I have always looked beyond our industry to see what is working in other industries and if there are ways to incorporate their ideas into our practice. Often this means considering other professional services industries but I find that looking beyond what may seem like a natural connection can provide surprising opportunities.
With that let me say, I have been Formula One fan for a long time and it recently struck me just how similar law firms are to F1.
There are 10 teams in F1, with each falling into one of three distinct groups. The leading teams (Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes), the mid-pack (McLaren and Renault) and the back markers. If we consider the state of the legal firms in Canada, we have similar groups whether we use independent legal awards to define them or in how firms present themselves.
In F1, there are sporting regulations that each team must adhere to similar to our law society rules. Each team pushes the edges of the rules to get an advantage over the competition in the same way lawyers leverage their knowledge to overcome an obstacle.
Using an F1 lens, there are a number of leading firms in Canada in how they practice and market the firm, the technologies they use, and the types of clients they go after. The mid-tier firms tend to watch the leading-edge firms closely and follow their lead. On occasion they will outdo a leading firm but are more often right on their heels. Finally, the back markers are firms that stick to the systems they have, market to who they know, and upgrade only as necessary. The practice can be highly successful but likely not pushing others to be better.
In F1, it is the top teams that receive the big sponsorship packages, win the most races, and do everything within the rules (and sometimes just outside the rules) to win. Listening to the team principal of an F1 team, it is easy to recognize which tier their team is in. Leading teams pay close attention to the other teams on the grid but they are fundamentally focused on what they can do to be better. Lesser teams are focused on being competitive but not always on winning.
Leading law firms know what works for them, they understand what aspect of the firm needs attention or emphasis, and they are constantly working on new ideas to incorporate into the practice. There is a commitment in time and money to being the best. These firms are not afraid to make a mistake and are able to pivot quickly when something is not working.
As firms do their annual planning and consider what is possible in 2023, which part of the grid will they be on?