Understand the influence by Steven Allen, Hogan Lovells

This article was originally featured as an opinion piece in the November issue of Briefing. To read the issue in full, download Briefing.

We find ourselves in a world, increasingly, operating without borders. Commerce sans frontieres.

Companies, particularly those listed, are under pressure to find new revenue lines and look to new markets in which to sell goods or services. New territories are sought, with a growing disconnect between where a business is domiciled and its major markets.

Law firms too have had to expand into these markets to ensure that they’re able to service their clients wherever they do business. And this growth has had to be rapid, through acquisition of firms, teams or individuals that did not train at the firm and who will have different ways of working. Add to that the demands and customs of local markets – and increasingly management of a global firm becomes a balance between consistency of service at a global level and locally focused expertise.

There are two challenges here. First, what do global clients want, and where should the delivery of that originate – at a personal, local, or global dynamic? Second, how do we drive change to better align ourselves to deliver this?

The Acritas Sharplegal survey into what global clients want from their global elite law firms identifies the following eight ‘asks’:

  • • Expertise
  • • Service
  • • Relationship
  • • Business savoir faire
  • • Value pricing
  • • Style
  • • Geography
  • • Reputation.

But where that focus ought to be ‘owned’ varies in clients’ views – at the individual relationship level, by local management, or globally.

If we then think about driving change not as a one-off, but as an integral part of the operating model of global firms, we can’t rely on the traditional top-down or bottom-up approaches. We need to look away from ‘comms strategies’ and telling people of the need to change – and instead look to the work of leading neuroscientists about how we can influence change. I have read, and continue to read, books by the likes of Jan Hills, Dr Steve Peters, Thaler and Sunstein. I am sure you have too. I’m going to ask Briefing to create an online book club/library corner – so we can share such books and discuss what works well and what doesn’t.

One lesson from me is this: If you want to drive change in a global law firm, you need to have a very clear course set by the firm leadership, but allow the detail to be worked out at a local level. To do this, partners will need support, and so I don’t think there has been a more interesting time to be a business support professional in law. 


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