Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Why law firms don't plan - the law firm entrepreneur

Interesting short post from Tom Collins on the morepartnerincome blog, in part quoting Jerry L Mills.

Based on his experience, Tom notes that he frequently encountered first generation firms, often founded by two or three attorneys who bonded together in their prior firm and who broke away to create their own. Usually one of the three is the clear leader. The role of the team in this case is to keep their entrepreneur leader from getting too many big ideas too often.

In these firms, there can be a real reluctance to commit the firm to a clear mission or purpose because this may impede the freedom, the flexibility of the business and especially that of the entrepreneur.

Here Tom quotes Jerry L Mills from his book The Danger Zone. According to Mills, entrepreneur law firm leader thrive on change. They don't want things formalised, but instead draw from a set of core values that they bring to the organisation. These values give the enterprise its characters and unity the law firm. Mills suggests that memorialising those core values has a better chance of improving and focusing the business than traditional planning steps.

I think that Jerry Mills is almost certainly right, and for a very practical reason.

A core challenge in any new business lies in the creation of common values and a common culture that will unify the entity and drive success. These values form in the early days and are remarkably persistent.

If the new organisation is successful, then it usually but not always follows that the values created have met market acceptance. There is, however, a danger that the entrepreneur in his/her desire to do new things will go in too many directions. In these circumstances, memorialising core values can be an effective way of keeping the entrepreneur on track.

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