During the last a decade, we have witnessed advances in law practice technology, the growing roles of paralegals, and the freelancing of legal work. Yet despite all of hamilton criminal lawyers these cost-cutting and time-saving advantages, many Law Firm s, especially the large ones, remain struggling for their very success.
Only a decade ago, Law Firm s were enjoying remarkable numbers of growth and prosperity. Firm coffers were full and firms were spending significant amounts of money on promoting themselves in order to enter new markets and find premium business. Some firms even began refining branding. In those days, branding was mostly known as yet another form of advertising and promotion. Actually, firm command rarely understood the branding process or what the concept of branding was actually designed to accomplish. But it didn’t really matter, revenue was climbing and earning always been strong. But what so many of these firms didn’t expect was that, in just a few years, our economy would be shaken by a deep and fierce recession, the one which would shake the financial cosmetic foundations of even the most profitable of firms.
For Law Firm s, the recession that began in 2007 had, by 2010, permeated the most holy of realms- the proverbial benchmark of a firms standing and achievement- profits-per-partner. For many firms, especially mega-firms, the decline in law partner profits were reaching record lows and it was not long prior to the legal landscape was full of failed firms both large and small.
In trying to deflect further losses, firms begun to lay off associates and staff in record number. But the problems went further. There simply were too many lawyers and not enough premium work to go around. It was a clear case of overcapacity, and it was also clear it was not going to improve anytime soon.
More than twelve of the state’s major Law Firm s, with an increase of than 1, 000 partners between them, had completely failed in a course of approximately seven years. Against this background, law schools were still churning out thousands of eager law graduates every year. Trained young men and women who have been starved for the chance to enter a profession that once held the promise of wealth, status and stability.
As partner profits dwindled, partner infighting grew wild. Partner would compete against partner for the same part of business. The collegial “team-driven” identity and “progressive culture” that firms spent sums of money promoting as their business’s unique brand and culture had disappeared as quickly as it was made. While financial times were tough, actually many of the big firms had the resources to survive the economic downturn. Instead, partners with big books of business were choosing to take what they could and joined other firms- demoralizing those left behind.
To understand why this became happening, we must first remove ourselves from the specific context and internal nation-wide politics of any one firm and consider the larger picture. The failure and decline of firms was not just a crisis of economics and overcapacity, it was also a crisis of character, identity, values and command. Sadly, the brand identity many of these firms evident as their own did not go with contrary to the reality of who they actually were. In other words, for many firms, the brand identity they created was illusory- and illusory brands ultimately fracture in times of financial stress.
Ultimately, the branding process must also be a transformative process in search of the firms highest and most cherished values. It is, and must be, a process of reinvention at every level of the firm- especially its command. The transformative process is fundamental to developing a true and enduring brand. Without it, firms run the risk of communicating an identity it does not represent them, and this is the danger, particularly when the firm is tested contrary to the stress of difficult times.
How this miscommunication of identity was allowed to happen varied widely from firm to firm. But generally speaking, while firm command was initially supportive of the branding process, in most cases these same partners were rarely happy to risk disclosing the business’s real problems in fear that it would expose their own.
While decline of Law Firm revenue was clearly because of both a bad economy and an oversupply of lawyers, from an internal perspective the business’s inability to come together and develop effective measures to withstand these challenges could usually be tracked directly back to the lack of partner command. A good that proclaims to be something it is not- is inevitably doomed to failure. Say nothing of the clairvoyant damage it causes at the collective level of the firm. It is no different then the psychological character of the person who pretends to be someone he is not- ultimately it leads to confusion, frustration and eventually self-betrayal.
You can take pleasure in self-praise when economic times are good. Some partners might even feature their success to everyone that clever branding they put into place years before. But, when the threat of financial crisis enters the picture, the same firm can quickly devolve into self-predatory behavior- a bad cycle of fear and avarice that inevitably turns into an “eat-or-be-eaten” culture- which for most firms marks the beginning of the end.
For any firm playing out its last inning, it is just too late to rally the soldiers or take those so-called cherished values that were purportedly driving the business’s success. Actually, when times got bad, these values were no place can be found, except on the firms website, journal ads and brochures.
The point is anytime a good is actually driven by its cherished beliefs and core values, the firm will quickly live by them, especially in times of adversity. The firm will pull together and rally behind its command, and with clarity of purpose, each person will do what needs to be done to weather the storm. But when there is also a fundamental contradiction between what a firm says they are, and how they actually conduct themselves both internally and to the world- the vendors with whom they trade and the clients they represent- the firm will never reach its full potential. It will remain dysfunctional and it will risk joining that growing list of failed firms.
The financial failure and damage of so many Law Firm s in the past few years is a compelling testament to the incredible importance of making it mandatory on truth and integrity in the branding process.
In 2014, it is clear that business-as-usual in our profession is no longer a sustainable task. For this reason I am convinced that firms driven by fear and avarice are firms most likely going to eventually self-destruct. That is because, no matter how much these firms try to brand, they will never be able to brand truthfully, and therefore they will never be able to compete against more progressive and enlightened firms- those that do not worship wealth and power, but instead enjoy personal and professional fulfillment.
There is a choice for those who believe their firm is worth saving- reinvent yourself to reflect values that are truly worthy of cherishing, or risk devolving into something less than what you wish to be and risk your business’s core in the process.
We as lawyers have a chance, indeed the duty, to play an important and constructive role in this transformative process. And, in this process, we finally have the chance to redefine our profession. I bring what Justice Berger referred to when he told our profession to become “healers of human conflict. inch
I often wonder what it would be like professionally if we were viewed by the public as healers of conflict rather than perpetuators of conflict. I wonder what practicing law would look like and what values and choices we might make as healers. Perhaps we might choose values like union over division, addition over exemption, and wisdom over cleverness.
Granted, it is not easy to consider the legal profession as being comprised of healers. It takes some imagination, and yet personally, the very idea of it actually materializing in my lifetime or even in my children’s lifetime deeply moves and drives me.
To do this we must move from a state of thinking to a state of assuming. To a state of living out the values we have chosen to embrace. It dares us to be more than what we ever thought possible both personally and professionally.