Rethinking Law Firm Growth: Moving from Bottom Line to Triple Bottom Line Success Metrics

by Deb Baker /

Since the financial crisis, most firms have increased their focus on business fundamentals – and rightfully so. But a relentless focus on bottom line success metrics alone comes at a cost to a profession when maximizing productivity equates to an hourly rate times 24 hours a day times seven days a week. It’s a high-risk endeavor that places short-term gains over long-term sustainability.


But there is another model that enables firms to leverage what’s working by expanding a singular emphasis on the bottom line to a broader focus on the triple bottom line of profits, people and purpose. This reframing of success to account for an investment in human capital and culture building is not an altruistic business philosophy, it is a sound approach for building a stable financial model that will enable more firms to compete for the best and most profitable work.


Triple bottom line is not a new concept. It was coined by business writer John Elkington in 1994 to define a responsible corporation’s accounting practices as encompassing financial, social and environmental factors when determining success.


In GrowthPlay’s work with law firms around the country, we have found that a distinguishing factor of high performing firms is their focus on a form of the Triple Bottom Line that focuses on:

  1. Profits: Building a portfolio of profitable clients that enables them to make smart decisions about growth investments
  2. People: Attracting and retaining talent that are not only great at what they do but fit within a common culture, and
  3. Purpose: Enabling lawyers to achieve personal and professional fulfillment in whatever way they define.


So, what does it take for a firm to build a Triple Bottom Line culture?

Read more in our recent article posted in the National Law Review.