Wake Up! PPEP Matters!

I have to write this blog entry to get some of the angst out of my system. There is something very disturbing in “the force” going on, and I want to warn those complascent few to whom this piece is directed.

To cut to the chase, there is a certain class of high-caliber firm with (relatively) low PPEP that is lulling its associates into a false sense of security. That’s a dangerous place to be. Okay, I’ll back up.

Let’s see if you can identify this firm or firms in your market: old, prestigious, PPEP below 900K, known for its brainiacs, fewer (sometimes far fewer) than 1000 lawyers, limited international presence. Okay. Do you have this firm in mind? Let me tell you what some associates in these firms are telling me. Number one, they are blithely unaware or unconcerned about trends in the market and smugly minimalist about firm ‘platform’. They don’t care about PPEP and figure they are making plenty of money anyway. They see the firm has having an historically consistent partnership track, regardless of proven potential to bring in business, and figure there are plenty of mediocre partners there so why won’t they fit in when the time comes? These associates did well academically and have not had to change firms before. In short, if this were 1950, they would be fine.

Guess what? It is not 1950 and things have changed. Bottom line: if you want to stay standing still, you have to be running. If these associates are not interested in joining the global “megalomaniac” trends (not my word) of continual growth and continual expansion, are not interested in being psycho-marketeers and are not interestd in being high-octane megalomaniacs themselves, it is even MORE incumbant upon them to start working TODAY on building their books of business. That’s because either their current firm is going to eventually phase them out (because it will have changed business models) or these associates will have to self-select out because the firm they know is going to jump on the global bandwagon.

Better minds than mine have been saying for a good few years now that the future of law firms (10-20 years) is a “global 20” that are “all things to all men.” Basically, there is emerging a super-class of firms to stand in dominant positions for global work in the future–and all the good work in the near future is going to be global work and all the good “domestic” work will be done by these firms as well.

Your nice, white-shoe firm with half-a-dozen domestic markets and a marquee foreign outpost is either going to jump onto or rejoin the mega-merger mania, or it is going to subside into a regional (what we used to and sometimes do still call ‘national’) player. Basically, these firms will drift into a second or third tier within the first tier of firms. Are you feeling this yet?

Anyway, the advice to network, write, speak, and get noticed, and that consistently, applies to ALL attorneys wherever they are. It’s just that maybe those not in the circumstances described above already knew that (and just aren’t doing it). Those guys in the ivory-shoe tower just didn’t think this applied to them. So now they know.

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