Welcome to the WMLT blog. Here’s a cook’s tour of what we’ll cover:
As a lawyer-psychologist, I’ve spent my career guiding the leaders of law firms and law departments in how to manage the “people” side of their business. Along the way, I became fascinated with the question of what kinds of people are drawn to the legal profession.
I believe that an accurate understanding of lawyers’ unique personality traits makes it possible to design better leadership programs, manage change more effectively, select and retain better people who fit the firm’s culture, and improve communication.
In this blog, I will share with readers some of the findings from my research on lawyers’ personalities, and will also discuss other findings from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and related disciplines that will help law firm and law department leaders to more effectively address people issues in their organizations.
I’m interested in what science tells us about these topics and not in anecdote or supposition, so I’ll focus on authoritative research from a variety of fields that can guide us in this regard. I’m especially interested in the burgeoning field of “Positive Psychology”, the scientific exploration of what conditions and qualities allow people to thrive and perform at their best, and to achieve life satisfaction and well-being.
We’ll look at topics like the following:
- What kinds of tools exist for assessing and predicting behavior;
- How can we build the level of Resilience among lawyers, and how can this help in loss prevention and risk management;
- How can we measure “soft” stuff like “culture”–and why is it really “hard”, i.e. tied to the “bottom-line”;
- What is “leadership” and why is it more important than ever for lawyers to become skilled in it;
- What are “360 degree” surveys, what are their pro’s and con’s, and how can they be best utilized in a law firm;
- What can be done to get lawyers to work successfully in teams;
- Can dysfunctional behavior be repaired or even prevented;
- What is “Positive Psychology” and how can its principles help law firms to succeed;
- What is “Emotional Intelligence”, and can it be taught to lawyers; if so, what are the possible payoffs for doing so;
- How can leaders get buy-in from skeptical lawyers;
- What makes for a good mentoring program;
- What steps can a legal organization take to retain its best people;
I also plan to report to you relevant findings from the social sciences which can help increase understanding about why people behave the way they do, how to improve performance, how to motivate, how to influence, how to build consensus, etc., all in an effort to help law firm leaders to better adapt to the massive levels of change we are all facing.
Let the blogging begin.
LawyerBrain LLC is the consulting firm I founded after I left Hildebrandt in 2011. Our mission is to help large and mid-size law firms as well as corporate legal departments with a range of people issues such as leadership, change management and motivation. I spent ten years as a trial lawyer, and then earned a Ph.D. in Psychology at Temple University in 1993. I subsequently spent nearly 9 years at Altman Weil as a consultant, and then 6 years at Hildebrandt as the Chair of the Leadership & Organization Development practice. Since 1984, I’ve worked with over 750 law firms, and 25 law departments, helping management to improve lawyer performance in one way or another.
Law firms and law departments that hire LawyerBrain have a variety of interests and challenges. Here are a few of our recent assignments:
- Help a firm that recently merged to design a new associate talent model, while building significant buy-in among the lawyers for the changes proposed
- Use psychological testing to identify the key characteristics of the top performing lawyers at a mid-size firm, and develop a hiring protocol in order to find top talent who fit this unique firm’s culture
- Coach the managing partner of an AmLaw 30 US firm. Coach the managing partner of a top 10 Lexpert firm in Canada.
- Help 2 different law firms to repair dysfunctional behavior–in one, the litigation department has some internal dysfunction; in the other, one practice group is not getting along well with other groups
- Design an upward evaluation multi-rater tool to provide feedback to partners, along with tailored coaching
- Design and conduct a 6-month Action Learning leadership program for a mid-size firm to create a group of lawyers who can actually demonstrate superior leadership skills that can be measured
- Design an interactive retreat presentation for a 200-partner firm retreat that is both educational and entertaining, and keeps the partners engaged for 4 hours
- Provide advice to the leadership of an AmLaw 50 US firm on how to increase employee engagement
- Develop a program using the latest “cognitive behavioral” strategies to teach lawyers how to be more Resilient in the face of stress, setbacks and uncertainty
My mission is to use personality science to help your firm or department thrive, to perform at a superior level, to make the most of what you’ve got, to help you maximize the talent you have, and get more like them.
Dr. Larry Richard