Though its benefits may be modest at best in many cases, the lateral recruiting boom of recent years shows no signs of slowing down. And while most large law firms identify revenue growth as their top priority, many are falling short when it comes to monitoring the loyalty and satisfaction of the clients that produce that revenue. Those are two of the key findings of a report, “Thinking Like Your Client: Strategic Planning in Law Firms,” released Tuesday by LexisNexis and Am Law Daily affiliate ALM Legal Intelligence. The underlying question at the heart of the report, which summarizes the results of a survey of 79 leaders of Am Law 200–size firms, is how well large law firms are faring in terms of operating as businesses. The answer is not overwhelmingly positive. “The level of commitment leading law firms are showing to strategic planning is moving in the right direction, but the rate of substantive progress is still frustratingly slow,” the report states. “There is genuine cause for concern.” While most firms cite increasing revenue, improving profitability, and acquiring and retaining talent as their top priorities, the survey found that only one out of eight have a strategic plan in place to achieve those goals. And even among the firms that have developed such plans, few have adequate the tools in place to assess issues of profitability. Firms also diverge in terms of who is involved in devising and executing their respective strategic plans. The survey found, for instance, while more firms are turning to nonattorneys, particularly business and marketing officials, for help with strategic planning initiatives, only about one in four have actually given those individuals an active role in making decisions. The report cites Dechert, which hired a consultant to formulate a five-year plan aimed at getting attorneys to focus more closely on business issues, as moving in that direction. The firm generates monthly reports that track, among other things, productivity and timekeeping and are widely available. Additionally, firm leaders emphasize this numbers-driven approach to the rest of the attorneys.
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