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Above all, to be the successful law firms of the future will practice a culture of resilience.

This is the final installment of a series of nine posts that have described and explored seven characteristics[note 1] that will determine which law firms remain successful in the legal services industry of the future, and what law firms can do now to build them into their operations and professional cultures.

The bottom line for all of this can be described in a single word: resilience.

A noted Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson, wrote "Life is not so much a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes of playing a poor hand well."

The firms that will thrive in the 2020s and 2030s are not necessarily the firms who have "held good cards" in the past. They are the firms that already know how to "reframe" the risks and adversities of today in new ways so they can play their hands well.

My partner, Lisa M. Walker Johnson, writing in 2015, warned us that resilience is not just the latest consulting buzz-word. It has some serious implications, which describe law firms that not only have survived the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, but actually have emerged stronger. These five points, in essence, constitute bedrock, necessary foundations for a truly resilient professional culture in a law firm:

  • "We have to make our law firms more capable of changing, not just once, but again and again.
  • Our law firm leaders have to be able to give people the right guidance so they can and will adapt and innovate, so the necessary changes will be successful.
  • 'Elite quality delivering extraordinary value' will require internal capabilities and resources aligned with new business realities.
  • The better our law firm can handle change, the more freedom we will have to respond to these new realities in our client base and in our competitive environment.
  • We need a longer-term investment mentality, rather than solely a short-term focus on money in our pockets."[note 2]

Does your law firm display these five characteristics of a resilient professional culture? If not, they should become among your firm's most important strategic and operational priorities if you want to be able to navigate successfully through the uncertain storms that almost certainly lie ahead.

Norman Clark


1The seven defining characteristics of the law firm of the future are: 

  1. A conversion from a "factory" model for the production and delivery of legal services to a "shipyard" model
  2. Closer, ongoing client relationships 
  3. Sustainable profitability 
  4. Very high workflow leverage
  5. "Anytime, anywhere" service delivery capabilities
  6. An intense focus on quality management
  7. A predisposition for innovation.

 2 Lisa M. Walker Johnson, "Resilience: Playing an Unexpected Poor Hand Well Enough to Win," Walker Clark World View (19 November 2015)

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