The American Lawyer reports on several key trends for midsize law firms heading into 2019, according to a recent article featured in Am Law’s latest Mid-Market Report. In the article written by Alan Tarter, he provides his thoughts on industry trends affecting mid-size law firms in the coming year based on his many years of experience as a managing partner and practicing lawyer. These trends include a heightened focus on cybersecurity, continued lateral acquisitions, cost-effective specialization, providing innovative programming to all team members, and greater collaboration between large and small firms.
According to the article, Tarter notes that midsize law firms, like their brethren at large firms, will continue to put an increased focus on mitigation of cyber risk through enhanced security, protocols and more sophisticated risk management. We will see greater use of outside risk management consultants working directly with mid- size firms to address new risks and gaps on coverages. In addition, competition for the best candidates has increased, so midsize firms will need to be even more creative in their offerings. Midsize firms will need to better exploit their value propositions to clients in order to attract laterals from larger firms, Tarter adds.
Tarter notes that an added value proposition of full-service, midsize firms is that they are able to fill in the gaps in the specialized legal needs of both larger firms and smaller firms. According to Tarter, larger clients will continue to gravitate to midsize firms for certain types of work. “Midsize firms are in a unique position to provide more cost-effective, efficient services in matters not requiring large firm infrastructures. For example, midsize firms may be in a better position to provide more cost- effective services in specialized areas such as construction law, office space leasing or IP prosecution where larger teams and multiple offices are typically not necessary. In-house clients are becoming aware of the advantages of using midsize law firms for legal work like this,” explains Tarter.
Tarter adds that midsize firms have a unique opportunity to lead the industry in developing innovative programming to enhance the professional development of employees. These types of programs will help midsize firms stand out from their competitors, and will aid in attracting and retaining employees. These programs should place a greater emphasis on the longer-term professional development of attorneys and other team members. With the goal of providing the most value-driven services to clients, firms of all sizes are also realizing the benefits of partnering with each other, Tarter notes. You will see greater collaboration between large firms and midsize firms in working on projects together where they can each do what they do best and provide better service to clients, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
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Clients need outside counsel that can collaborate to solve their problems, but law firms’ increased specialization creates an unfortunate conflict, and many are leaving big money on the table as a result, The American Lawyer reports. Recent NALP plenary speaker Heidi Gardner notes that “when firms get collaboration right — that is, do complex work for clients that spans practices and offices within the firm — they earn higher margins, inspire greater client loyalty, gain access to more lucrative clients and attract more cutting-edge work.”
Gardner notes that even firms that have figured out how to use collaboration to provide the best service to clients—and get paid accordingly—aren’t optimizing collaboration across their portfolios. According to her estimation, at least 70 percent of large global law firms today include collaboration-related goals in their strategic plans. But many of these same firms lack a solid understanding of how collaboration is working across their portfolios and where the gaps are. Simply put, you can’t just state that collaboration matters and hope lawyers change their behavior. You need to set specific objectives, based on a deep understanding of your data and its implications, then hold people accountable for delivering, (as quoted in The American Lawyer).
According to Gardner, in order to effectively implement smart collaboration and deepen these high-value client relationships, you must figure out ways to unlock value that your firm can provide given how deeply embedded you are in the client’s current work. In the article, Gardner lays out data showing that cross-collaboration in law firms yields a level of benefit far greater than anything achieved in a silo. Specifically, Gardner suggests that firms should locate potentially big clients that are only getting served by one practice group and identify areas to expand into other groups that add value for the client. Strategically, she notes that “you want to focus on this high-worth portion of your portfolio simply because adding additional practice groups at this level is worth such a significant chunk of revenue.” Additionally, Gardner recommends pairing junior partners eager to collaborate with more experienced practice group leaders to help further develop collaborative skills across the firm.
Contact Bill Sugarman for more information.