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Law Firms and Law Departments

Leading a law firm or a law department can be a thankless and frustrating task. The line about “herding cats” makes the role sound easy in comparison to the reality: equity partners who do not want to be “managed”; associates who are working in the firm but feel disenfranchised from it; partners who do not want to be accountable for business development; and an organizational structure that many in the corporate world would consider untenable. In law departments, there are often similar issues but add to this the need to function as part of a larger corporate culture which may make the leadership role even more challenging.

Why are lawyers so difficult to lead? There is a good amount of new personality research on lawyers that helps explain why this is so. In addition, a Managing Partner needs to be able to relate to associates and legal staff to create a firm identity that is still responsive to equity owners. Managing Partners succeed best when they pay attention to organizational structure, and the functioning of practice groups and matter teams. Benign neglect is not a leadership style, it is an abdication of responsibility.

The best managing partners, in our experience, are not top-down, command-and-control leaders. Rather they work with the several constituencies that comprise a law firm with a deft recognition of their different needs and responsibilities.  Leadership does matter, and developing a leadership approach that works for the culture, size, and specializations of the firm is essential.  Likewise for General Counsels; they have similar challenges in managing their own team, but are often involved in managing outside counsel teams as well. Yet most lawyers do not have the business expertise or experience to feel comfortable in the corporate leadership role.

Among the services we provide:

Coaching – we work at every level of the firm, including staff. However, we specialize in working with law firm leaders, law department leaders, and equity partners. This includes high potentials, problem partners, and those partners facing important life decisions.

SuccessionPlanning – to whom, and how, to pass the reins of firm leadership is more art than science but there are some specific do’s and don’ts that can help. We help create a process, vet candidates, offer development suggestions, and even coach potential successors, as well as those choosing them.

ExecutiveTeam and Practice Group Consultation – more than ever before, lawyers need to work together as a team to be successful.  Team assessments, coaching, and consultation can often put a matter team or practice group back on track.

Off-sites and Partner Meetings – attorneys want to stay informed and we provide cutting-edge information about the things lawyers need to know to manage the firm. An example of recent topics that can serve as the basis for talks or workshops from one hour to a full day or more include: The Lawyers Brain, recent advances in neuroscience; Manage Your Time to Manage Your Practice, time management for lawyers; Mission Difficult – but Not Impossible, how recent discoveries about lawyer’s personalities can help people work with lawyers, and help lawyers manage themselves; Politics is Not a Dirty Word, the essentials of social intelligence for lawyers; Leadership Styles that Work for Lawyers; Creating a Work Climate that Works; Neglect Them at Your Peril, how managing down the firm even to the staff level can add to the bottom line; and topics that are customized for your firm’s or law department’s needs.



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