In late August, Washington Post reporter Catherine Ho wrote a compelling reinvention story on Dickstein Shapiro. The article sets the stage with series of challenges the firm has faced – from financial performance to the loss of lateral hires to other firms – and then spends the rest of its words describing what the firm is doing about it.
By all appearances is based on candid interviews that include the firm’s Chairman James D. Kelly and Dennis Hastert – the former House Speaker who now leads the firm’s lobbying arm. In reading through the article there appears to be five ways that the firm is reinventing itself.
1. Client focus. The firm is responding to client needs in two ways according to the article. First, Mr. Kelly states the firm seeks to spend more time with clients and secondly, that the firm is changing the firm’s operations to reflect the operations of their clients. “We’re trying to operate our business more like our clients do,” reads the article citing Mr. Kelly.
2. Experimentation. Ms. Ho reports the firm is changing the way it is managed – and breaking from precedent. It’s providing practice groups more latitude in several aspects of the firm including fee structure. She writes the firm is allowing “some attorneys and staffers to experiment with new fee arrangements.”
3. A focus on specialization. Specialization is trend surfaced in several legal industry studies including the very recent “Client Dynamics Driving Change in the Legal Profession” by Robert Half Legal and the Legal Technology Future Horizons report – a landmark study by ILTA. According to Ms. Ho’s reporting, it’s a central theme at Dickstein Shapiro:
Central to Dickstein’s strategy is to be a more-focused, specialized firm rather than a global full-service legal behemoth. Its sweet spot is in insurance coverage — typically representing corporations suing insurance companies over contested claims. It also offers expertise in antitrust litigation, intellectual property, government law and strategy, and a niche practice representing companies being investigated or sued by state attorneys general offices.
4. Decentralization in hiring. According to the report, the law firm used to set a firm wide allocation for summer associates but has more recently delegated that authority to practice group leaders. Ms. Ho writes, “the move is pivot away from how Dickstein used to hire young attorneys — and how many law firms continue to hire young attorneys — which was to mandate a set number of firmwide summer associates, and then try to find groups to place them into.”
5. Embracing new roles. The firm has embraced new roles hiring its first ever chief operating officer to manage the business side of operations – and “partly to free up Kelly to get more face time with clients.” It’s also created “about 10 ‘hybrid’ attorney-staff positions across its six U.S. offices that allow the firm to charge lower rates for certain types of work.”
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The complete story is well worth reading – what takeaways would you add to this story?
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