Changing the Status Quo

“That’s not how we do things around here.”

So begins a recent article, Kill the Status Quo Police, (Thanks to @sapreston for sharing it on Twitter).

The article is about how some organizations are so tied to how things were done in the past that they end up deterring innovation. The author points to a number of compelling examples, including Microsoft , Dell, Motorola and others.

“Such destructive norms couldn’t be sustained if there weren’t people anointed to enforce rigid adherence to them. Those are the Status Quo police. Their job, first and foremost, is to make sure that historical ways of doing business are not altered. It is not to focus on positive business results. To the contrary, it is to make sure the organization stays with the tried and true regardless of results. The police simply assume that results will be good if the status quo continues,” writes Adam Hartung.

Although this article focuses on technology companies, I would argue that nowhere are the Status Quo Police more prevalent than inside law firms and in-house legal departments.

Heavy investment in infrastructure keeps firms from adopting faster, less-expensive technology. Firms cling to the billable hour in fear of having the tough conversations about how to value the services they provide. Lawyers are afraid of collaborating on business development for fear of having to share clients. Many would rather keep a small piece of business with one client than take a chance to expanding the relationship by introducing to new talent — even when that talent is their own partners.

When the legal market hit the skids in late 2007, I thought for the first time in a long time that law firms would be forced to embrace change and realize the status quo was no longer an option. Nearly three years later, little has changed. Budgets have been slashed and firms have cutback to the barebones, but the status quo remains largely intact. There is close to what I would call a genuine fear of trying something different.

I’m with Hartung. It’s time to kill the status quo.

Posted on September 22, 2010 in Law Firm Management

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