The more things change the more we resist. 54.1% of law firm marketing leaders report partner resistance to change as their most vexing problem—more than doubling from the 22.5% reported in 2005. Back then, corporate legal spending was soaring while law firms worried only about capacity to meet demand. Fast forward 10 years—clients cut law firm rosters to a new low, squeezing every drop of law firm value out of their spending while demanding ever more from law firms—and twice as many partners oppose doing things differently.
In fairness, the current form of resistance is passive—a failure to adopt new behavior instead of outright defiance. Even the partners who agree to change don’t. Some are acting a little differently—but not enough. Changing behavior is one of the single hardest acts for human beings—never mind in a law firm.
So Many Reasons to Stay the Same
In a world where many, many partners enjoy substantial personal success despite the market challenges, urgency seems to become less real. A growing number of partners have retirement in sight—they want to reach their end game with minimal risk. Still others find it just plain hard to take on new behavior, while a few believe new behaviors eat into billable time.
Change is One of the Biggest Drivers of Change
A small group of partners thrive on breaking new ground. Every firm has at least a few. Find them and embrace these trailblazers—as they inspire others.
The more successful tactics to spark a new way of doing things include:
- Providing tools and training detailing exactly what new habits look like. Include role play.
- Including 2 new behaviors in partner’s annual objectives—partner’s choice (subject to approval).
- Offering advanced training to those showing signs of openness to develop more new ideas.
- Celebrating successes resulting from a newly adopted behavior loud and wide across the firm.
- Using client feedback to identify the changes clients want.
Every firm in every profession has resistors. The most successful firms know how to find those who love change and put them in front to lead the charge. Eventually, the resistors see there is nothing to do but follow or get out of the way—making room for even more change to come.