Integrating Merged Law Firms: How to Create Truly Disruptive Value

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By Mike White | Aug 20, 2020

The legal industry enjoys a long history of bolting together two newly combined law firms, or practice groups from two newly merged firms; best practices here are well established at least as it relates to the basics (e.g., identify redundant processes, mesh together technology platforms, create instances for intentional “mingling” to break down barriers, have leadership sell the benefits of the new normal loudly and often, get the marketing dept to come up with a coherent brand, define an existing client x-selling process, etc.). But what more can be done beyond the basics to really make a law firm combination “sing”? Is it possible to create a combined law firm experience from which lawyers simply do not want to leave . . . ever? Can a combined firm deliver disruptive value that clients would never expect to consume from law firms?

I encourage firms to use “signature experience” methods to create the secret sauce here. Derived  from “client experience innovation” approaches, “signature experience” methods can transform a successfully integrated firm into a firm that delivers a special experience to its internal lawyers and team members, and as a result of such, confers unique and disruptive value on clients. In this regard, McKinsey is “different” from AT Kearney (not to pick on AT Kearney!), and Goldman Sachs is “different” from Credit Suisse (not to pick on Credit Suisse!).

In previous writings on “signature experience” I’ve exemplified what “signature experience” transformations can look like. However, I’ve purposely avoided walking through the structure of what a “signature experience” integration project would look like as those mechanics tend to be less intellectually interesting and less foundational. Merged firms that are successfully integrated have a rich portfolio of processes to support the “1+1=3” work streams, and the “signature experience” integration project structure below is a great example of such.

I break down a “signature experience” integration project into five phases:

Focus & Mobilize

  • Review strategy, practice development, marketing materials, as well as any client research; conduct individual interviews with leaders
  • Create a working team to dedicate 1/4+ time to the project (2-3 people) over about four months; create a steering team to participate in key workshops
  • Deliverable(s): Document a project plan

Outcomes Model

  • Conduct additional concentrated intake in areas of special focus (e.g., shoring up a flagging industry sector effort that represents substantial long term opportunity)
  • Hold working sessions to clarify desired outcomes and prioritize client behaviors
  • Translate the outcomes into specific revenue/profit growth objectives, and build alignment on the outcomes
  • Deliverable(s): Description of business outcomes

Truth About Today

  • Review client-facing processes, services, and other exposures; conduct client and employee interviews
  • Identify gaps and opportunities associated with desired outcomes; identify “low hanging fruit” quick wins
  • Deliverable(s): i) Truth About Today summary and implications; ii) Summary of top client interviews

Vision & Design

  • Define end-to-end experience vision aligned with desired outcomes
  • Develop description of initial experience enhancements and service improvements
  • Describe process, structure, employee experience and technology implications
  • Deliverable(s): Document the above

 Roadmap

  • Develop roadmap for acting on initial experience innovations, as well as the iterative design, refinement, testing, and creation of new experiences
  • Deliverable(s): i) Roadmap of initial experience innovations, and process to support development of new experience innovations; ii) Playbook

The above framing does not reflect a lot of project detail, or descriptions of all of the working team sessions, steering team sessions, and other standing meetings along the way. What I hope the above does accomplish is provide you with a concrete sense of what a journey would look like to build a unitary firm using “signature experience” methods!

Edge Principal Mike White, an expert in the field of law-firm growth, works with firms and practice groups in two primary areas: client experience innovation & differentiation, and strategic planning for growth. He also advises firms on business-development skills training/planning/coaching, law-firm succession planning, lateral-partner integration, and partner-compensation restructuring.