Remaking News of the Week: Playing to win in BigLaw

Playing to win in BigLaw is prompted by Bruce MacEwen recounting a conversation with a friend in the BigLaw industry:  “He had correctly deduced from a recent column in these pages that I’m (re-)reading the all-time strategy classic Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger Martin (HBR 2013). My friend called with ‘an epiphany’: “I realized my firm isn’t playing to win; it’s playing not to lose.  I think most law firms are doing the same“.

Bruce goes on to say…

“Winning is the acid test of a successful strategy … across industry after industry, large and often disproportionate value-creation accrues to the industry leaders.  This seems to be the case with BigLaw as well.”

Drawing on the AmLaw 100 data, he makes the point for BigLaw:

  • 10% of the entire revenue of the 100 firms is accounted for by the top three;
  • the revenue of those three firms was greater than that of firms ##81–100 combined;
  • and the top nine firms garnered as much revenue as the entire bottom half of the 100 firms.

Question: Where does this lead us?

Answer: In the mature, hyper-competitive BigLaw market, differentiation is the only game in town.

Dialogue has recently carried a couple of posts on the criticality (and dearth) of differentiation:

Who’s listening? More important, where are the pathfinding and pioneer firms?

Bruce published Is Your Firm Playing to Win, or Not to Lose? on his Adam Smith Esq blog on October 7, 2018. It’s well worth reading the full article.

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