Knoweldge management and global brands for law firms

Anyone interested in the intersection of KM, professional services firm management and branding should read this article from the March issue of Global Counsel magazine. The author looks at global brands like KPMG, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and asks, “Can any law firm ever create as strong a brand as these companies?” He believes they can, and outlines ten steps necessary for firms to accomplish this. One quote stands out in identifying the challenges (and opportunities) faced by large firms:

Law is a knowledge and service based industry. Without knowledge sharing and consistent service, a global firm is no different from a collection of independent national firms. But as a firm grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to share knowledge and develop a consistent approach to client service by informal means. A structured approach is therefore required. This will ultimately determine whether a firm becomes truly global or is merely international.

Not surprisingly, the author points out that one of the biggest hurdles to making this really work in the U.S. is the “cult of the billable hour.” Ernie and I spoke about this particular issue the other day: as long as the billable hour remains the primary mechanism by which lawyers are compensated, individual professionals will not have any incentive to truly share knowledge. The billable hour is heroin for far too many professionals: no matter how bad they know it to be, they can’t quite get themselves to put the syringe down.

That said, once one firm figures it out (and any firm that follows even a handful of the tips in the article will be on their way), the rest will follow. So the question is, how long? And who will be first? [Thanks to Leigh Dance for the pointer.]

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