Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

Page << Prev  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  Next >>  of 81

Post #713 – Monday, August 4, 2014

The New Boardroom Concern: Cybersecurity Risk

Looking at the latest issue of Corporate Board Member, 500 directors and general counsel responded to a survey request and identified the trends in their 2014 Law In The Boardroom study.  The top trends involved ongoing concern over new issues such as IT/cyber risk, shareholder engagement, and social media.

According to the report, IT and cyber risks are among the most dangerous threats a company faces, and often the hardest to spot.  They also tend to be the most expensive, with the U.S. leading nine other nations in average total organizational cost per breach and, along with Australia, the largest average number of breached records.  Accordingly, corporate board audit committees are taking a greater interest in cybersecurity risks and the organization’s plans for addressing them.  More than 50% of directors ranked IT strategy and risk—behind only strategic planning—as the issue for which they need better information and processes to be as effective in their jobs as possible.  Forty-four percent of general counsel agreed.  This is also an area where directors and GCs questioned each other’s abilities: 38% of directors found GCs only somewhat effective at IT/cyber risk oversight; similarly, 37% of GCs said the same about the board’s effectiveness in this area.

While 45% of GCs and 43% of directors have confidence in their company’s response plan in the event a breach in security occurs, 34% of general counsel and 27% of directors are not convinced their company is secure and impervious to hackers.  Perhaps more troubling, though, is the fact that fully one-quarter of directors and GCs surveyed believe their company is well shielded against hackers, which brings into question how well cyber and IT risks are really understood.

Post #712 - Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Stimulating Innovation In Law Firms

It is ironic that almost every law firm, somewhere on their web site, will reference themselves as being an innovative, entrepreneurial firm. And yet, whether you are dealing with a business entrepreneur or a law firm partner, upon first hearing about a new idea or strategy, both will respond with the very same question. "Please tell me who else is doing this?"

The question is the same BUT the motivation for asking is very different. The partner needs to be reassured that some other law firm out there, that they may have a modicum of respect for, has done this and most importantly, experienced some success. For the business entrepreneur, the motivation in asking this question is completely different … they just want to know because if someone else has already done this, they likely aren't interested. It's already been done!

The time has come for law firms to create structures within the firm aimed precisely at innovation - groups whose job it is to solve difficult problems through creative business processes, a reinterpretation of the firm's position in the marketplace, new technologies or alternative staffing models.

Join Andrew Smulian (Chairman and CEO of Akerman LLP), Ken Grady (CEO of SeyfarthLean Consulting), John Paris (Chair of Williams Mullen Innovation Committee) and me for a one-hour Webinar – TOMORROW – Thursday July 31st hosted by Ark.

More details are available here:

Post #711 – Friday, July 25, 2014

Signal What You Value As A New Leader

One of the more profound things I’ve learned, that I try to pass along to new leaders, be they managing partners or practice heads, is to “act like you are on stage at all times, because you are!”  Everything you do and say will send messages, set tone, establish expectations, and communicate direction about what is of priority to you.  With that in mind, you need to carefully orchestrate what symbolic acts you may want to execute to create a lasting impression and convey what you stand for.

In other words, you need to always think through . . .

Read my entire article as posted on LinkedIn

Post #710 – Thursday, July 10, 2014

Create Your ‘Stop Doing’ List

Many new firm leaders severely underestimate the time that is going to be required of them to really do their job.  In fact, a recent Citibank/HBR 2014 Client Advisory, provided a commentary under the title: The Leadership Challenge. According to the report, “One development which gives us concern is that some of the newer breed of leaders continue to maintain busy, full time practices. In this scenario, their clients’ needs are likely to take priority, to the detriment of the management of the firm. If we could see any change, it would be that firms recognize that to be effective, the firm leader is best performed as a full time role.”

Indeed, the biggest issue I hear about is always the amount of time it takes to do the leadership stuff.  Many are not full-time managing partners so they struggle with trying to maintain some balance between the time needed to manage the firm and the time required to maintain some modest personal practice.

Here's a tip that I’ve been talking about for some time now: Create a Stop Doing List.

Take a look at your desk.  If you're like most hard-charging firm leaders, you've got a very lengthy and well-articulated to-do list.  We've all been told that leaders make things happen – and that's true.  But it's also true that great leaders distinguish themselves by their unyielding discipline to stop doing anything and everything that doesn't fit.  And that’s not easy.  We all get a personal sense of satisfaction every time we check something off of our to-do list.  Our only failing is that the things that we are checking off are the easy tasks, like perhaps responding to some email, and probably not the things that will advance our personal strategic goals as firm leader or significantly change the firm.  There is where the urgent crowds out the important!

So how can you go about re-focusing your To-Do list?

Read my entire article as posted on LinkedIn

Post #709 – Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Vaporization of A Leader’s Legacy

Whatever the specifics, as a new firm leader you know that some change is likely going to be needed to make your firm better. 

Of course, some things are more changeable than others.  One thing that all new leaders are taught is to explore and execute in those areas where you can achieve a quick, early, small win to build credibility.  One obvious way to do that is to target those things that can be changed most easily.  By contrast, some meaningful changes are far more difficult and slow to see results appear.  Consider, for instance, how difficult it might be to reshape your firm’s culture into a more collaborative environment.  In all likelihood it could take years and a significant investment of time.  Little wonder we tend to avoid taking on such a difficult challenge, preferring instead to embrace those things which can more easily be changed.

But herein is the paradox of any leader’s legacy.  When the next firm leader comes along after you, what will she try to change?  Chances are, like you, the next leader will look to change those things that can easily be changed.  And those will be precisely the things that you changed.  We and our successors change that which can be changed, each undoing the work of the one before him.  You feel a sense of accomplished at the moment of change, and so will the professional who comes along tomorrow and undoes all of your work.  Ironically, although you feel you have made a difference, if you look back in few years, you may see little evidence of your efforts.  So much for your legacy!

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

So, if you are someone who is about to take the reins at your firm or know some lawyer fitting that description, here’s an article that should peek your/their interest: “Firm Leadership Is NOT For Wimps!”  This article identifies eight truths that I know to be valid based on anecdotal evidence gleaned from countless discussions and interviews with firm leaders much wiser than I.

And, if you are (or know of a firm) facing a firm leadership transition or even having a new office managing partner taking charge of one of the larger offices, please have a look at:   The next program is scheduled for Thursday, AUGUST 14th at the University of Chicago and we are now accepting registrations.  Have a look at the day’s agenda, the faculty, the testimonials, the extensive course materials, the follow-up support and your total satisfaction guarantee.

Thus far, over 60 firm chairs and managing partners have already experienced and can attest to the benefits of this program.  In fact, we received these gracious comments from a couple of those attending our First 100 Days session:

"I was struck by the synthesis of the issues you presented.  It was amazingly clear and comprehensive, given the breadth of the topic and the short time available.  I was delighted to attend the event and I learned a lot from it."     

Hugh Verrier, Chairman - WHITE & CASE

"The First 100 Days Masterclass was concise and insightful.  I quickly learned the difference between being a practitioner and a Firm Leader.  I was thoroughly impressed with the scope of the topics discussed.  

One year later - I continually refer to that one day class as the best thing I did to prepare for my new role."    

Vincent A. Cino, Chairman - JACKSON LEWIS

Few experiences can be as overwhelming as taking on the firm leadership role for the first time.  We repeatedly hear about how everything changes in unexpected ways.  It is not about shifting from being an office head or member of the executive committee to the next rung on some leadership ladder, it’s a quantum leap into a new reality.  Brand new firm leaders need all the practical, impartial and time-tested advice they can get.

Post #708 – Tuesday, July 1, 2014

More On The Future of The Profession

There was an interesting article in the Guardian (UK) this past week concerning the future of law.  Oxford academics Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A Osborne have predicted computerization could make nearly half of jobs redundant within 10 to 20 years.  Office work and service roles were particularly at risk.   So where does that leave the professions?

"We'll see what I call decomposition, the breaking down of professional work into its component parts," says leading legal futurist Richard Susskind.  Susskind's forthcoming book Beyond the Professions, co-authored with his son Daniel Susskind, examines the transformations already underway across the sectors that once offered jobs for life.  He predicts a process not unlike the division of labor that wiped out skilled artisans and craftsmen in the past: the dissolution of expertise into a dozen or more streamlined processes.

"Some of these parts will still require expert trusted advisers acting in traditional ways," he says.  "But many other parts will be standardized or systematized or made available with online service."  In a previous book Tomorrow's Lawyers, he predicts the creation of eight new legal roles at the intersection of software and law.  Many of the job titles sound at home in IT companies: legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, project manager, risk manager, process analyst.

"Many traditional lawyers will look at that and think: 'Yes, they might be jobs, but that's not what I went to law school for.  And that's not what my parents' generation did as lawyers.'"  That, says Susskind, is not his concern: whether we call these new positions lawyers or not, the legal sector will survive.

"What I often say is that the future of law is not Rumpole of the Bailey, and it's not John Grisham," explains Susskind.  "It's not a version of what we have today slightly tweaked. It will be people working in the legal sector but offering legal services and legal help in new ways."  It may be the end of the profession as immortalized in courtroom dramas, but as software eats the old jobs it will have to create new ones too.

Meanwhile, five years ago, entrepreneur Charley Moore founded online legal services provider Rocket Lawyer.  It now boasts 30 million users.  Subscribers pay a monthly fee for instant access to pre-prepared documents and tutorials, as well as online legal advice from experts at participating firms.  The work lawyers on the network do has already begun to resemble the streamlined, one-to-many roles Susskind predicted.

Moore is optimistic about the revolution computerization has unleashed in his sector. "I don't think of [software] as consuming the industry, as much as I think of it as supporting the industry.  So with software, certainly there are mundane, routine tasks that will become more efficient, but by making those tasks more efficient, lawyers will be able to move up in the food chain and serve millions more legal transactions than they currently can."

Post #707 – Sunday, June 15, 2014

Banking Industry Disruption

It’s bad enough when law firms are facing major disruption throughout the profession but when one of their most lucrative client sectors is also going through unprecedented upheavals it does not make future demand for legal services look promising.

At a recent high-level New York conference on the future of finance the news was grim for the world’s banking community.  According to industry soothsayers there is a steadily downward forecast for employment and profits in the banking sector.  Ric Edelman, CEO of Edelman Financial, manager of $13 billion investment fund, predicted that most advisors will be out of business in five to 10 years.

In the legal profession today, more legal apps are being made available to consumers and small businesses.  One example is Shake, an app for creating legal contracts on the fly from your phone.  You answer a few simple questions, the contract is compiled, you can review it and sign right on the phone, then hand your phone to the other party to sign, or email it to them.  Simple consumer level document automation in your pocket, resulting in legally binding agreements.

Concurrently, innovative tech startups are popping up to offer the same services as traditional banking for a fraction of the price.  Cellphones are becoming the banks, wallets and credit cards of the world.  One commentator explained how she paid a consultant on the other side of the globe by simply writing a check, photographing it on her cellphone and emailing it to the consultant’s email address.  The consultant then took the image and with a simple app on her mobile was able to cash the check without problem.  Banking can be delivered by cellphone instantaneously and accounts cleared in minutes, not days.

With traditional banking, slow clearance provides huge profits as institutions earn profit as they hold your money. One commentator explained, “in 2013, US banks made $32 billion on overdrafts, more than is invested into breast or lung cancer.”

Meanwhile startups are attacking the credit card business model.  One interesting disruptor is Dwolla who charges 25 cents per transaction and no fee to those who spend less than $10 – compared to the 2.5% that companies charge merchants per transaction.  In but a few months Dwolla has attracted 35,000 merchants and 500,000 consumers who can open an account by providing a simple piece of identification like a driver’s licence.

Post #706 – Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Hurdles To Initiating Change

Firms are navigating a tough financial climate, suppressed growth rates, and declining demand. Whatever kind of economist-speak you prefer, there’s no getting around the fact that now is a scary time to be a firm leader. Whether you choose to call it the digital age, the knowledge economy, or even “the New Normal,” it seems clear that we are in the throws of an economic revolution as profound as that which gave birth to our modern times.

Wherever you look within the professions, you will see two kinds of firms: laggards who have fallen behind the change curve, and challengers who are in front of the curve or at least at the leading edge of it. The laggards fail to see the future coming. They fall out of the driver’s seat. They cede the role to somebody else and then fight to catch up.

There are reasons, if not excuses, for many firms not to take action. From their early days in school, professionals were rewarded for success and still are today, based on their ability to look backward in history – to find precedent, to find the experience-based rule that will control the adjudication of the situation at hand. The need for change is not welcomed and the more dramatic the change required, the more acute the resistance from nostalgic past-worshippers. In order to take decisive action, most firms have some acute change hurdles to overcome – hurdles I have come to label: denial, perfectionism, precedent, competence, and agility. 

Read my entire article as posted on LinkedIn

Post #705 – Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Join Me Next Week In New York

Come join practice leaders from Clark Hill, Ogletree Deakins, O’Melveny & Myers, Proskauer Rose, Robins Kaplan, Wilson Elser and others at my Ark workshop entitled: Firing On All Cylinders.

This is an intensive full-day workshop for Practice Group Leaders – June 4th at the AMA Executive Conference Center (1601 Broadway).  Registration and agenda specifics can be found on the Ark website.

It promises to be a highly productive day.

Post #704 – Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What is Your Firm’s Business Model?

This is a comment from Jeff Carr.  Jeff is Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of FMC Technologies Inc.  I think his thoughts here are worth reflecting on:

“Let me take a minute of your time to describe the market from my perspective (that of the true customer).  The true gist is:

• “Big Law” or “Old Law” (aka a traditional law firm) is not in the business of solving legal problems – it is in the business of billing hours to solve legal problems.

• “New Law” (e.g., LPO’s, Axiom, Huron, etc.) is in the business of billing lower cost hours to solve legal problems.

• “Enlightened Law” (e.g., Riverview, Valorem, etc) is in the business of solving legal problems effectively and efficiently.

• “Next Law” is the business of preventing legal problems from ever arising.

In-house counsel teams are uniquely situated to understand and deliver on the prevention focus – precisely because that’s what a high performance legal team does.  The problem is that most in-house teams are just as risk-averse as outside counsel and generally overwhelmed with reactive work. As such, I think very few are actually focused on my vision of Next Law.  The most interesting thing about Next Law is that it co-exists with Big, Old and New Law – as providers for reactive services when legal problems do arise – but the focus of Next Law is on prevention and proactive law and therefore cost reduction by limiting the incidents giving rise to the need for the high cost remedial and reactive legal services.  We’ll never eliminate fires and as such will always need firefighters – but we can drastically reduce fire incidents and therefore leverage the costs over fewer incidents.  The truly interesting thing is that I believe that large segments of the legal market are going un-served today precisely because the cost of delivery of legal services is prohibitively high.  Many small and mid-size companies “go naked” and then when they are embroiled in a legal issue, they have no recourse but to react – and that means even higher costs.

If you wonder whether I have any basis for these views, let me draw your attention to our track record from the time of our spin-off from FMC Corp in 2001 until now: 2001 — $1.8B sales, $14.8 total legal spend; 2013 — $7.5B sales, $9.8M total legal spend — and 7% average bonus to legal service providers.

Unless you change how you provide legal services, you can’t get metrics like those below in a world where law firm rates go up 10% a year, my internal costs go up 5%-8% annually, the company has tripled in size, the regulatory burden has grown significantly – while at the same time paying your law firms more than they bill you!

Via la (R)evolution! I use that phrase because the legal industry fights change and innovation at every turn – That said, whether Revolution, Evolution or Foreverlution, I believe the tipping point has been reached – it’s just that many of the players don’t see, or don’t want to see the comet coming.”

What do you think?

Page << Prev  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  Next >>  of 81

Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.
Patrick J. McKenna Ashridge House 11226 - 60 Street Edmonton, Canada T5W 3Y8
Phone (800) 921-3343 or (780) 428-1052 Fax (780) 426-4182
Site produced by Austin PR