More advice has been written about leadership than just about any other topic in the social sciences. My clients often ask me if I can distill this leadership wisdom into a very short synopsis that’s tailored to lawyers in senior leadership roles. I’ve resisted doing this because there are so many good books on leadership (although very few of them address leadership in law firms). If you want to dig into that literature, start with The Leadership Challenge by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, which in my view is the best and most well written evidence-based summary of the practical principles of how to successfully lead others. For those with less time on their hands, here is my attempt to reduce what we know to a “one-pager”.
We in the legal profession — especially those of us in Big Law — have always been very clear about our criteria for what kind of lawyer we’d like to hire. Indeed, there’s nearly universal agreement that we want someone who’s smart; and then we look for the indicia of a strong analytical ability, a bristling intelligence, a powerful intellect — all demonstrated by top grades, high LSAT scores, membership in a Law Review, Order of the Coif, graduate of a top law school, etc.
These two podcasts were originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site. Podcast #1 discusses why change is hard for lawyers, and Podcast #2 discusses what you can do about it.
I was recently interviewed by Gregg Wirth, the Content Manager for the LEI blog site. On July 18th, 2016, he interviewed me about the psychological consequences of incessant change on lawyers and their performance. Here is the introductory blurb from the LEI website for this interview:
“Change is never easy, especially the type of systemic and dramatic change the legal industry is experience in the current market. And lawyers — not known for being open to change to begin with — are sometimes having a very difficult time with how their profession is evolving and how to envision what the lawyer and law firm of the future may look like.
This blog post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on September 20, 2016:
Law firms are struggling these days to do a better job of retaining their Millennial lawyers. Millennials famously have less loyalty and a shorter time frame before jumping ship than any previous generation. Is this a baked-in problem, or can something be done about it?
According to research by the Gallup Organization and others, there are definitely steps you can take to increase the commitment, engagement and tenure of your Millennials. The key is to develop what Gallup calls “great managers” to supervise the Millennial workforce.
Before we talk about “great” managers, let’s take a moment to recall that managers are not the same as leaders. Managers are focused internally, while leaders are focused externally. The role of “manager” evolved to oversee internal complexity, while the “leader” role evolved to cope with external change and uncertainty.
This article first appeared on Tuesday May 17, 2016, on the Legal Executive Institute blog site, which is curated by Thomson Reuters.
One of my favorite leadership books is The Extraordinary Leader by John Zenger and Joe Folkman. In this book, the authors offer a number of findings from their own empirical research about what makes leaders effective, i.e., what makes constituents actual follow leaders.
One of their principal conclusions is that constituents follow leaders who consistently demonstrate three to five strengths, particularly when their mastery of those strengths is so formidable that observers rate them in the top 10%. For example, a leader who is a really crisp decision-maker, who also is very patient even under stress, and who is also a superb listener, will gain a large following.
Their research reveals an important corollary as well: When a leader consistently demonstrates this kind of mastery of strengths, constituents will overlook a leader’s weaknesses.
This article originally appeared in the March 2016 Ethics Corner column of the ABA online publication Business Law Today:
Can ethical behavior be taught? Most definitely. The social sciences have yielded several principles and practices that can aid law firm leaders in shaping desired ethical behaviors.
Following are seven suggestions, based on this research, that can help:
This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on September 16, 2015:
In my conversations with law firm leaders, I am hearing more and more concern expressed about their partners failing to meet expectations. Here are some examples:
This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on July 29, 2015:
Amidst the head-spinning change and the increased competition that all law firms face today, there is an increased emphasis on—some say a frenzy to—hire the best people. The cost of making a hiring mistake is growing, and the consequences of doing so take effect even sooner than before.
Many law firms are re-examining their approach to talent acquisition, seeking more efficient, accurate and successful methods.
One topic that always comes up, but raises great anxiety in most lawyers, is the use of psychological testing as a pre-employment selection tool. There are a lot of myths and misunderstandings about this topic, and in this post, I’d like to clear things up and explain why testing should be a part of your hiring strategy.
This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on May 13, 2015:
The Great Place to Work Institute publishes an annual list of the “100 Best Places to Work”. This year, 20 of the companies on the list are in the “Professional Services Firms” category. And of these, five are law firms. This is the first time that law firms have represented fully a quarter of those spots, and from my conversations with law firm leaders, this is a trend that will only accelerate.
It’s smart business to transform your law firm from a mere conventional law practice to a great law firm in which to work. Benefits of doing so include:
This post was originally published at the Legal Executive Institute website, a ThomsonReuters site, on April 15, 2015:
Are you a practicing lawyer who is transitioning into a leadership role? Whether it’s as a managing partner, practice group leader, office managing partner, or executive committee member—in all cases, to be effective as a leader, you need to make a significant shift in your mindset in several ways.
First, many lawyer-leaders default to the role of “manager”—making sure that important things get done in a regular and predictable way (timesheets are turned in, mentoring younger lawyers takes place, work is assigned rationally, etc.). There is certainly a need for management, but today the greater need in law firms is for leadership, i.e., determining what direction your constituents should go in, and then encouraging them to voluntarily go there. So in addition to thinking like a manager, you also have to think like a leader.