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Six characteristics of successful law firms - Establishing a winning culture that drives growth

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Successful law firms grow and prosper. They have a winning culture that delivers exceptional service to clients and drives them forward. But what are the key characteristics of that culture? Here are my top six, based on my discussions with senior partners over the years:

1. Talent management

Fundamentally law firms sell specialist knowledge and expertise. So it makes sense to recruit the best talent because top talent attracts quality clients and the most interesting work. But that’s only the start. Successful firms put in place the working environment, remuneration and incentives that enable them to retain their high flyers.

2. Business knowledge

Clients value firms that can marry business understanding with legal advice and so deliver better outcomes – which is perhaps why there is a growing trend of sending leading partners on high-level business courses. As experts in specific business areas and sectors, fee earners are better able to proactively pre-empt issues for clients, add more value and strengthen relationships – rather than act reactively.

3. Succession planning

When a senior partner leaves or retires, it can have a devastating impact on the business, if all the relationships they have carefully built over the years are suddenly lost. Successful firms have plans in place to safeguard and preserve those relationships with clients. By working collaboratively and identifying risks to the firm, partners can ensure succession plans are smooth while maintaining the highest levels of service.  

4. Collaboration

Whose job is it to manage clients? Successful firms know it is everyone’s job, that every touch point is an opportunity to add value. And they know that the more services they can offer clients, the more loyal they are likely to be. With a culture of collaboration, firms not only strengthen client relationships, they also open the door for fee earners to get involved in more interesting and challenging matters, such as cross-border, multi-jurisdictional deals.

5. Business development

Just as everyone is involved with managing existing clients, everyone is involved in business development at the most successful firms. Fee earners and business development professionals respect each other’s skills and knowledge and pool them to grow the business. Firms that don’t adopt a winning culture like this risk endangering existing revenue and missing out on new opportunities.

6. Clear focus

At the most successful firms, marketing and business development don’t take a scatter-gun approach; their efforts are based on a clear understanding of the sectors the firm wants to target. The same goes for their recruitment and personnel development strategies. Everything the firm does is focused on how best to achieve the organisation’s growth objectives. 

In my experience, firms that have a culture that incorporates these six elements tend to be leaders in their particular area. They have also taken the time and trouble to invest in efficient processes and systems that support these activities. And typically, at the heart of their investment is a comprehensive CRM system that helps them coordinate their relationship building and new business development activities to grow the organisation.

About the Author:

Fiona Jackson has spent over 15 years implementing and working with InterAction in professional services firms, including legal and accountancy. In these in-house roles, supported by InterAction, she managed marketing communications, devised and implemented business development strategies as well as trained and mentored fee earners. She worked closely with internal clients to understand their business processes end-to end and guided them in utilising the 'intelligence' gathered via InterAction to help them be successful at customer relationship management.

Fiona was previously a Client Advisor for five years at LexisNexis Enterprise Solutions; and was often described as "an extension to our business" by her clients. She has now returned to the company to drive an InterAction ‘repositioning’ project for a large London law firm. Fiona is also working with other firms to help them align CRM to wider business development strategies. She specialises in strategic and tactical CRM best practice, and as an expert in devising user adoption strategies, her experience in rolling out and repositioning InterAction as a business tool is proving invaluable to clients.

Fiona is mother to two teenagers, who keep her firmly on her toes. Living in Hertfordshire, she loves walking, is often found obsessing over the latest box set and enjoys all that country pubs have to offer. She also has a spectacular Gin collection of her own. Recently, Fiona has discovered a love for cooking – the varying degrees of success hasn’t stopped her from continuing to giving it a go!

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