This paper makes recommendations for building and managing the most effective practice, industry and geographic platforms for powerful client-service delivery, to secure fortified market positions and to achieve superior economic performance.



Competition across the legal market is tough and will become progressively tougher as clients’ expectations continue to rise, competitors continue to invest and to build more powerful capabilities and the world becomes ever more uncertain and less predictable. The inevitable consequence of greater competitive intensity is to amplify the stark differences between the ‘winners’ and the rest. One characteristic of the ‘winners’ will be those that successfully leverage firm strengths and resources for maximum market impact. It is our strong conviction that this will require firms to develop a sharper strategic client focus and build a stronger platform of teaming on which success is based. This paper sets out some of our experience-based insights on how firms might best work through the organisational complexities that characterise high value professional service firms in order to build more powerful client and resource teaming to deliver stronger market position and consistently superior performance. THE CHALLENGES In the face of political and economic uncertainty, it is no surprise that most firms are posing basic questions about strategic positioning and competitive posture, the shape of the firm in terms of practice, industry and geographic positions and drives, and the organisation and management requirements for success. Frequently the outputs of such reviews are simply restatements of strategic aspirations, goals and priorities. But, as we all know, ‘the devil is in the detail’ and the real challenge lies in execution! For most firms today the key challenge is to achieve a performance improvement in line with, or ahead of, the market. Whilst growth and profitability are key drivers of success, most would agree that they are consequences of doing other things and, in a competitive market, doing these things better than the rest! It is these other things perhaps that represent the most fundamental challenges. Building ‘rich’ and ‘privileged’ relationships with strategically important clients, both current and potential, and positioning the firmas the ‘firmof choice’ for highest value work is, in our view, the ‘heart of the matter’ and what should drive the strategies for success. Architecting and implementing effective teaming of the firm’s practice, industry and geographic resources, skills and insights in order to deliver the most powerful performance and service to clients is central to meeting that challenge.

“..this will require firms to develop a sharper strategic client focus and build a stronger platform of teaming..”


KEY ISSUES It goes without saying that top quality practice expertise is vitally important in both capturing client opportunities and delivery of high quality service to clients. But winning ‘high ground’ and ‘fortified’ relationships with the top management of clients that are leaders in their industries, and across their networks, requires more than individual practice-driven initiatives. Expressed another way, a firm’s market posture to a client should be driven by combining its full range of relevant resource strengths and capabilities to respond in the most competitive way to such key client selection questions as: • Do you understand my business and the competitive context in which I operate? • Can you offer me the services in those locations in which I have a requirement? • Do you understand the specific issue and have the capabilities to address it? • Can you match my performance and value for money expectations? • How can you deliver more effectively than your competitors?


INDUSTRY COMPETENCE “Do you understand my business?”

ISSUE/PRACTICE COMPETENCE “Do you understand my problem?”


The “Winning Edge” What’s different?




GEOGRAPHIC COMPETENCE “Can you cover my network?”

RESULTS COMPETENCE “Can you match my performance and delivery requirements?”


“..market posture to a client should be driven by combining its full range of relevant resource strengths and capabilities..”


Re-engineering the firm to become more truly client facing and to drive higher client service performance raises a number of important organisation and management issues. Where best to focus resources and how much priority and emphasis do we give? How to generate insights and to leverage these as points of differentiation? How best to deploy resources so that the right mix of practices, industries and geographies are reflected? How to get people inside the firm to be more open and sharing of client contacts and industry information to benefit the firm? Howmuch do we invest in building positions and over what timeframe? And so on. None of these is an easy issue to address but they cannot be ignored as they remain real barriers to greater and more durable effectiveness and competitive success. FOCUS THE FIRM The first major issue to be confronted is to sharpen the strategic focus. The implications of this however, are not always fully understood or pursued. It requires internal recognition that if the firm is to achieve its strategic aspirations there are specific industry sectors, practice areas and geographies in which it is critical a strong position is built. In the light of this there will be therefore certain clients (or targets) of greater strategic and economic value to the firm than others and the greatest resource and priority must be given to the development and protection of these. Analysis of the client base of a firm will typically highlight that around 80% of its revenues and 120% of its profits are generated by around 20% of its clients. The corollary is that often a high percentage of the firm’s clients are absorbing the hard-earned profits generated by a few, thereby reducing the firm’s ability to invest in areas that will generate the most significant returns. When faced with such an analysis, partners typically retort the ‘great oaks from small acorns’ metaphor and will always have one example in their back pocket (but only one)! There will, of course, be smaller and less profitable clients in which the firm might invest but this should be done selectively in line with strategic intent. ‘High ground’ market positions can best be gained by attacking the market with a sharp-edged ‘arrow formation’ drive , combining the firm’s full range of intellectual capital with tailored resource teaming and effort, and directing this selectively at chosen areas rather than covering the market with the extended line drive that characterises the marketing and business development efforts of so many firms . The most effective firms will be those that have the courage, conviction and clarity to select those relatively few areas on which to deploy its most penetrating firepower!




Intergrated capacity, capability and effort






DIFFERENTIATION THROUGH INDUSTRY INSIGHTS Clients sit within industries (sometimes a number of industries) and within geographies (sometimes many geographies), never within a practice area! Yet most professional firms organise themselves along practice lines and take a very practice- centric view of the world. It is critical for long run positioning that firms build a strong industry perspective and capability to complement practice and geographic strengths. This particular ‘mind-set’ is properly reflected only in a minority of law firms, but is fundamental to how firms can best present themselves in the market and deliver their services most effectively to clients. Clearly there are good reasons for keeping strong practice lines. In a world of ever-increasing complexity there is a clear requirement for specialist advice from professionals. Clients want to feel confident that the professionals are expert in their fields. To ensure that specialist technical skills are kept sharp, it is argued, it is important that people with shared technical specialist skills are grouped together. The professionals themselvesmaintain this way of organising resources; ultimately litigators are more comfortable with litigators; corporate finance lawyers with corporate finance lawyers, and so on. “..the answer to differentiation lies in the depth and quality of insights demonstrated by the professional to the client..” It is becoming, however, increasingly difficult to build a meaningful differentiation based on technical practice-oriented skills, depth, range and reach. However, in a relatively overcrowded legal market the issue of differentiation is of fundamental importance! Increasingly the answer to differentiation lies in the depth and quality of insights demonstrated by the professional to the client about their business and the critical factors for success. This is supported by the professional understanding industry structure and dynamics, the competitive context and forces at play, the business structure and economic performance, the organisational deployment and geographic reach, and leveraging these insights into extra value for the client.


PROMOTE COLLECTIVE EFFORT ‘Managing professionals is like herding cats;’ a phrase that reflects the fact that professionals, and lawyers in particular, are by nature independent and autonomous with strong egos fuelled by a stellar record of professional and personal success and client plaudits. They are not natural team players; yet teaming is vital to success in a more competitive market. Why? Because the requirement to demonstrate real depth and breadth, not simply fielding one or two good people, is vital to winning the higher ground and more privileged positions with clients; because no one individual is likely to have all the requisite knowledge about client, industry, practice and geography; because consistently exceeding the high performance expectations of the client can only be achieved by people who have a deep and shared understanding of what the clients’ expectations and ‘win requirements’ are – a consequence of teaming; and finally, the synergistic effect created by bringing people together with complementary perspectives and the shared goal of client benefit is enormous! That lawyers can work in teams is demonstrated by the fact they work in transaction teams all the time. Ensuring practice-industry-geography teamwork takes strong root in the firm will require creating similar conditions to those that exist on a transaction (‘client’ imposed deadlines, a clear end-goal, specified route-map and tasks, defined responsibility and accountability for performance, etc.) and applying these to the client relationship-build and business development activities. TAKE THE LONG TERM VIEW Building ‘richer’ and more ‘privileged’ relationships and ‘fortified’ positions with key clients takes time. Thus it is vital that firms are willing to make a long-run sustained investment for a rich prize. Clients are increasingly sophisticated and discriminating so the burden of proof of capability is far greater, particularly in relation to the client’s higher-value work. Overlay increasing capability of competitors and it is easy to see that that most ‘privileged’ positions and ‘prizes’ will not easily be won! Building deep understanding of a client takes time; developing the platforms from which insights can be leveraged and capabilities demonstrated also takes time; and, finally, building high levels of trust and confidence takes time as well. “...Clients are increasingly sophisticated and discriminating so the burden of proof of capability is far greater...”


FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION Persuading people to commit to a ‘practice-industry-geography (PIG)’ team-based client drive requires strong commitment from the top, a wide understanding of the firm’s strategic direction in terms of future positioning and focus, and clear recognition of the implications in terms of performance requirements. Structuring, and managing proactively, the critical linkages across the firm for a team-based client drive requires an effective and practical management framework for powerful positioning and performance. A possible framework is shown in figure 3:

Market Place Positioning and Brand Building


‘Fluid’ Service Delivery Teams

Client Management Agenda

Intellectual Capital

Practice Teams

Industry Teams

Geographic Teams

Business Management Processes

‘One-Firm’ Firm Culture Of Teamwork

Strategically, the long-run drive is to reinforce the firm’s chosen market-place positioning and brand ‘image’ by ‘pooling’ the very best of the firm’s intellectual capital for both ‘pull marketing’ (imagedevelopment) and ‘pushmarketing’ (business development) programmes directed at addressing the important agenda issues of the top management of clients and potential clients. Operationally, the management challenges are to build and deploy practice, industry and geographic teams most effectively; to ensure that the required linkages to power success at global, regional and local levels are developed and understood; and to ensure that the client penetration and development process is directed at winning ‘high ground’ position in terms of (1) image build, (2) relationship strength, (3) tailored intellectual capital, and (4) ‘high value issue’ pitches. All this directed at the firm’s key, target and emerging industries across its key, target and emerging practices and key, target and emerging geographies.


STRUCTURING THE RESPONSE From the standpoints of strategy and organisation the conundrum of how best to harness the three key resource-axes of practice, industry and geography for the most powerful positioning and performance is a central issue. There is no simple answer. Firms will need to operate through a matrix management structure. This can appear to create complexities and certain tensions in terms of reporting relationships but ensuring the right processes are put in place to facilitate communication, co- ordination and appropriate integration between practice, industry and geography will deliver the most powerful performance. We suggest that a ‘one size fits all’ approach (i.e. simply to structure the firm around industry sectors or practice group) is too rigid and it would not be the right response for all occasions, particularly for law firms given the cultural constraints that typically exist. A more ‘customised hybrid’ approach is always effective, particularly at the early stages of the process! Howmight a firm best move from a practice-driven organisation to a strong practice- industry-geography teamingdrive?The specific answer to this questionwill vary from firm to firm but, in our experience, success is built on a number of sound principles. We see seven such guiding principles: 1) Focus effort initially on a limited number of high impact areas, and do not try for wholesale change overnight. We recommend that a good starting point is to select a limited number of sectors (one to three depending on the size of the firm) that have requirements that match the firm’s practice strengths and its geographical network. Select a limited number of clients and targets from these sectors, depending on the size of the firm, selected on the basis that they are strong or leading players in the sector, they have needs that reflect the firm’s aspirations and network, and have a wide range of requirements that match the firm’s practice strengths. Focus resource and effort here initially so as to increase the probability of success. Achieving a breakthrough and communicating this throughout the firm is a very effective way of enticing the more doubtful to also ‘drink from the cup’. 2) Ensure that the initiative is positioned as a strategically-driven firm-wide initiative, and not driven by an individual practice or office. In a highly competitive world, marshalling the firm’s best resources for maximum market impact is vitally important. The membership and remit of the teams must reflect the strategic importance and firm-wide scope.

“We suggest that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is too rigid..”


3) Ensure that the firm’s leadership and management actively champion and support the change initiatives. For many firms, the shift in emphasis from a practice drive to a full-teaming client drive requires a major internal change in behaviour and attitude. Given how deeply embedded is the practice-based view of the world held by most lawyers, and how many of the cultural factors within law firms tend to support and maintain the ‘my client’ ‘my way’ view of the world, one should not underestimate the degree of change required. Building and sustaining a momentum for change will occur only through committed effort from the top! Embedding the thinking, attitudes and processes to ensure this drive becomes self-sustaining takes a great deal of time and effort and must start with engaging the commitment of the firm’s leadership to the process. 4) Ensure that the roles, responsibilities and working relationships of the client, practice, industry and geographic teams and their leaders are clearly defined and understood, and that they have the authority required. It is important that the position of leading a practice, industry, geography or client team is defined as a strong leadership and management role, one that has a real executive authority, one that has a firm-wide reach and one therefore that requires the firm’s best people. The central purpose of each of the practice and industry teams is to capture and develop ‘cutting-edge’ intellectual capital and insights, to reinforce the marketing and business development effort and service delivery within the specific geography. Combining and leveraging these insights for maximum client impact, be it to support marketing and image build, relationship management and build, business development or service delivery, requires each of the teams to work effectively and in an open way with each other. 5) Ensure that the firm’s performance management systems measure both the investments and returns associated with each initiative. Building a ‘strong’ and ‘fortified’ position with a key client, practice or within an industry takes time and resource investment. These need to be appropriately planned and closely tracked for each of the designated industry, practice and client teams. It is important to evaluate the effectiveness of the firm’s investments in order to make informed strategic investment decisions. 6) Ensure that the firm’s partner performance processes both reflect and support the defined team-based client drives. In any major change effort it is vitally important to ensure the firm’s performance management process supports and rewards the new behaviours and the risks associated with championing the new team-based way. 7) Ensure close monitoring of progress and the collective learnings for firm-wide leverage to enhance differentiation and competitiveness. It is important that progress and performance are monitored, analysed and understood so that ‘wins’ can be shared and lessons learned applied elsewhere. Too often organisations fail to utilise fully the lessons learned from both mistakes and successes, and therefore keep reinventing the wheel.


MOVING AHEAD All of the observations and recommendations for action covered here are centred on building and managing the most effective practice, industry and geographic platforms for powerful client-service delivery to secure fortified market positions and to achieve superior economic performance. Each ‘strategic’ and ‘organisational’ response must reflect the firm’s current and targeted market position and profit performance drivers or requirements. The challenge is to design and deliver the appropriate degree of co-ordination and integration of business development and resource deployment to secure the best returns for the firm. CONCLUSION So is it an ‘easy ride’ to powering business performance through client focus and teaming? No, but it really pays massive strategic and performance dividends! Most importantly and urgently, it is not an option in today’s and tomorrow’s market conditions – it’s an imperative! Fortune will favour the purposive bold who grasp the market performance challenge and take a lead.

Copyright David Temporal 2019

www.lexingtonconsultants.net David.Temporal@LexingtonConsultants.com + 44 7798 528575

www.lexingtonconsultants.net Lexington Consultants Warnford Court

Throgmorton Street London EC2N 2AT ​ + 44 208 133 8276

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