Managing Partners Forum

The MPF is a first-class event. It’s a rare opportunity to interact and learn with other managing partners, and there is nothing else quite like it.

Kelly Overstreet Johnson, Esq. - President
The Florida Bar - Tallahassee, FL

Leadership

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Articles

  • 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.
    A must read article to help you, as managing partner of your firm, understand what you’re up against.  

  • 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.
    A great read.

  • Featured Video 
    by Re-ThinkLaw.org

    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
    by Lawdragon.com  

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.