US firm overhauls poorly performing business to target the modern client

Washington DC firm reinvents itself after a year of challenges… are law firms doing enough to tackle diversity?… and a law firm’s report on media, highlights regulation as a barrier to growth…

US firm overhauls poorly performing business to target the modern client
When reinvention is the only option
When the revenue falls and you lose lawyers, lots of lawyers, it’s time to seriously assess how the firm can continue. That was the situation for Dickstein Shapiro, a firm in Washington DC with more than six decades of heritage. Last year was a terrible year for the firm as whole groups of lawyers left to go to other firms; it’s now 40 per cent smaller than in was five years ago. Revenue was down 20 per cent and profit down by 35 per cent. The management team decided to look at the business structure and make some radical changes. The result is a firm geared towards the modern client. They have hired a CEO, given more control to individual practices including the opportunity to try alternative billing arrangements, and focusing on its key areas of business. Chairman Jim Kelly told the Washington Post that hiring a CEO will free him up to meet clients more, enabling him to better assess trends and clients’ needs. Kelly says that revenue is solid and they are “on track and happy with our performance". As the market continues to evolve and dictate changes, it won’t be the last law firm to go through a period of reinvention.
Are law firms doing enough to tackle diversity?
Law firms in London are trying to redress the balance in the cultural and social demographics of their lawyers in a bid to better reflect the societal mix. Clifford Chance and Macfarlanes have already adopted a scheme whereby lawyers are judged not on their academic history, but on completion of essays and face-to-face assessments. Mayer Brown is planning to introduce the so-called ‘CV blind’ approach in the coming months. Figures show that while lawyers who attended private schools make up almost half of those in the big city law firms, the figure is in single figures in the population in general. The law profession is trying to attract more state-educated lawyers and those from across genders and ethnic backgrounds. A report in The Guardian shows that many top firms are looking at initiatives to increase diversity.
Baker & McKenzie releases study on media sector
In Australia there are calls for a more even playing field for the media industry and this is highlighted in a new study that’s been done by Baker & McKenzie. "Australia's regulations work for some but not others. Digital media has changed the game, and the fight for eyeballs is fast-moving, constantly evolving and global. Our media regulation, often based on pre-digital markets and structures, is struggling to keep up," said Sydney-based partner, Adrian Lawrence. The report highlights some differences between media in Asia-Pac and the UK and US markets. Specifically Australian and Hong Kong media professionals believe that cross-media ownership regulations restrict the industry while those in the UK and US were not so concerned. The study called “Media in Focus - Industry views on strategic directions and challenges” will be officially launched at Baker & McKenzie’s Sydney office this Wednesday.

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