With all this talk or blogging about AI, Big Data, metrics and analytics, pricing protocols, KM, Six Sigma and Lean and Agile, I wonder if I am working in a manufacturing shop or a law firm. In the world of manufacturing widget A can be compared to widget B, the two widgets can be taken apart, reverse engineered, put under stress tests and compared one against the other down to their composite parts. But if you’ve ever done what I call the website practice description test, you will know that law firms all use eerily similar language, nuance and style to describe what they do and for whom they do it. And yet, each law firm is unique, there is something that makes one firm embrace AI or LMP while another will shy away from anything other than the billable hour. What then is the *real* differentiating factor for law firms? Culture.
Success or failure of the firms to be commercially successful, embrace or refute technology, encourage new management roles and processes is, in my mind all tied to culture. One culture does not necessarily suggest success and the other failure but the ability of a firm to pursue its quality of excellence – however they define and measure it – rests solely on its ability to maintain its cultural balance in every interaction. Little gestures such as ending emails with “Smiles” or “no response required” or offering clients use of a firm’s meeting spaces or larger firm discussions around collaboration, sharing of financial data within the firm or making use of the Cloud in technology initiatives each point to the culture of the firm and reinforce for partners, clients, staff and business partners what a firm ultimately privileges. I have often wondered how it could be that laterals who were floundering at one firm move to another and are suddenly rainmakers or lauded as being the best of the best in the business or how one firm can implement a new software tool at a significant cost while others wouldn’t touch that same tool even it was free. The answer is of course “fit” or culture. Unlike in manufacturing where the goods produced undergo strict quality assurance testing, is it the people who work in firms each and every day that offer up the defacto QA testing, turning ISO (certification) into IMHO.