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When law firm partners discuss significant possible changes in their firm, usually someone often asks, "What's the business case for this?" At least, someone should ask that. It's a good question.

Changes are more likely to be adopted if there is a compelling and reasonably well-documented rationale, which defines and quantifies the effects of the status quo, as well as the risks of continuing with "business as usual." Sometimes these risks are greater than any financial savings that could result from doing nothing, or merely tinkering with the status quo.

Such a business case for change should also include a reasonable estimate of the costs of implementation actions. These cost estimates should include two frequently overlooked, but potentially expensive, items:

  • the value of partner time needed for implementation; and
  • opportunity costs arising from a diversion of the firm's attention to managing the changes and away from other proposals, ideas, or initiatives that are competing for management attention.

Lisa M. Walker Johnson