A few recent news posts have changed my thinking about the future of mega firms. This thinking was also influenced by knowledge from colleagues working with some of the big ones. Which mean this is one of my usual puzzle-piece ideas, but I think I may be on to something here.
Previously I have ranted about how these mega firms may not do well. Too many ethical conflicts, cultural conflicts and too few incentives to cross sell across the various components of each firm are significant barriers to success. However, I think they have one, more interesting asset.
By being large, these firms can rise above the individual influences of power partners. Effectively their size forces them to act like a business. Decisions about technology and other changes are made by “the mother ship” greatly limiting partners’ role in such decision making. Or in other words, the business people are actually doing what they were hired to do. They assess needs, source solutions and execute.
One example that recently came to my attention was the Clifford Chance “Continuous Improvement” effort.
Continuous Improvement is more than just process mapping; it is a collaborative approach where an expert in the tools and techniques of Continuous Improvement helps a group of people familiar with the relevant task to analyse what they are doing and to find ways of doing it better. Put simply, it involves applying scientific rigour to determine the best approach to carrying out a piece of work.
Now even if you apply some level of a BS filter, Clifford Chance is still engaging in a very “corporate” sort of activity. And of course, some partners (for a period of time) can evade such an effort. But the point is: They are actually pursuing this. They have committed significant resources and are implementing new processes and tools.
Many have argued that law firm size does not bring economies of scale, but what size does bring is the ability (or perhaps I might say necessity) to act more like a business. For firms in this realm, size matters in respect to being forced to make decisions based on the business instead of the needs and opinions of partners.
Admittedly. this idea is based on only bits and pieces of market evidence. In any event, I will be keeping a watchful eye on how the mega-firms embrace and utilize this opportunity.
Who knows – the recent Dentons Dachung merger may well move beyond the known risks, and actually embrace the future.
Stay tuned …