It’s Monday, so that means that the 2014 ILN European Regional Meeting is officially in the books. I want to offer a special thanks to our hosts at Okland & Co DA, and especially their managing partner, Tom Carsten Troberg.
As I was flying home yesterday, I had the opportunity to ruminate on the conference, and the takeaways I gained from the various presentations and social functions, and I wanted to share those with you today!
- There is really no substitute for face-to-face relationship building: As you know, I love social media, and think of it as a great bridge for keeping connections going in between face-to-face interactions.
But there’s no substitute for seeing your connections from around the world in person, talking about personal and professional things, laughing together, and experiencing a new city together. Not only do you get to know each other better (and get a richer understanding of the challenges and cultural differences facing your colleagues in other cities), but you leave with a warm feeling that reminds you to think of them first when making referrals or getting ready to pitch a client. So never think that your online or phone efforts will ever compare to time spent in each other’s company.
Shared experiences will always win the day – particularly when those experiences involve Aquavit tastings and a mutual fear of lutefisk.
- Law firms continue to adapt to meet their clients’ needs: Law firms can become more efficient and profitable, all while serving their clients’ needs at the highest levels of service without charging exorbitant fees. Through project management, a deep understanding of how to run a firm as a business and make sound business decisions, and considering alternative staffing models, the law firms of tomorrow will look much different.
I was especially struck by this – earlier this year, I saw a GC panel, where one of the lawyers said that she considers her outside counsel to be another arm of her business. When discussing staffing models during Tim Corcoran’s presentation on Saturday, particularly the idea of contract lawyers, it occurred to me that firms need to be thinking of contract lawyers as another arm of their business.
Contract lawyers don’t need to be considered as untethered individuals, without a firm to call home – instead, Tim suggests we think of them in the same way as clients think of their outside counsel. In house counsel hire outside lawyers to do work that they don’t want to do in-house because they don’t want the overhead. In the same way, firms can (and do) hire contract lawyers to do the work that they don’t want to do “in-house” because they don’t want the overhead.
- Lawyers need a break in their day-to-day work, not only to connect, but also to find the time to get some perspective: Law firm management was a big topic this week, not only during the business sessions, but also between the lawyers in individual conversations. When lawyers are in the midst of their day-to-day work, even when that includes managing firms, teams and partners, they’re not usually taking that 30,000 foot view, because they simply don’t have enough hours in the day.
It can be extremely useful to get together and talk – to see what challenges other firms are facing, how some firms are meeting those challenges, and what everyone sees as coming up on the horizon. Not everyone will return to the office today and be able to do more than catch up on what they missed while away, or anything already on their plate, but the seed is planted and they can start to make use of each other’s experiences as they build and manage their firms.
2008 brought about a lot of changes, and the biggest one is the idea itself of embracing change. When we consider these to be exciting times, we’ll be able to easily rethink the existing structure of a law firm to enable us to be streamlined, efficient, and profitable businesses who meet our clients needs.
- When faced with a list of potential law firm management topics to discuss, our European lawyers were most interested in delving into project management, pricing, marketing and business development, staffing and succession planning. Although there are cultural and practical differences among all of our firms, they are all facing many of the same challenges and questions, particularly over the next few years. More than ever, it helps to share those with each other to get through the growing pains brought about by change.
- The ILN really IS “where lawyers become friends.” We developed this tagline a number of years ago because after surveying the membership, the thing that stands out most is the relationships among the attorneys. I see it happen over and over – it doesn’t matter whether this is someone’s first or 21st meeting; they are almost immediately wrapped up into this network of friends and colleagues.
Whether it’s coming together for an authentic Norwegian dinner at our hosts’ home before the conference, laughing over stories and traditions at the meetings, reaching out with words and support to a delegate who had to leave to be with his dying father, or the regular ribbing that happens between friends, there is a warmth among the group that cannot be denied. And what a lovely thing that is!