Law firm & business consultant David Maister wrote a wonderful article, “Are Law Firms Manageable?”, in 2006 about organizational culture in law firms.
Maister had been working with several firms about how to instigate change & experimentation inside US law firms. He identified four major roadblocks to changing law firm culture:
- problems with trust;
- difficulties with ideology, values, and principles;
- professional detachment; and
- unusual approaches to decision making.
This very readable article details each of these problem tendencies, and starts to point towards ways that organizational culture shifts can happen in legal orgs. Maister points to some pressures & contextual shifts that can prompt some shifts away from these 4 problem tendencies. They may be:
- If clients push back: when clients expect legal orgs to be more than a collection of great lawyers, and more like seamless service-provider
- If firms organize their own ‘constitutional conventions’: in which the lawyers draft explicit values & behaviors that firm stands for, and which bind their employees together as a community
- If some firms rise above the rest: When some firms manage to build an org culture of trust, collaboration, cross-boundary services, and values — they may set a new benchmark that other firms can rise to meet.