A general survey of some law firm management topics

In recent years the competitive landscape for law firms has changed irrevocably, and models of law firm management developed last century are no longer applicable in the modern world, according to Laura Empson in the book Managing the Modern Law Firm. The book consists of essays contributed primarily by a range of academics, relating particularly to business models for large US and British domestic and international law firms. Contributions include:

Laura Empson: Why partnership is a good business structure for law firms, and the systems, structures and processes needed to make it thrive.

David Wilkins: Why diversity has not worked well for US law firms and remains a challenging issue.

Gardner, Morris and Anand: New practices can be developed within a firm with the right balance of turf, expertise and support.

Uzzi, Lancaster and Dunlap: There is a relationship between the strength of firm-client ties and the prices which firms change.

Huseyin Leblebici: There are various different methods of determining charges for providing legal services, although time costing remains the most popular.

Stephen Mayson: The value of a law firm depends on its financial, human, physical, social and organizational capital.

Peter Sherer: Analysis of the profits per partner, firm size and percentage of international offices of various different clusters of US law firms.

Royston Greenwood: The effect on professional behaviour of the increasing size, complexity and competitiveness of law firms.

Tony Angel: Achieving strategic alignment in a large international law firm.

While many of the topics listed in the book’s table of contents are likely to be of considerable interest to practitioners, I found the discussion in most chapters to be too general to be useful, and the topics covered represent only a tiny fraction of what is involved in actually managing a modern law firm. I was disappointed to get to the end of the book without having found any particularly challenging or surprising insights. It is interesting to look at financial data for US law firms (chapter 8), but the data used is available elsewhere and several years out of date. Issues relating to diversity (chapter 3), developing new practices (chapter 4), client relationships (chapter 5) and billing practices (chapter 6) will already be well known to law firm managers and this book has little new to add.


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