Definitely Mabey

A Leading Lawyer versus a Lawyer Leading

One of the single greatest challenges facing many law firms is the effective transition in their leadership as the enterprise grows. As always, let me start with my underlying premise for this month’s column — the titular leaders of law firms must be lawyers.

Stephen Mabey Author

So why, might you reasonably ask, is it such a challenge given the level of intelligence found in law firms?

There are two main obstacles that intelligence alone can’t overcome:

1.    How to function as a team
2.    How to be a good boss

Many lawyers in most firms, irrespective of the size, practise essentially in a solo mode and when thrust into a leadership role are confronted immediately with the need to function in team mode.

The transitional challenges are fivefold:

  1. To be a successful team requires continuous interdependent work rather than the occasional episode they endured in the past.

  2. The selection criteria for the best members to be on the team changes from intellectual brilliance and friendship to adding strategic value to the issue and being able to put the firm first.

  3. Great teams need to both openly share information essential for full decision-making and make decisions together on critical issues versus keeping strategy close to the vest and calling all of the shots.

  4. Team meetings need to focus on the abstract strategic success of the firm and not on the cause du jour or a specific file/issue of the day.

  5. The rules of engagement for successful teams are not opt in-opt out in nature and apply whether with the team or with others.

Leading a team is a learned skill and most firms do not invest in teaching or providing the resources for potential leaders to develop the necessary skills. As a result, law firms seem doomed to meet Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity when it comes to achieving true leadership: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

The second of the obstacles I have identified is about how to be a good boss...

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.



Until next month, remember as Mark Twain is reported to have said,

"20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didnít do than by the ones you did do."

Comments or Questions?


First Published in Canadian Lawyer November 2010. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant