Law Practice Management

Don't Underestimate Lawyers' Resistance to Change, Seyfarth Shaw Chairman Says

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Seyfarth Shaw has learned a lot about lawyers and their resistance to change as the firm embraced Lean Six Sigma, a management approach emphasizing process improvement and efficiency in legal work.

Seyfarth Shaw chairman J. Stephen Poor outlines the lessons learned in an article for the New York Times DealBook blog. “Never underestimate the resistance to change from lawyers,” he writes. “Even more likely, never underestimate the ability of lawyers to describe virtual status quo efforts as revolutionary change. Working through a change management process intended to deal with that push-back has been a core element of our challenge for years.”

Resistance came not just from lawyers in his firm, Poor says. Most of the firm’s clients are also lawyers, and they also showed reluctance. The firm has learned that it had to build a business case for change, working in collaboration with clients.

Two other lessons learned:

• Law firms do need to change how they manage their businesses, with a focus on client demands for better value. Except for a handful of law firms, “the status quo will not drive long-term success,” he asserts.

• Don’t settle for half steps. “Marketing efforts are lovely; certainly, we all do marketing,” he says. “But if one is to truly evolve a business model, the only way to avoid having it become simply a marketing effort is to recognize that it must drive through all parts of the organization.”

Prior coverage:

ABA Journal Legal Rebels: “Making It Lean: Lisa Damon, Seyfarth Shaw” “New Buzz Phrase in Efficiency Efforts: Process Management” “Seyfarth Shaw Says Six Sigma Method Has Cut Client Fees by Up to 50%”

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