Law Firm Leadership

We talk about leadership a lot! In fact lots of people talk about it a lot!

What is this thing they call leadership?

"Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change."1

Stephen Mabey Author

Why is there so much focus on the topic?

One of the single greatest challenges faced by law firms of all sizes is the effective transition in their leadership as the enterprise grows. This was probably best articulated in the recent 2013 Report on the State of the Legal Market that is a joint production by The Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor wherein it concluded:

"Plainly, to be successful in today's world, most every firm of any significant size must respond to the changing competitive realities of the market by centralizing many of the decisions previously made in more collegial ways and by embracing a consistent strategic vision that is uniform across the firm and that drives decisions and actions in all of its practice areas. At the same time, a firm must preserve the essential qualities that nourish and support great lawyering, including structures that preserve the independence of professional judgment and the autonomy of lawyers to act in the best interest of their clients".

Obviously the key is finding the right balance for your firm. This can only be done if the partnership2 and managed business proponents3 in a firm:

  1. Are willing to appreciate the values espoused by both parties (vision);
  2. Accept that compromise is the order of the day (buy in); and
  3. The firm's leadership staunchly oversees the balance and is prepared to make the necessary adjustments, either way, in a timely, consultative manner (producing useful change).

"So why is law firm leadership a blood sport?"

So why is law firm leadership a blood sport?

It is a reasonable question given the level of intelligence found in law firms. Three key obstacles impede the benefits of the collective wisdom:

The rest of this article is available in Stephen Mabey's new Book

Book Cover - Leading and Managing a Sustainable Law Firm - Tactics & Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Profession by Stephen Mabey

Available for purchase on BookBaby.




1 HBR Blog Network — Management is (Still) Not Leadership — John Kotter — January 9,2013

2 Includes concepts like participation by the full partnership in governance decisions, the provision of services by professionals exercising relatively unfettered discretion, and the use of collegial structures as the basis of organization — all designed "to respect professionals' desire for autonomy, to maintain the principle of partnership, and to promote acceptance and cooperation — 2013 Report on the State of the Legal Market

3 The hallmarks of a professional, such as education, vocation, esoteric knowledge, self-regulation, and civility, have been replaced, or at least augmented, by an interpretation that stresses punctuality, style, dynamism, financial success, and entrepreneurialism - 2013 Report on the State of the Legal Market

4 When Professionals have to Lead: A New Model for High Performance – Thomas J. Delong, John J. Gabarro and Robert J. Lees



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First Published in Legus International Network of Law Firms 2013 First Quarter. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant