One of the more unusual reactions I’ve gotten to “Growth Is Dead” came from Kate Fritz, Managing Partner of Fenwick & West, who I had the chance to talk to recently.

Several people have taken the book’s title a bit too literally, but Kate challenged the concept on another plane. She readily agreed that if “Growth Is Dead” means revenue growth substantially beyond inflation or headcount continuing to ascend to the sky, she agrees: But then came her insight. Kate believes firms have to grow a lot in the way fully mature animals or humans need to grow: Smarter, evolving, learning new things, changing with the business climate, the demographics of the talent population, and changes in the world economy in general.

She went further: The mindset of law firms, she believes, needs to be one of radical change, which she described as change from the inside, not change driven by external forces. To elaborate: Kate believes law firms as institutions need to change, but they haven’t done so at all. How not? We have:

  • the same positions
  • the same hiring tactics
  • the same recruiting practices
  • the same compensation models
  • and you get the point.

Kate warmed to the subject: “It’s crazy; what other business hasn’t changed those things in the last 100 years? Think about it.” Every company, every professional services firm does everything radically differently than it did 15 years ago, and that’s just not true of law firms, she said. Change is “super-overdue,” and not just because clients are demanding it but because the talent pool has changed dramatically. For example, the degree of sophistication of people who aren’t lawyers but who can help lawyers to provide services to clients—and still lawyers refuse to adequately appreciate what people who don’t have a JD can provide.

And, I assumed, that would carry over into a need to change the minimal, or even dis-, respect, people in the C-suite of most law firms get. Absolutely, Kate said: Just look at the financial analysts who can analyze data far more effectively than lawyers.

We turned to the subject of talent.

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