The Perfect Law Firm – Part 2

30 Oct 2014

If today’s law firm leaders could start again and rebuild the perfect the law firm, what would they do differently? The Lawyer asked several of today’s biggest legal names this very question and this is a summary of what they said…

Looking at the shape and size of most big firms today, which parts are firms currently most focused on unpicking and why?

Penelope Warne (Senior Partner at CMS) – “I would discourage the long hours culture, replacing this with team-based incentives.”

Simon Beswick (Managing Partner and CEO at Osborne Clarke) – “Firms are looking at the areas where there is a significant mismatch between the value to the client and the cost of production.”

Richard Masters (head of client operations at Pinsent Masons) – “Firms should unpick all service lines and be prepared to challenge and innovate. Strong project management within the organisation is important.”

David Patient (Managing Partner at Travers Smith) – “Some firms are replacing a portion of their trainee workforce with paralegals and other support roles for several reasons, however beware of the two-tier firm.”


This is about time and money.

While lawyers sell time it is impossible to break the equation which means that more chargeable time spent = more fees. Hence the drive to get fee earners to bill more time.


Big law firms are very focused on:

Building pyramids and delegating work down

Developing systems and process so that lower quality staff can do the work well


What they are not doing is fundamentally rebuilding their operating model. Most of what we see is designed to maintain or improve PEP. To survive they need to innovate. At the moment they are tinkering.

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Part 3, looks at structure. Is partnership the right model for a 21st century legal services provider?