This is where I am coming from: I am deeply convinced that the traditional operating model of a law firm does not work anymore. I have even given a talk about that in order to explain why. You can watch my talk here https://ip-lawyer-tools.com/algorithm-lawyers-how-how-soon/ and the part which is relevant for the present article starts after minute 30:00.
In the traditional operating model of a law firm, one or more lawyers feel that they are in the center of everyone´s attention: in the center of the clients`attention, in the center of the employees`attention, in the center of the courts`attention, in the center of the suppliers`attention, and so on.
The root cause of the problems that come with these lies in division of labour principles, being applied in the legal industry while also liberating this industry from oligopolistic legal restrictions for supplying legal services.
If you have read Jim Collins´ “Good to Great” book (click here) then you know what is coming now.
The Flywheel As A Symbol of Power
A flywheel is a huge, heavy wheel with a hub that is mounted on an axle. The flywheel initially takes a lot of effort to move. The goal is to make it rotate, so you keep pushing it. This is how it completes one turn after another.
At some point, momentum finally kicks in, and there is a breakthrough. The weight of the flywheel now works for you. You are not pushing any harder, but the flywheel goes faster and faster. Your effort is now compounded in a positive feedback loop. This motion becomes virtually unstoppable.
The Flywheel As Applied In Our Firm
The flywheel is a symbol for who we are in our firm, working together.
In 2018, my firm Schweiger & Partners underwent a total transformation of strategy.
Unlike traditional law firms that focus only on increasing billable hours, we decided on a single clear goal: to create value for our clients. This goal drives every business decision that we make, and every action that we take.
To do this, we focus our efforts on four key measures. These measures feed each other, and they are also driven by each other, in a continuous cycle like in a real flywheel.
This is how we illustrate our firm´s operating model:
On the left side, you can see our flywheel in black color, with three auxiliary drives in blue, green, and purple colors. And the figure on the right side illustrates the working principle of that flywheel when it is in motion.
This is how our flywheel works, see the figure above on the right side:
- Our profits are invested into the right people.
- The right people develop solutions that provide value to clients.
- These solutions are sold as products to the right clients. Examples: Our very affordable high-quality flat-fee patent application drafting program for EUR 3,000. Or the turnkey cosmetics registration solution.
- These products result in new profits.
- Rinse and repeat
Over time, our consistent efforts in one aligned direction create incredible momentum on that flywheel.
But there is more. As mentioned above we have also installed three auxiliary power drives to boost our flywheel:
- Automation (in green color) is the engine of our growth. It helps us increase efficiencies, reduce costs, and improve business processes. Compared to traditional law firms, automation works for us instead of against us.
- Marketing (in purple color) generates customer leads that turn into sales. We pay attention to targeted marketing and customer management, and we know exactly which revenue originates from which marketing expenditure.
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs, in blue color) are strategically and widely applied, across all aspects of the firm. We continuously monitor metrics that tell us early on, whether or not we will meet our core goals.
We now have a supercharged flywheel whose unstoppable motion leads to the long-term sustainability of our law firm. And you can see that in our business figures.
Insights From Our Strategic Transformation
This is what we experienced: under these conditions, the issues of commitment, alignment, motivation, and change just disappear. They largely take care of themselves.
More than almost anything else, good people want to be part of a winning team. They want to contribute to producing tangible, visible results. They want to feel the excitement of being involved in something that just works.
And when these people begin to see tangible results, when they can feel the flywheel beginning to build speed—that is when the rest of the people will show up to push the wheel as a team.
The above is in short what follows from a new way of seeing a law firm. I am convinced that this is the way to go.
There will still be old-style law firms, especially in areas such as criminal law, where everything is about paying cash to get out of the shark´s jaws, quick.
But the majority of law firms will have to change in order to remain profitable.
And it is not only about hiring a general manager with a degree in business science. The change needs to start in the head of those individuals that (wrongly) think that they are today in the center of everyone´s attention: The change needs to start in the head of the lawyers.
We have an exciting future ahead of us.
The above is just Part 1 of an entire article series on Company Culture. In Part 2, I will show you how unique our firm´s structure and processes are in order to get things done. Click here if that is of interest for you.
Martin “Change” Schweiger