Are Law Firms Keeping Pace With The Rate Of External Change?

Today, the Washington Post is reporting that the venerable law firm of Dewey & LeBoeuf has inched at least one step closer to bankruptcy.  Click here for the Post article.  If the firm cannot negotiate a merger with Patton Boggs or SNR Denton, the Post article suggests that the end is near.  And the departure of top-shelf partners from Dewey & LeBoeuf suggests that that prediction probably is accurate.

Unfortunately, if Dewey & LeBoeuf ceases to exist, it will be one more in a long line of outstanding firms that have failed since the great recession of 2008. The new economic landscape has claimed a number of legendary firms including Thacher Proffitt, McKee Nelson, Heller Ehrman, Thelen, Wolf Block and Howrey.  And in Colorado, we have witnessed the collapse of Isaacson Rosenbaum and the “combination” of Holme Roberts & Owen into Bryan Cave, LLP.

Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A once said: “If the rate of change externally is greater than the rate of change internally, then your organization is doomed to fail.”  Nearly four years have passed since we entered the great recession.  Yet law firm management, billing practices, and business development have not changed all that much since 1985.  Perhaps it is time that “white shoe” firms take a hard look at their internal rates of change?

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