The landscape of firms spans what would be by North American or UK/EU standards a very wide range indeed. Actually, I need to refine that statement: The landscape of commercial, business-oriented firms spans a wider range. In Law Land across the globe, you find very small, even solo, firms in their first generation next to large, full-service, and organizationally rather mature firms. The difference in Colombia is that the very small and young firms cater to sophisticated corporate clients alongside their older and larger competitors—not the case at any meaningful scale in the North American and European markets.
This makes for fascinating contrasts. We met with firms ranging from “co-ops of lawyers,” where every partner is more or less his/her own profit center and independent business sharing some fixed expenses and overhead, to established firms with highly professional business-side management employing balanced scorecards, pricing and KM experts, and client feedback disciplines.
But not to overanalyze and, misleadingly, dwell on the differences in the market. As has been our experience across many other countries and venues around the world, the challenges law firms face share far more in common than drawing tidy distinctions would lead you to believe. The core set of strengths/weaknesses and opportunities/threats are all close family members in the end:
- Clients tend to select law firms they already know, or know best;
- Subject matter expertise and experience is clients’ #1 criterion;
- Responsive and trust (or rather the lack thereof) can kill you in a heartbeat;
- Price sensitivity depends; it depends on the consequences and visibility of the matter, and rather often good enough is good enough; and perhaps most important,
- Structural developments and changes in the market are only getting started.
Without doubt, we shall find ourselves in Bogota again in the near future.