Key characteristics of highly successful Law firms

5th February 2019 by Fiona Hotston Moore

Selecting a managing partner or CEO to lead the firm

The classic situation is that the managing partner is appointed from within the partnership and the individual endeavours to combine their client work with managing the firm. The partner will be understandably reluctant to give up their clients as the tenure of managing partner is usually a fixed term.
However, there is a bigger problem with this practice in that partners in professional firms are not necessarily effective leaders. Unfortunately, lawyers and accountancy partners tend to assume that as they advise clients on business matters they have the necessary traits to lead their own practices. In recent years the most successful practices have a managing partner who devotes most, if not all, their time to management and leadership and who was recruited externally for their ability to develop and lead a successful firm.
I deliberately use both the term “leadership” and “management”. These are distinct traits which may be combined in one individual or can be provided by an effective team of two individuals where one looks after the day to day management and one provides the visible leadership both internally and externally.

Become the best place to work

 By this I mean not the best paying employer nor the “nicest” place to work. The most successful firms are those that have a culture of developing their team members. Such firms recruit at all levels based on potential and personality, invest in the individual and set clear goals as to what is required. Poor performance is dealt with on a timely basis and good performance is recognised. Good leaders ensure that the culture is high performing whilst fun. It is also important that the leadership embraces the importance of mental health.

Business strategy and differentiation

Every law firm, whatever the size, must have a clear business proposition and market. Once the strategy is agreed there must be no distractions. Consistency of message and behaviours is key. The brand values of the firm and its partners must be clear to both the team and the external market. Successful law firms are those where every team member lives the values.

Putting clients first

 All firms claim to put clients first. However, the successful firms are those that set measurable client expectations as to the service they offer and meet and exceed expectations. Great client service is a key differentiator and moves away from the pricing differentiator that too many professionals resort to.
Client service must be measured by regular client surveys.

Clients belong to the Firm and not the Lawyer

Again, all law firms claim this to be the case but is it evidenced by the approach to the client relationship? Successful firms base partner rewards on client satisfaction, quality of work and development of the team and firm rather than chargeable hours.

Embracing technology to improve client service, client relationships and business development

Law firms spend substantial amounts on Information Technology but all too often the technology does not deliver the expected results. A key factor in the implementation is getting buy in from partners and teams.

Contribution to the local community

 Successful law firms demonstrate a real commitment to their local community and relevant charitable causes. Lawyers, teams and clients are enthused and engaged by the opportunity to work together for a greater cause. This is not about making a cash donation to the Managing Partner’s “pet” charity but rather being seen to embrace the chosen wider cause.

Embrace your Alumni  

Partners and team members who leave the firm should not be shunned but rather embraced as they can be the greatest supporters and referrers of work and will also help in recruiting staff and future partners.

In conclusion

The successful firm must encompass all the above and will need to recognize these organisational traits must become part of the firm’s DNA.


Fiona Hotston Moore

Fiona Hotston Moore

« Back to blog