- Your Firm's Noble Purpose:
The Key to Partner Engagement
by Terry Wall
Riveting bolts or building the Golden Gate Bridge? Cutting stone or constructing Notre Dame Cathedral? Does your firm have a “Noble Purpose?” Many studies reveal that how your firm and its people perceive their contributions to the world and to society have a significant impact on their engagement in their work, as well as their long-term career satisfaction. Does your firm have a “Noble Purpose"…a reason for being that engages and fulfills your partners, your associates and your support staff? Here are a few to consider:
- We help entrepreneurs make their dreams come true.
- We help injured people find justice.
- We make the biggest real estate projects in town happen.
- We help senior citizens enjoy retirement comfortably.
- 13 Habits of Phenomenally Successful Leaders
by Evan Asano
As a leader in your firm, you set the culture. Great leaders set and maintain an optimal culture where each individual enthusiastically contributes their best work for the good of the entire organization. We’re constantly on the look-out for impactful articles about law firm leadership to share with our readers and this one – although not specifically about law firm leadership – really grabbed my attention. It’s short. It’s practical. And it’s really good. Here are five of the 13 habits:
Listen. Great leadership comes from understanding your organization and its people. Understanding comes from listening to your partners, your clients and market.
Share. Share your vision and goals. Set the bar high. People want to feel like they’re part of something great.
Recognize. Always recognize and celebrate your team. Great leaders share credit for success and accept responsibility for failure. Also, they praise in public and criticize in private.
Commit. Make a commitment to yourself to be the best firm leader you can be. Read books and articles. Attend conferences. Collaborate with other leaders, both in and out of the legal profession.
Take Care. Be good to yourself. Studies reveal that you’re at your best when you exercise and engage in a healthy lifestyle.
- Are You Aggressively Driving Firm Growth?
Or Biding Your Time in the Passenger Seat?
by Gale Crosley, CPA
Gale is a rock star in the world of CPA firms. She’s been selected as a “Most Recommended Consultant” by Inside Public Accounting for nine consecutive years, and as one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today for seven consecutive years. This article speaks to those firm owners (in either a CPA firm or law firm) who have comfortably settled into the passenger seats at their firms and, until now, have been along for the ride. (I’ll bet you even have some at your firm!) Now, many of these “passengers” are being asked to slide into the driver’s seat. They’re being asked lead, market and help grow the firm. But all is not lost. There is hope and this short, yet powerful, article is a great place to start.
- Are You Asking the Right Questions?
by John Remsen, Jr.
Here are 12 questions that you, as an effective firm leader, should be asking yourself, your fellow firm leaders, your lawyers and your support staff on a regular basis.
- Honing Your Humility:
An Antidote for Big Egos
by Mark Beese
In this article, Mark writes about research by Edward Hess, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business, which compiles the findings of eight well-researched and highly-regarded studies about high-performing organizations. Using different approaches and methodologies, all eight studies found that high-performing organizations share these characteristics:
- High Employee Engagement,
- Constant and Relentless Improvement,
- Strong Purposeful Cultures, and
- Humble, Passionate Leadership.
- Five Lessons for New Firm Leaders
by Glenn B. Callison, Esq.
MPF Advisory Board member Glenn Callison wrote this article for Texas Lawyer magazine a few years ago. In it, he talks about what he has learned in his role as Chairman and CEO of Munsch Hardt, a 100-lawyer law firm based in Dallas, TX.
- Observations from the
Inaugural MPF Leadership Academy
by John Remsen, Jr.; Stephen Mabey & Karen MacKay
Our inaugural Leadership Academy was a great success and we’re pleased to share a brief article highlighting four of the main topics (along with faculty commentary) we discussed. They are:
- Succession and Talent Management
- Firm Values and Culture
- Leading Change in the Law Firm
- Key Attributes of an Effective Firm Leader
- Five Things I Loved at
the 2015 Futures Conference
by Patrick Lamb
The College of Law Practice Management is a terrific organization consisting of many of the brightest minds in the legal industry. Each fall, it presents The Futures Conference to induct new Fellows and discuss issues relating to the future of the legal profession. This year, one of the main topics was “Alternative Business Structures” that bear little resemblance to the traditional law firm. They’re sprouting up throughout New Zealand, Australia and the UK with tremendous success. Patrick is the founding partner of Chicago-based Valorem Law Group, which is built entirely around alternative fee arrangements.
- Leadership: Has It Ever Been More Important?
by Stephen Mabey
In this article, Steve sets forth the five traits of effective law firm leadership, the obstacles that impede quality leadership at many firms, and the styles of leadership that might be right for your firm. Finding that right leadership style is more “art” than “science.” By the way, Steve’s five traits for effective leadership are:
- Firm-First Mindset and Attitude,
- Empathy for Others’ Motivations,
- Receptivity to New Ways of Doing Things,
- Personal Credibility and Political Capital, and
- Strong Communication Skills.
- Eight Ways to Make
Your Law Firm a Great Place to Work
by Dr. Larry Richard
“When you transform your law firm into a great place to work, the psychological engagement of your people soars,” says Larry Richard. “And engagement is the attitudinal gold standard” that leads to higher productivity, improved career satisfaction, more loyalty and longer tenure and, ultimately, increased profitability.” Larry offers eight things you can do that really matter to make your law firm an exceptional place to work.
- Leading Lawyers:
Your Most Potent Tool is Your Mindset
by Dr. Larry Richard
The skill set required of a great lawyer is far different (in fact, the exact opposite in many areas) than the skill set required of a great law firm leader. Great leaders are optimists, embrace change and think long-term. In this article, Larry outlines the “behavioral influence” approach to leadership and provides a simple set of strategies that can be highly effective in leading the lawyers in your firm. They are:
- Role Modeling (aka Leading by Example). We pay far more attention to what leaders do, rather than to what they say.
- Social Proof (aka Bandwagon Effect.) In times of uncertainty, we pay close attention to what others are doing and we tend to follow.
- Commitment and Consistency. Start small and build on success. You’ve got to eat the elephant one bite at a time.
- Similarity. We want to be like successful people around us and do what works for them. Nobody wants to be the odd man out.
- Succession Planning:
How to Hand Your Law Firm to the Next Generation
by Sue Remley
When it comes to succession planning within a law firm, we often hear from managing partners: “I’m concerned that our young partners don’t have what it takes to run this firm in the future. They lack the drive, commitment and work ethic to become owners of the business.” And from young partners, we hear: “The senior partners won’t let go. They cling to control and won’t introduce us to their clients and referral sources.” Firms need to find ways to bridge the gap if they want to be around in 2020 and beyond. Sue shares her advice to help your firm manage its succession process.
- Successfully Managing the Multi-Generational Firm
by Natasha Jarosek, Thomson Reuters
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard a gazillion (that’s right, gazillion) times from frustrated law firm leaders: “Today’s young lawyers just don’t want to work very hard like I did when I was a young lawyer. They want work-life balance, yet they believe they’re entitled to make the big bucks just because they went to law school. Back in my day…” Well, young lawyers are here to stay, and they’re starting to assume leadership roles in many firms. You’re not going to change an entire generation, so you best learn to understand them and what makes them tick.
- Traditionalists (born before 1946) – The WWII generation likes stability and clear direction.
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964) – These folks want work-life balance and understand the “big picture.”
- Gen X (1965-1980) – These are creative types who like autonomy and variety.
- Millennials (1981-2000) – Multi-taskers who thrive on recognition and constructive feedback.
- How to Run a Great Meeting
by Mike O'Horo
We’ve all spent countless hours in unproductive, time-wasting meetings. Meetings that begin 15 minutes late and have no agenda, no leadership and wander aimlessly from topic to topic. Meetings during which most of the participants appear more engaged with their smart phones than the conversation before them.
As an effective law firm leader, it’s critically important that the meetings you run be meaningful, valuable and effective. In fact, I know many managing partners take pride in and are known for their ability to run a great meeting. In our opinion, great firm leaders run great meetings.
- OBSERVATIONS AND COMMENTARY
Major Themes and Issues at The MPF 2014 Leadership Conference
by John Remsen, Jr. and Timothy B. Corcoran
Timothy Corcoran, our Keynote Speaker, was well-received in delivering a hard-hitting presentation emphasizing our theme – “Evolve or Perish: Leading Your Firm in an Increasingly Competitive Market.” Together, we wrote a two-page report immediately after the Conference highlighting some of the major themes and issues discussed during the day. Among them:
- The Challenges of Strategic Planning and Implementation
- Why and When to Hire a Marketing Director
- Dealing Effectively with Chronic Underperformers
- Recruiting Laterals with Books of Business
- Law Firm Innovation:
From Idea to Implementation in Five Increasingly Difficult Steps
by Jordan Furlong
Jordan Furlong is a lawyer, consultant and industry analyst who forecasts the dramatic impact the changing legal market will have on lawyers, law firms and other legal organizations. And, as we all know, leading change in the law firm is a challenging task. In this short, but really good, article, Jordan outlines a five step process to make it happen. His guidance:
- Start with the facts, not abstract, faith-based notions, of the situation
- Find a catalyst to induce a sense of urgency
- Outline a clear, detailed plan to achieve the desired goal
- Appoint and empower forward-thinking leaders throughout the firm
- Have the courage to take the heat when the going gets tough
- Herding Cats:
The Lawyer Personality Revealed ** AN MPF CLASSIC **
by Dr. Larry Richard
According to the research presented in this timeless, often-cited, article by Dr. Larry Richard, lawyers are off the charts - when compared to the general population - when it comes to certain personality characteristics. Among them:
- Highly skeptical,
- Hate change,
- Risk averse,
- Love autonomy,
- Low resilience, and
- High sense of urgency.
- Ten Things I'd Do
Differently as a Law Firm CEO
by Timothy B. Corcoran
This is a terrific article written by Tim Corcoran, a new member of the MPF faculty. Tim has worked in the legal industry for more than 20 years helping law firms, in-house legal departments and suppliers to the legal services industry deal with and capitalize on the rapidly changing landscape surrounding them. In this article, he shares ten things he’d do differently if he were put in charge of a mid-size law firm.
Among his recommendations:
- Change your governance model,
- Measure client satisfaction obsessively, and
- Require leadership and management training for your lawyers.
- Featured Video
Here's a short but hard-hitting video that hammers home the dramatic changes in the legal industry over the past decade. We suggest that you play it at your next partnership meeting and ask your partners what they think. If this doesn't get their attention that your firm needs to change, nothing will. The video is produced by Re-ThinkLaw.org, an initiative launched by an outfit called Axiom. Stay tuned.
- Driving Execution:
Seven Ways To Get Your Team's Brilliant Ideas Executed
by Gerry Riskin
After 25 years in the legal industry, I often find myself working with firms that are long on planning, yet woefully short when it comes to implementation. My advice? Pick just three meaningful initiatives, dedicate the required resources, and assign a responsible partner – not a committee – to make sure each initiative is accomplished. And follow the advice is Gerry's brilliant article.
- Tolstoy Was Right
by Ed Wesemann
In this gem of an article, Ed says he finds little in common among unsuccessful law firms, because each one tends to fail in its own unique way. He does, however, find that there are a number of factors that are almost always present in highly successful law firms. These factors include leadership, expectations, and a subjective compensation plan.
- Seven Strategies
to Succeed at Law Firm Leadership
by John Remsen, Jr.
This is an article we wrote that appeared in the November/December issue of Law Practice magazine, published by the American Bar Association. Our advice to firm leaders? Create job descriptions. Get to know the firm's top clients. Develop a firm-wide strategic plan. And encourage partners to invest in the firm's future.
- Today's Law Firm Leader as Juggler
by Brian K. Burke, Esq.
Much has been written lately about where an effective managing partner should spend most of his/her leadership and management time. And MPF faculty member Brian Burke has strong feelings on the issue. He suggests that helping strong performers, meeting with clients and focusing on long-term strategy are where it's at. Brian especially warns firm leaders against spending too much time trying to rescue "lost causes" who cannot or will not ever become productive members of the firm. In many cases, it's best to help them move on, he says. This article appeared in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue the ABA's Law Practice Magazine.
- The Chain: LinkedIn is More than Social Media for Lawyers
by Dennis Kennedy
In this article from the ABA Journal, Dennis succinctly presents his reasons why every lawyer in private practice should have a LinkedIn profile. For starters, it's likely to be among the top three results when someone "googles" your name on the Internet. But that's just the beginning. Dennis is co-author of LinkedIn in One Hour for Lawyers.
- What's Our Deal?
by David Maister
David Maister writes some really good stuff and you'll find lots of his books and articles featured on our Website. This particular article discusses things like mission, vision, values and culture in the context of a law firm. It's a great article to circulate among your partners in advance of your next Firm Retreat. It will get them thinking about a whole bunch of issues, including the rules and codes of conduct (if any) by which your firm and its professionals live.
- Law Firm Management Science: Ignore at Your Peril
by Timothy Corcoran
This interesting and thought-provoking article appears in January edition of the ABA's Law Practice Today. In fact, there are several good articles in this issue, but this one got my attention. Among other things, Corcoran writes about how more progressive law firms are focusing attention on continuous process improvement and finding new, more effective ways to get things done.
- Why Leaders Need Feedback
by Dr. Larry Richard
As a new member of the MPF faculty, we've asked Larry to provide a few articles for our Website. This one says that, as a law firm leader, you should want and solicit feedback about how you're doing. The more you understand about yourself and how others perceive you, the better equipped you are to effectively respond to the concerns of others, to understand those you lead, and to gain buy-in from them on their own terms.
- Leadership Development
Should Your Firm Invest in Growing its Leaders?
by Kathleen Bradley
Developing leadership skills is hard work. And it's especially difficult for lawyers who, by nature, tend to be skeptical, autonomous and risk averse. Yet the absence of strong, committed leaders who are trusted and inspire confidence within the firm is often cited as a major factor in most law firm dissolutions. Has the time come for your firm to invest in developing leadership skills in its lawyers? If no, why not? If yes, what, when, who and how? This article will help answer some of those critical questions.
- Make Mid-Sized The Right Size
by Peter S. Marlette, Esq.
Peter Marlette, Managing Partner of Damon Morey in Buffalo, New York, has recently joined the MPF Advisory Board. This outstanding article, which originally appeared in the New York Law Journal, is must reading for leaders of mid-size law firms. It discusses the exciting opportunities for mid-size firms in today's marketplace for legal services. Among his recommendation: Adopt and implement a firm-wide strategic plan, and become active in the right law firm network. His firm is a member of ALFA International.
- Where Leaders Stumble
by Patrick J. McKenna
In working with hundreds of law firm leaders over the past twenty years, McKenna has observed several warning signs that often lead to weak or ineffective firm leadership.
- Five Questions to Ask about Your Firm's Succession Readiness
by Thomas C. Grella, Esq.
"A leader's lasting value is measured by succession," says leadership author and guru John Maxwell. Tom Grella, a long-term member of the MPF Advisory Board, puts his spin on the topic from the perspective of managing partner of a mid-size firm. Importantly, he writes about the role of current firm leadership in the process. Tom is Past Chair of the ABA's Law Practice Management Section. This article appears in the May/June issue of the ABA's Law Practice magazine.
- The Evolving Role of Today’s Law Firm Leaders
by John Remsen, Jr.
Today's law firm leaders face extraordinary challenges. Learn steps that the top level of firm leadership can take to enhance the effectiveness and performance of their organizations.
- Leadership Transitions: Seven Steps to Ensure Success
by Patrick J. McKenna
There is no definitive answer to the question of exactly how long an outgoing leader should stay in office after announcing his or her departure. Many management experts advocate a swift transition to avoid lame-duck syndrome or firm drift. However, one-on-one interviews with dozens of firm leaders reveal a very different approach.
- Anxieties of Leadership:
Critical Questions and Answers for New Managing Partners
by Patrick J. McKenna
For new managing partners, the responsibilities are multi-faceted and the stakeholders are diverse, both within and outside the firm. This article looks at the most common mistakes, the biggest challenges, some unanticipated surprises, and how to avoid them.
- Take Responsibility for Rising Stars
by Jeffrey M. Cohn, Rakesh Khurana and Laura Reeves
This article contends that companies that are good at growing leaders do so in the trenches at the “line manager” level, not through their HR departments. That would equate to a department head and practice group leader in the context of a law firm. It includes a “Leadership Development Checklist” on how to grow great leaders.
- Grooming Next-Generation Leaders
by Martha Lagace
This article interviews a pair of Harvard Business School professors who talk about the importance of identifying future leaders, training them to be effective in their roles and retaining them as top talent – especially in a mid-sized organization.
- Administrators: The "Secret Sauce" of Law Firm Success
by Law Office Management & Administration Report (LOMAR)
We are strong advocates for strong, competent, business-minded administrators in law firms. Management. Marketing. Finance. Human Resources. Technology. They make the trains run on time, and they make the firm more money. This article talks about the critical role of firm administrators from the perspective of three managing partners - from small, mid-size and large law firms. One thought we especially like: "Acting like a partner, that is like an owner not an employee, goes a long way toward helping the administrator get a seat at the table."
- Nine Rules for Law Firm Leaders
by Robert W. Denney
From strategic planning to effective committee structure, this two-pager gets right to the point. Although simple in concept, these rules are not always easy to apply and follow. But the most successful organizations do....including law firms.
- Advice from a Non-Traditional Law Firm Leader
by Keith W. Houck
For many years, Keith Houck was the COO of GrayRobinson, now one of the largest and most successful law firms in Florida. In his article, he compares growing a law firm to nurturing a garden. Although each plant has its own preferences and special needs, they function and look their best as a group. But not every plant is good for the health of the entire group.
- Sustainability: How Values-driven Law Firms Are Surviving
Tough Times and Prospering Over the Long Term
by William R. Blackburn
This thought-provoking article was featured in Law Practice Today, the ABA's monthly online magazine. In it, William Blackburn reports on a growing number of law firms that have adopted new models of governance to help them survive, even thrive, in both good times and bad. He profiles numerous firms that have implemented broad-based sustainability initiatives -- cultural, social, economic, environmental, and financial -- to ensure their long-term prosperity and well-being.
- Legal Industry Faces Major Changes:
Large Law Firms Facing Intense Pressure to Adapt
by Katy Hopkins
Much ado has been made over the new partnership between Best Lawyers in America and US News & World Report to present their version of law firm rankings. We'll be writing more on that topic in a soon-to-be-published MPF White Paper. In any event, there are a few thoughtful articles on their website including this one. And it's good news for smaller and mid-size law firms.
- Why Do Law Firms Die?
by J. Mark Santiago
There are three common reasons why law firms fail, says this article that appears in the June edition of ABA's Law Practice magazine. Lack of leadership. Lack of strategic focus. Lack of financial discipline. Don't let your firm be among those that fall apart or seek refuge through an acquisition.
- Lawdragon's 100 Managing Partners You Need to Know
We found this rather interesting list "100 Managing Partners You Need to Know" browsing the Web earlier this month. Not surprisingly, it appears as if one must be with an AmLaw 200 firm to be on it. Lawdragon says it contacted more than 50,000 legal professionals for their input.
- Turning The Business Model in Your Law Firm Inside Out
by William E. Lowell
According to a recent Harvard University study, more than 70% of a customer's "brand perception" is based on experiences they have with the organization's employees. For law firms this means both lawyers and support staff. This article speaks to the concept of "relationship capital," which is created when everyone in the firm is focused on working together to achieve a positive brand image and deliver the brand promise to each and every client, prospective client and referral source.
- The Best-Performing CEOs in the World
by Harvard Business Review
According to this HBR article, the very best CEOs are "quiet" leaders who deliver outstanding results, year in and year out. Most have formal training (They have MBAs.), and many inherited the leadership role at a struggling company from a mediocre predecessor.
- A New Leadership Model is Needed
by Robert W. Denney
MPF Faculty member Bob Denney offers practical advice to firm leaders in the wake of the worst economic recession in 70 years. We couldn’t agree more with Bob’s points. It’s time for law firm leaders to step up.
- Great Leadership is Everything:
11 Leadership Skills for Recovery and Renewal
by Quint Studer
This is a must-read article for firm leaders, especially in these challenging times. "Out of difficulty, leaders rise. That someone might as well be you," says acclaimed author Quint Studer. The 11 bits of advice offered in this article are the components of leadership greatness in law firm executives.
- Leadership Transitions: Seven Steps to Ensure Success
by Patrick J. McKenna
Succession planning is neglected by far too many law firms. In fact, most managing partners - 74% to be exact - do not have an exit strategy when they take the job. This helpful article provides seven thoughtful suggestions to smooth the transition when you're ready to pass the baton.
- Best Practices for Setting Managing Partner Pay
by Peter A. Giuliani
How should a firm appropriately compensate its managing partner for the non-billable time required of the role? Take a look at Peter Giuliani's article that appeared recently in the ABA's Law Practice Magazine.
- Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It:
First Steps for the New Managing Partner
by Merrilyn Aston Tarlton
You've just accepted your new role as managing partner of the firm. Congratulations. Now what? This article, published recently in the ABA's Law Practice Magazine, offers a list of savvy first steps to help you get started on the right foot.
- Law Firm Leadership: Accessing the Inner Entrepreneur
by David H. Freeman, JD
Have you ever heard this excuse from your colleagues? "I didn't go to law school to become a salesperson!" If the business aspects of practicing law don't come naturally to you ... or to someone you know ... this is the article you need. It's time to change your approach and tap into entrepreneurial resources you've had all along.
- Becoming a Change Insurgent in the Legal Profession
by William C. Cobb
Riffing on an article from Fast Company, a publication that focuses on creative individuals in the business world, Cobb issues advice for the law firm environment. Like "Find, hire and promote people that make you and the organization uncomfortable." This article is a shot in the arm for the naysayers and people afraid of change.
- Are Law Firms Manageable?
by David Maister
Harvard management guru David Maister asks the ultimate question "Can lawyers be 'managed' at all?" Given their unique personalities, it's no easy task. We think every firm leader should read this article.
- Defining the Role and Development of a New Managing Partner
by Joel A. Rose
The managing partner job rarely comes with an instruction manual or even a job description. Rose polled firm leaders to find out the real concerns of new law firm leaders. Should you lead by consensus or decree? How much time will you spend managing? Learn what your colleagues had to say.
- Leading Productive Meetings:
Five Practical Tips for Lawyers and Law Firm Administrators
by Sally Williamson
Meetings are one of the most universal parts of business life, but one of the least effective communication tools. Read this article to learn ways to run more efficient and productive meetings at your firm.
- Orderly Succession of Law Firm Management
by Joel A. Rose
Most firms don't utter the "s" word -- succession -- until disaster strikes. This article leads off with a great example of that. Don't let your firm fall into the malaise and wait until fate forces your hand. Succession planning benefits firm leaders of today and tomorrow.