Driving change at law firms is hard for many reasons – but it is something that law firm leaders must excel at in order to ensure their firms remain competitive in a rapidly evolving legal landscape.

I was recently fortunate enough to serve as the co-Master of Ceremonies at the recent 2016 ALPMA Summit (with the inimitable Ron Baker). The conference was packed with practical suggestions to drive change at your firm.

Here are five key insights from Summit that really resonated with me.

1. Don’t wait for perfection. Flip it!

The legal profession is by nature risk-adverse and conservative. Creating a more entrepreneurial culture is key to any successful change initiative.

Matthew Burgess highlighted how new project ideas are evaluated at his innovative firm, View Legal. If a project looks like it will be 70% successful, Burgess runs with it. If they think it has a 40%-70% chance of success, they flip a coin to decide whether to proceed (‘flip it’) and if the business plan only suggests a 40% or less success rate – the idea gets binned.

2. It’s okay to fail

Firms must be willing to fail in order to succeed. Try new ideas. If your project doesn’t work, move on. The biggest risk for firms is inertia. When thinking about change, remember this: we need to make our current firms obsolete, and not let someone else do this to us. Reflect on what worked and what hasn’t – and learn from this.

3. You can never offer too much praise

Neuroscientist, Dr Bob Murray reminded us that praise is the biggest weapon in a leader’s arsenal for change and reinforcing desired behaviour. As leaders, we should go out of our way to look for people doing the right thing and praise them – rather than continually focusing on the negative.

Dr Murray explained there are three main types of praise:

  1. What has been done
  2. How it has been done
  3. Praise for who the person is

Praise for being you is the most powerful and the least used form of praise. Think of your firm as a tribe – support collaboration, sharing and recognition in your tribe and your tribe will go out if its way to ensure your firm’s survival.

4. Communicate and train (repeat)

Steve Wingert, a US change management guru, highlighted that there is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to change. You should continually communicate your plans, progress, and keep training people for your project to be successful.

We all need to look at the forest and take ourselves away from the trees if we are going to add value to our practices. Change can be emotional for many people. As leaders, we need to accept this and take it into consideration in our planning. Remember to address the emotional as well as the rational/logical!

Andrew Price from Inspire Management Consulting said it was critical for leaders to understand how to move people from their comfort zone. He stressed the importance of communicating your vision as part of this process. If people know what you’re looking to achieve it will help them get on board with the change.

5. Empower your people

Finally, Aasta O’Connor reminded us that you can’t implement change by yourself. You need to empower people and bring them along on the journey to make change happen.

I hope these insights help you successfully implement a ‘blueprint for change’ at your firm!

About Warrick McLean

Warrick McLean is the CEO and a Principal of Coleman Greig. Warrick is an active member and former Past President of the Australasian Legal Practice Manager Association (ALPMA) and in 2016, was honoured to receive ALPMA Life Membership.