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Quality must be more than a slogan on a law firm's website.

Quality management is perhaps the last great frontier for leaders and managers in traditional law firms.

This is the seventh of a series of nine posts that will describe and explore 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. Most law firms tell clients that they are committed to "quality," but usually the commitment to quality is little more than a marketing slogan on a website. 

Already today, it is the client -- not the lawyer -- who defines quality in legal services. Clients define quality in terms of specific deliverables that they expect from their lawyers. If you fail to meet these needs and expectations, you will lose clients -- no matter how technically brilliant your work might be.

Quality assurance is not the same thing as quality control. Although after-the-fact inspection of details is needed often in the practice of law, it does not guarantee quality.

A serious, functioning quality assurance system can differentiate a law firm from its competitors in ways that translate to compelling competitive advantages in the eyes of clients and prospective clients. Quality assurance produces clear, measurable, and dramatic results, such as;

  • Increase the productivity and fee-generating capacity of a practice group without adding new fee earners or staff.
  • Reduce unbillable rework and error correction.
  • Improve client satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
  • Improve the average fee yield per hour.
  • Improve  realization rates, thereby improving profitability

To be successful in the increasingly competitive legal markets of the 2020s and beyond -- and for many law firms, to even survive this decade -- the law firm of the future will has serious, in-depth, documented quality management system that is fully integrated into the way that the people in the firm work. It is no longer a nice add-on to law firm operations. It has become an existential requirement.

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.