Despite feeling largely empowered to drive change within their law firms, more than 60% of law firm leaders surveyed say that while leadership at their firm supports the drive toward change, they expect to face resistance from their partners, according to a forthcoming report.
The report is based on a survey recently conducted by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, in collaboration with the Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) and the Georgetown Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession. The survey was conducted of law firm leaders of primarily U.S.-based law firms in the midsize to large law firm market to examine where those leaders saw the greatest potential threats to their law firms, how they plan to confront those threats, and how their law firms are approaching institutional change.
It was this last topic in particular that created some of the most interesting findings. For almost as long as there have been serious discussions around the need for meaningful change in how legal services are delivered, there has been a sentiment that many rank-and-file partners will resist efforts to drive such change.
This inaugural report, due to be released on October 24 in conjunction with the Legal Executive Institute’s 18th Annual COO & CFO Forum in New York City, was the first effort by Thomson Reuters, ALA, and Georgetown to quantify this sentiment of resistance.
According to the forthcoming report, 77% of the law firm leaders surveyed agree that they feel empowered to drive change within their firms. However, 61% say that while leadership at their firm supports these change efforts, they expect to meet resistance from rank-and-file partners.
In a new podcast, we spoke with Jim Jones from Georgetown and Oliver Yandle from the ALA to hear their take on the initial findings in this section of the report. They shared insights from their many years of experience to help interpret the significance of the findings and offer advice for how law firms can begin to position themselves to work through partners’ resistance.
Here are a few key insights they shared:
- While strategies for dealing with partnership resistance will vary from firm to firm, it is vital that firms hold back on driving change while waiting to draw near enough to the precipice of calamity that the partners finally feel compelled to act;
- If firms start with younger partners to build a culture that accepts change, then the younger partners and future leaders of the firm will feel empowered to drive it forward;
- Compensation can play a key role in how effective change efforts will be at a given firm because lawyers, by and large, will do what their compensation system tells them is important.
The full report on the findings from this survey will be available through our website on October 24. (And please consider subscribing to the weekly Legal Executive Institute Newsletter to be sure you don’t miss out on the report when it’s released.)