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Post # 782 – Sunday, October 29, 2017
Horse-Races Don't Usually End Well!
When a firm leader's departure is
predictable, firms need to take appropriate steps to ensure a controlled and
effective succession process minimizing the inevitable 'disruption' likely to
Having a contested election isn’t necessarily a negative, it
only becomes problematic when it becomes public and political. By way of
example, I was struck only last week by the terms used in the legal press as
yet another law firm was characterized as 'set for a contested election';
'candidates emerge for contest'; and 'hats in the ring'. In this case,
the chair’s role at the Eversheds Sutherland firm was now in the news as
'Partners are set to go head-to-head' to succeed Paul Smith the firm’s current
chairman. And the media are loving it! 'According to (anonymous) partners
within the firm' three specific names have already been announced.
And here is where it all begins to go off the rails!
Read the entire article here.
Post #781 – Wednesday,
September 20, 2017
The Fall-Winter Issue of my International Review
Magazine is Now Available
Once again I am pleased to
share the results of a collaboration with my good friend and colleague, David
Parnell whose regular Forbes column is avidly read by leaders throughout the
legal community. Law Firm Strategic Planning: A
Report on The State of The Art is the product of an extensive survey we
conducted this summer. We obtained firm leaders specific responses to
18 questions covering everything from who was involved in developing their
current strategic plan and how long it took, to how satisfied they were and the
one thing they would change with respect to their efforts in the future.
Break Your Team Out Of It’s Rut & Spark Some New Strategic Ideas is a fairly lengthy but
prescriptive guide for how one goes about engaging the members of your group or
team in effectively brainstorming. So clear
out the cobwebs at your next meeting, jump-start your creative thinking, launch
your partner’s minds moving in productive directions, pop some new ideas out of
your intellectual toasters and get energized to take action!
final selection, Becoming A Visionary Law Firm: Developing Board Foresight was co-authored with
Vincent Cino, an exceptional firm leader, Chairman of Jackson Lewis, a Global
100 firm. It describes the process that
his Board has embraced for getting everyone sensitized to the accelerating pace
of change enveloping the profession and helping focus the Board’s attention on
what specific areas to take action.
Click on the cover to download your complimentary
PDF copy of this magazine
Post #780 – Monday,
September 4, 2017
Two New Book Contributions
I’m pleased to have contributed
Chapters to two new books that have just been released:
MANAGING LEGAL CHANGE
Successfully managing a change initiative is no simple feat,
regardless of the size of the firm – distilling the process of change into a
workforce takes careful planning and support. Change is stressful and difficult
for people to process and accept, as we often cling to what we know. This is
especially true of lawyers, who are notoriously averse to change.
Managing Legal Change Initiatives
looks to illustrate the best methods of introducing and managing change in a
sector that is known for being adverse to it. The book highlights the critical
obstacles and pitfalls that law firms will face during transitional periods,
and outlines some of the best methods of approaching organizational change;
from building a change framework to follow, to encouraging a shift in partner
behavior through the compensation strategy. This new book also explores why
change is so difficult for individuals – with discussion of the neuroscience
behind change, and the role of emotional intelligence in leaders to help garner
EFFECTIVE PRACTICE GROUP
As firms compete increasingly at practice group level, leaders
are being asked to run their groups like business units; to develop and
implement a strategic plan that supports the goals and competitiveness of the
firm; and to coordinate and lead their partners to enhance the efficiency,
performance, and profitability of their groups. Many firm leaders complain that
some of their group heads are not producing the results they want to see. But
how many practice group leaders receive the tools and support they need to
succeed in this critical role? How many are selected for demonstrable
leadership skills? And how often are they held accountable for how well – or
otherwise – they perform in the role?
With contributions from a wide range of experts, Effective
Practice Group Leadership explores these key questions and more. The
book examines the demanding role of the practice group leader (PGL) in law
firms today, the challenges of the role – from gaining buy-in for group
initiatives to approaches to measuring and managing performance of the leader
and the group – and demonstrates the enormous contribution PGLs can make to the
profitability and performance of their law firms, when armed with the tools and
For More Infomation - https://www.ark-group.com
Post #779 - Friday,
September 1, 2017
The Best Leaders Ask
Really Good Questions
There can be no real glue holding
any firm together and certainly no leadership, without some degree of intimacy
- some human acknowledgement of one another; that we are all people, each one
with a unique story, unique difficulties and unique aspirations.
It all starts with getting to know
your people, their strengths, their shortcomings; their dreams, and their
fears. And to that end there is no
substitute for face-to-face human interaction.
The very best way to get to know what other people in your firm want is
to sit down and communicate with them about it - on their own turf.
Explore with each member of your
* What do you want to be known
* What makes you soar – what is
your superpower? About what do you have
a burning passion?
* What work do you find absorbing,
* What is your personal
agenda? What do you want to prove to
* What do you want most from being
an active member of this firm?
Our professionals need to either
find the work they love and get passionate about their profession or get
out. This is where too many “wanna-be
professionals” succumb to the victimitis virus.
“How can I spend time developing a practice that will make me famous
tomorrow, when I’m only rewarded for my billable production today?” they
sniffle. Some people spend more time
planning their vacations then they do their professional careers.
The good news is that each of us
thrives to the extent that we can achieve some form of distinction - an
approach to specialized expertise or excellence in client service, or an
innovative approach to client problem solving.
It taps into the deep craving we all have to make a difference. The questions that we must help each of our
professionals face and answer effectively is:
“How do you want to be positioned in the market and in the minds of your
• “What is clearly unusual,
uniquely distinctive and of great value to clients about the services you
If you feel that their answer, in
about 25 words or less, is not convincing to a prospective client, they need
your help and guidance in working through the future of their practice and
career development. You need to help them
understand that the only true professional career security is in being more
valuable to clients tomorrow than they were yesterday.
A painless way to do this might be
• “Tell me about one of your most
challenging client matters and without any modesty tell me why that assignment
was special for what you managed to accomplish.”
Taking that forward, have them
write out the specific details concerning three of their major client
accomplishments over the past eighteen to twenty-four months. Have them consider how any one of those
successes may signal the possibility that other clients could also be facing
the same problems that they have already solved. Have them consider how fundamentally
different that might be for the kind of practice they could invest in
developing in the coming months.
Now ask them: “Could all of this point to the
beginnings of some new area of personal and professional distinction?”
Post #778 – Friday,
September 1, 2017
Another Leadership Nugget I Overheard
As a leader you are often
surrounded by people who are content to stay where they are. They do what is expected, but just
enough. They play it safe and never go
beyond what’s expected; head down, simply following the ones in front. They are the 80 percent who accomplish the 20
percent. They go with the flow, but are
soon “hooked” by their own disengagement.
They get entangled in the nets of complacency. Today, it seems, for all too many people it’s
5 p.m. not only somewhere, but everywhere.
Then there are the
outliers – the 20 percent who accomplish the 80 percent – who have the hustle
and hunger that allows them to rise above the rest. If only those qualities could be taught to
the others! CEOs will hire hunger and
hustle over pedigree any day.
The talented few don’t
have jobs, they have purpose; they radiate passion. Especially people who are diverse in thought,
experiences and backgrounds – they are incredibly agile around the new and
different, and willingly become fish out of water who thrust themselves into
unfamiliar environments. Insatiably
curious about what is around the next bend, they balance past experiences with
first-time challenges. They don’t shy
from the rapids or the shoals, nor do they avoid the deep waters where few
go. They don’t just cope with change,
they welcome and even instigate it. They
are the innovators and disruptors who aren’t caught up in the ordinary.
What about you?
Compliments of Gary Burnison, CEO – Korn
Rant #777 – Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Six Great Leadership Nuggets I've Overheard
• When hiring
candidates, ask for their operating manual.
candidates: “Imagine you're a robot. What does your manual say under 'ideal
operating conditions.'” Once they
answer, follow-up with this question: “What does the 'warning label' say?” You're likely to get insightful, unpredictable
and even humorous answers but this is likely to be very subtle way of gauging an
individual’s self-awareness and revealing their personality.
• Make speed your leadership obsession.
I have long believed that
the two attributes most important to having the right professionals working
along side you is having talent that has “highly attuned attention to detail”
and an “fanatical sense of urgency.”
Many a firm leader and CEO has spoken about how speed is the ultimate
competitive weapon in business. All else
being equal the fastest competitor in any given market will win. As one CEO expressed it, “challenge the
when!” For my part, I continue to be
absolutely amazed at just how often the best articulated plans and actions are
discussed in meetings without any attention being directed to who is going to
do what and by when. It’s not that
everything needs to be done NOW, but for items on your critical path, it’s
always useful to challenge the due date. All it takes is asking the simplest
can't this be done sooner?” Asking it methodically, reliably and habitually can have a
profound impact on the speed of your organization
• Practice saying “No” real often.
As you get into a
leadership position you have more people reaching out to you, more invitations
to meetings, more requests for you to make a decision, more emails to read and
respond to and as one leader phrased it – death by a thousand paper cuts. Saying no is not easy, especially as you want
to be helpful and love to see yourself as a problem solver. But you have to
draw the line somewhere. To do this
most important thing is that you close the door to further communication. Do it nicely in a way that truthfully
explains the situation, but don’t leave things open-ended. Try this: “Great to hear from you.
Unfortunately, I’m under some extreme pressure to deliver against some very
ambitious goals. My sincere thanks for understanding.”
• Expect to be attacked.
If you are at all effective as a leader you may expect that some
people will react negatively to what you are declaring as your priorities and
then begin a campaign of sabotage. In
some instances their resistance will be very overt - characterized
by the obvious and verbalized messages that let you know clearly that someone
is not supportive. As frustrating as
open resistance can be, the good news in these situations is that there are no
surprises. You know exactly where someone is coming from. In other cases it will be very subtle, which
may look like a smile to their face but undermining behavior behind your
back. Being attacked comes with the job. Just recognize that it is not about you as
much as it is about people’s insecurities, people trying to measure up and
just trying to merely hold on to what they have or where they are.
• Make sharing credit a part of your meeting agenda
Periodically, start off meetings with team members sharing
all the good things that have happened since the last meeting. Examples include specific acknowledgments of
individuals, announcement of successes — even small ones — or expressing
gratitude for the team in general. This
is a quick activity that can boost morale and make it easier for those who are
unaccustomed to giving or receiving appreciation.
• Measure your
people’s happiness as a performance indicator.
satisfaction is an important and useful leading indicator of productivity. A lot more firms are starting to proactively
keep tabs on how their people, both professionals and staff, are feeling about
their work. One tactic is to run an
anonymous survey (using a tool like Glint) that asks people
how willing they are to go above and beyond, whether they see themselves
staying at the firm for more than a couple of years, and whether they'd
recommend working at the firm to friends.
Benchmark the results you get every six months to make sure you're
maintaining or getting better.
Post #776 – Saturday
June 17, 2017
I’ve Been Busy Writing
My sincere apologies
to friends in my tardiness with updating my Blog. By way of an excuse and as an apologetic
offering, here are links to some articles and materials that I hope you find
useful and interesting – a summary of my most recent writings:
REPORTS, ARTICLES AND WHITEPAPERS
Law Firm Strategic Planning And Deployment:
Report On The State of the Art
World-class motivational expert and author of Natural
Born Winners, Robin Sieger, once said, “planning is as natural to the
process of success as its absence is to the process of failure.” That
said he forgot to add that planning doesn’t mean a heck of a lot if nobody
bothers to oversee or implement those meticulously formulated
aspirations. Such is the world of law firms and their strategic planning
efforts as exposed in a survey legal consultant Patrick McKenna and I conducted
for presentation at the recent Ark Group/Bloomberg Chief Strategy Officer’s
Summit in New York City. We canvassed
and received detailed feedback from 68 firm leaders, mostly from AmLaw ranked
firms, on their approach to strategic planning and their specific responses to
18 questions covering everything from who was involved in developing their
current strategic plan and how long it took, to how satisfied they were and the
one thing they would change with respect to their efforts in the future. We found that . . .
Fearless: Facing Uncertainty in the
Legal Market with Confidence and Insight
[Thomson Reuters White Paper]
Today’s legal market is rife
with situations that could be seen as fear-inducing. This is not to say that
leaders in today’s legal market are paralyzed by concerns. No, indeed those
leading today’s legal businesses are savvy, educated, and bold in many
respects. But the comfort of the status quo can sometimes make exploration of
the unknown appear undesirable, or even intimidating. Today’s legal leaders know about pushing fear
aside – in their jobs every day they identify and mitigate risk, weigh options,
and handle a myriad of issues, big and small, that hinge on their ability to
put aside fear of change, fear of the legal market, and fear of meeting their
clients’ needs – and simply do their jobs with confidence and insight.
When Two Must Work as One: The Challenges in Sharing Leadership
[Legal Executive Institute column]
From my work with leaders of major law firms over the years, one
of the inherent problems of having two professionals sharing any senior
leadership role starts with role clarity. Indeed, the need for developing role
clarity is not easy when most firms do not even have a formal written job
description for their Chair or Managing Partner positions. The job of leading a
law firm may certainly be demanding enough for two professionals; but the test
is selecting the right two people to share the role. From my vantage point I
have witnessed multiple examples of attempts to split the firm leadership job
that led to clashing egos and crippling power struggles, especially if one of
these two partners conceals any ambition for holding the position alone.
Becoming A Visionary Law Firm: Developing Board Foresight
Nearly every law
firm of any significant size will have a Board of Directors or Executive
Committee comprised of partners elected by their peers, for some predefined
term. Some Boards are primarily
concerned with providing oversight on the activities and actions of their
management team (managing partner, management committee and administrative
professionals) and some are actually charged with developing the firm’s formal
strategic plan or direction such that the management team can then focus
primarily on implementation. In either
scenario, your elected Board is a valuable resource . . . if used properly.
Preconditions To Setting-Up Your Own Advisory Board
You don't always have to go it alone or rely only on the intuition of
your colleagues. A good number of professional firms have formed an
advisory board to counsel the firm leader and/or the firm’s elected board on
various aspects of their business – everything from operations to personnel to
planning for growth.
How Having An Advisory Board Can Add Value
If you are like many Firm Leaders you probably belong to one or more peer
organizations where you can network with fellow professionals. But, what
I’ve learned is that you may not feel comfortable sharing your most sensitive
or pressing management challenges, or discussing competitive opportunities
among those same peers. Having your own advisory board can supplement
those peer networks and relationships.
NEW BOOKS CONTRIBUTIONS
and Managing Performance for Law Firms
Lawyers are no strangers to performance metrics: from billable
hours to PEP statistics and hours billed. However, firm-wide performance
metrics are hard to tackle – not only are the numerous aspects often intangible
and difficult to measure, but they can differ between firms, practice areas,
and individual roles. Ark Groups new
book - Measuring and Managing Performance for Law Firms
offers an in-depth overview of the metrics and key performance indicators
(KPIs) that firms can employ to effectively measure and manage their workforce
and firm-wide performance.
Managing Your Legal Organization: Global Insights
[Published in India]
A compendium of thought pieces by global management
experts and conversations with leading Indian Senior Law Firm Partners.
of the Legal COO
For law firms considering restructuring their business to meet
the demands of a highly competitive market, hiring an experienced chief
operations officer (COO) is sure to be a consideration. However, the
reassignment of duties and shift in perspective this appointment will require
may prove challenging for some firms. Finding the perfect match for a firm’s
unique culture and requirements is a difficult yet essential task. With
input from a number of current law firm COOs and executive directors, alongside
some of the most respected and sought-after consultants working in the legal
space, Rise of the Legal COO examines the scope and variety of the legal COO role
and how the challenges and demands of the position have altered as law firms
have evolved over the last two decades.
Recruiting and Retaining
Innovative Strategies to
Attract, Develop and Retain Legal Talent
The competition for talent that leading experts started to
describe in the 1990s has now become a reality in the legal profession. Like
most industries across the globe, the legal industry is facing a shortage of
exceptional people. Although in some jurisdictions there are more lawyers than
the market can absorb, the reality is that the number of lawyers with the right
skills is limited and that organizations are fighting to attract and retain the
best professionals in a legal market that has become globalized and where
mobility is now the norm. The ability of law firms to adopt innovative and
tailored recruitment and retention strategies for their size, culture and
market has become a strategic priority and one of the biggest determinants for
a firm’s competitive success. This
practical handbook, coordinated on behalf of the International Bar Association, explores the opportunities and
challenges for adopting effective recruitment, development and retention
Changing of the Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader - 2nd Edition
Fully revised and updated in 2017, with exclusive NEW content
and even more contributions from current firm leaders, the second edition of
The Changing of the Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader is packed with
useful exhibits, thought-provoking questionnaires, and advice direct from new,
current, and past firm leaders, this is a straightforward, step-by-step guide
to leadership succession planning, which will help firms establish what they
want their future to look like – and find the best person to lead them
Post #775 – Thursday, June
is Constantly Accelerating
Every year, it’s getting faster and faster, developing and
expanding exponentially. And when it
does this, it also impacts the pace of change.
• Here is What Is Happening Online in Only 60
149,513 emails are sent
3,300,000 posts are added
3,800,000 searches are
conducted on Google
65,972 photos are uploaded
448,800 tweets are posted
1,440 posts are added to
29,000,000 messages are
sent via WhatsApp
500 Hours of video are
uploaded to YouTube
. . . All in the time it took
you to read this!
The world has fallen in
love with social media and now automatically turns to online platforms to
research and buy products and services. Meanwhile, across the
globe, the United Kingdom has the fastest mobile internet speeds, averaging
about 26 megabits per second (Mbps). The data — which was pulled from Akamai’s
State of Internet report — shows that Germany (24.1 Mbps) and Finland (21.6
Mbps) round out the top three spots. The
United States failed to make the top 25 and secured the 28th spot at 10.7
• And Here is The Next Trillion Dollar Industry
Virtual Reality is going to create an opportunity like we’ve
only seen twice before. First there was the Internet. This was a
trillion-dollar opportunity. It’s still ongoing, but the Internet is the
present — not the future. The app store was the second trillion-dollar
opportunity. The entire ecosystem of smartphones and tablets and the cloud and
applications moved computing into our hands. And now the third trillion-dollar
opportunity has finally arrived: virtual reality.
This year, 2017, for virtual reality is like 1994 for the
Internet. The first commercial AI headsets will be launched. The chips are
being developed. The storage is getting prepared. The entire infrastructure for
the third trillion-dollar opportunity has been created in the past 20 years.
Many of the companies creating the technology and hardware are private. Which
ones will be the winners?
Post #774 – Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The Spring-Summer Issue of International Review Magazine is Now Available
Two of the articles
contained here are the result of a collaboration with my good friend and
colleague, David Parnell whose regular Forbes column is avidly read by leaders
throughout the legal community. The Burning Issues Facing Firm Leaders in
2017 and Leaders Get the Behavior You Tolerate
are the product of extensive surveys we have conducted during the past six
months and should provide you with intersting data and substantive counsel.
The Firm of Choice, I am pleased to feature an excerpt from a new book
(by the same title), authored by old friends Robert Lees and August
Aquila. I commend both this article and
their new book as insightful and very worthwhile reading.
coping with the stress involved in looking like you know what you are doing to
the enormous time demands imposed by partner requests, The Five Challenging Paradoxes of
Firm Leadership identifies the top tensions that every leader has to
contend with at some point in their leadership role.
Your Clients To Do Your Talking offers some practical advice for how
you can meaningfully differentiate who you are and what you have to offer
final selection, When A Firm Leader Hangs Up The Crown, represents an except from
the newly revised and expanded second edition of my The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your New Firm Leader, destined
to be published in April 2017.Click on the cover to download your complimentary PDF copy of this magazine
Post #773 – Wednesday,
March 22, 2017
The Challenges Inherent in Assessing Firm Leader
In a recent article I was reading, the former chair of Hinshaw
Culbertson wrote about How To Evaluate Law
Firm Leaders. While I concur with the overall theory of his
message that law firm leader should receive feedback, from my experience it is
critically important to recognize that there are some real-world hurdles to
To Read the rest of my article in Legal Executive Institute - Click here
in an article I wrote some years back (2010) Evaluating
Your Performance As A Managing Partner, I wrote “There is an old adage in managing
a client’s expectations that states, whether we like it or not, we are going to
be measured. If we take a very passive approach the measuring stick
against which we will be measured will be exclusively a creation of our client.
Alternatively, we can help create and shape the measurement criteria.”
My message was that as the firm leader you should take the initiative
and I provided a quick-and-easy sample of 29 evaluative factors that any firm
leader could use to elicit feedback from their colleagues.
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