In an era when the legal profession is buzzing about what some claim to be the inevitable triumph of "Big Law," small and mid-size firms are defying these predictions of their doom. One of the ways that they are doing this is by innovation in the way that they deal with clients and deliver legal services faster, less expensively, and with better results.
Innovation is not the exclusive domain of small law firms, Our firm's work with small and midsize firms since the early 2000 suggests that, because of their size, small and midsize law firms have several potential advantages (and we stress the word potential). These can include, for example:
- the ability to implement change in internal structures, systems, and processes more quickly and efficiently than in larger firms
- more detailed understanding the clients' business objectives
- closer client relationships
- higher reported levels of client satisfaction
- greater awareness of the urgency of competing successfully against larger competitors in rapidly changing legal markets
- more cohesive partnership cultures
- more efficient decision making processes
- the ability to differentiate from larger competitors on factors such as better client service, better value, and specialized expertise
Aren't these also possible in larger firms? Of course, but each one can be more difficult to achieve due to the much larger number of stakeholders that are involved -- and should be involved -- in each decision. A rowboat changes course more easily than does an oil tanker.
So what is the "secret" part of this?
What makes innovation a "secret weapon" for small and midsize law firms is that many of them don't even know that it is available or that they have certain natural advantages in achieving it. They assume that innovation is something that only law firms can accomplish and, in doing so, miss opportunities to build sustainable financial performance and competitiveness.
Genuine innovation is never easy for any firm. It requires a combination of intellectual discipline and a willingness to challenge long-held assumptions about how law firms should practice law. Investing the partner time, resources, and intellectual energy that are neceesary can help even a small firm compete very successfull in the age of "Big Law."