us might have believed to have been possible.

In the words of Marcel Prous (1871-1922):  "The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes."

Norman Clark