Last night I pulled my hamstring while making a lunging (and quite dazzling) shoestring catch for our softball team.
How is this relevant to law?
Many commentators have used the old Gretzky adage – don’t go to where the puck is, but where the puck is going to be. It applies the same to baseball. When a ball is hit, fielders mentally calculate the velocity of the ball and its trajectory, then run to where the ball will be. Same with quarterbacks in football – they throw the ball to a spot on the field where the receiver will be.
All of this means that law firms that want to gain competitive advantage must look at the changes happening around them now, calculate what those changes will do to the delivery of legal services, what services consumers will require and who the competitors will be 5 – 10 years down the road; then determine what the winning combination of structure, talent and management will look like.
Is your law firm doing this?
Armed forces around the world are often maligned for investing in weaponry and tactics based on lessons learned from past theatres of war. This makes them very well prepared to fight the last war – but not necessarily well-prepared for the next one.
I find that law firms are similar. Most firms looking for competitive advantage assume a number of things:
- Their competitors are only the law firms across the street;
- That in 2025, clients will buy the same legal services in the same way; and
- That the number of lawyers and non-lawyers required to do tasks in 2025, will be exactly the same as the amount needed today.
As a result, firms claiming to want change, ignore where the puck/ball/receiver is going to be. They simply nibble around the edges making minor adjustments that don’t reposition the firm for material sustainable competitive advantage in the future.
In other words, most firms that claim to be retooling for 2025, seem to really be on the road to building a great firm for 2008.