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Will Law Firms Lose Good People If They Don't Mend Their Ways?

This week, a couple of bloggers discuss whether law firms can retain good people at a time when firms focus, with a laser-like intensity, on profits per partner and the bottom line.  At Law and More, Jane Genova offers her spin on the mass exodus of partners from Thacher Profitt, reported in the National Law Journal, arguing that the PPP model is driving talent from firms.  Genova believes that good lawyers are "getting fed up with organizational cultures whose primary value is increasing the compensation of those at the top."  As a result, the best and the brightest may spend their early days at a top ten firm, but may then lateral, along with a bunch of clients, to a firm more concerned with client solutions than just money.

End result:

Law could see itself getting stuck the same way GM, Microsoft and The Bear did. Those organizations sucked money from the brand and let the brand wither.

Likewise, Susan Cartier Liebel argues that law firms can't afford to bash the millenials -- the youngest generation of lawyers who have no patience for the indentured servitude of partnership track when there's no realistic possibility of snagging the brass ring at the end of the climb.  Cartier Liebel applauds the new generation for trying to figure out a new and better way for law firms to operate.  And she also suggests that law firm management consider a concept called "internal marketing" -- a system in which firms value employees so they in turn will value the customers (or in this case, the clients).

While it may sound more expensive to accommodate the demands of today's lawyers, news from Akin Gump shows the consequences of failing to do so.  The Recorder reports that the firm has closed its Taiwan office and is re-evaluating its Silicon Valley office after the loss of rainmaking patent litigation partner Yitai Hu.  So why did the firm lose Hu?  According to firm chairman R. Bruce McLean, Hu split his time between Silicon Valley and Taiwan.  But when Hu asked to stay permanently in his native Taiwan, the firm wouldn't let him, explaining that the work in Taiwan didn't pay enough for a full time practice and Hu needed to be physically present in the United States to work on patent cases in the firm's domestic offices.  Gee -- you'd think that in an Internet Age, a firm that handles high-tech patent work could have found a way to enable Hu to handle local matters from an overseas office. 

In any event, the Hu story brings home Genova's and Cartier Liebel's point:  continuing to engage in business as usual can eventually lead to no business at all -- a lesson that Akin Gump learned the hard way.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 11, 2008 at 05:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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