According to the managing director of Pier Advisory, an Australian management consultancy, law firms considered Corporate/M&A heavyweights may have some serious problems in 2012:

Mr Jeffrey Naqvi explains, “It is likely that the corporate/M&A as well as traditional banking deals markets will slow in 2012. Even the powerhouse economies of the world – whilst still growing – are showing some signs of softness.”  

“With there looking to be minimal capital and political will at a global level to ‘spend out of’ the financial crisis, counter-cyclical practices within law firms will become in greater demand. This poses a problem for many commercial law firms, who lead their marketing, reputation and recruitment strategies on being deal-making, corporate and financial specialists.” 

“Let’s face it – corporate deals and major banking transactions are sexy to talk about and be associated with. So, firms steer their efforts in these areas in terms of external brand-building and reputation management. But what happens when the deals slow down, and the major financings become small cap?  Corporations and intermediaries in the market shift their perceptions on what are ‘premier’ law firms to focus on those with strong arbitration, litigation and insolvency arms. Many firms risk being caught short in pitch and bid scenarios if they have invested all their branding efforts to date in projecting a ‘bull market’ persona.”

The only problem I have is with the proposed solution, which is oriented around practice group branding. When Craig Levinson, my co-founder, was CMO at Brown Raysman, he experienced what it was like to be with a law firm that “co-owned” an industry/business issue (Outsourcing) for over a decade:

  • Implementation of company’s outsourcing program
  • Litigation/ADR related to outsourcing
  • Intellectual Property/IT issues arising from outsourcing
  • Merger of two outsourcing companies
  • Insolvency issues arising from outsourcing

Whether it was a bull- or bear market, they didn’t have to manufacture some smoke-and-mirrors re-branding for the public.  Their brand was strong and consistent regardless.  

Prospects knew them as the “go-to” Outsourcing firm and sought them out, despite the changing market conditions. (Unfortunately, Brown Raysman also committed the sin of getting married to their inventory, i.e., when their first-mover advantage disappeared, Brown Raysman failed to respond quickly enough to the need to re-invent themselves.) 

To learn how an individual lawyer or firm can quickly own a niche industry or business issue, review the following courses: