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Law Firm Strategy Execs Wield Uneven Clout

Lizzy McLellan Law.com

 Law firms love to tout their strategic "visions," but not many offer seats at the table for executives focused solely on strategy.

The role of chief strategy officer—increasingly common in corporate America—has been adopted by relatively few law firms. Consultants say perceptions of what the position entails and whether it's necessary vary widely throughout the legal industry.

Amanda Brady of Major, Lindsey & Africa said firms have been slow to adopt or even understand the role of a strategy executive. In a 2014 article, Brady wrote that the CSO role was evolving quickly, but now, she said, even firms that have the title haven't fully embraced it.

"I have some suspicions that some places just aren't ready for full-on strategy," Brady said.

'Thinking Forward'

The responsibilities of law firm CSOs can vary greatly, and are often more focused on business development than the firm's overall direction, Brady said. Sometimes strategic planning is rolled into other administrative positions focused on talent or business development.

"Firms think they have enough people weighing in on strategy ... they're not right," Brady said. "While [lawyers] may well be experts in their industry, or their practice area, and they know their world, what they often don't get to is what they don't know. A chief strategy officer or someone whose job it is to look at a bigger picture will theoretically have the time to look above the trees."

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