Special Confidant and Advisor To Firm Leaders

Patrick McKenna is a well known, busy and peripatetic consultant
to the host of otherwise benighted law firm managing partners.
Harry P. Trueheart, Chairman - NIXON PEABODY

If you are becoming the firm's Chair or Managing Partner, the first 100 days are vitally important. During this period, people form their views about who you are and your priorities, values and style. You have an unrivalled opportunity to move, direct and energize your partners, to call a halt to past practices and to move your firm confidently in a new or slightly modified direction. If you succeed, you will gain momentum and make the task of leadership easier and more rewarding; if you fail, you will at best miss an opportunity and may make your task far more challenging in the future.

To properly prepare, I can help you identify the critical issues and give you pragmatic techniques to apply that will help you succeed as a new leader.


Your new leadership position means navigating a highly complex transition. Yet most new managing partners get an orientation that barely scratches the surface of what's essential to meet the high expectations of their partners.

This doesn't have to be a case of "sink or swim."  There are specific things you can do to take charge of your acclimation, dramatically increasing your chances of success. Immediately upon accepting the position, you have three big goals to achieve in a relatively short period of time.  You must:
1.  Gracefully Exit Your Current Responsibilities
2.  Take Charge Of Your Entry Into The New Role
3.  Establish Your Credibility By Executing Your 100-Day Strategic Agenda

1.  Gracefully Exit Your Current Responsibilities:
Identify immediately what needs to be completed before you leave your current position. Ask those who will be most impacted, to prioritize the top three things they need from you before you depart. Negotiate an agreement with your key clients, outlining what you can reasonably accomplish in your remaining time.  How will things be handled when questions arise after you leave your current position?  What, if any help can you offer, while starting your demanding new position?  Be realistic. Your commitment is now to your new role.  Develop a transition plan and follow it.

2.  Take Charge Of Your Entry Into The New Role:
Utilize your talents, but add to your toolbox. Under the stress and excitement of new responsibilities, it's easy to rely on your strengths - and over use them.  To avoid this trap: Gather ideas from your partners about the critical skills, perspectives and abilities needed to succeed in your new position. Assessment tools (like those we offer in association with Hogan Assessments) can be a powerful aid in the process of gaining a new perspective and uncovering blind spots.  Grab the opportunity to get a new perspective on your skills and experience in order to uncover any blind spots.

3.  Execute Your 100-Day Strategic Agenda:
As you start into the new role, these strategies will serve you well:
• Build a close working relationship with your predecessor.  Discuss what role your predecessor will play to help you quickly get onboard.
• Get your team aligned with and supportive of your objectives and your management style. Your administrative professionals have a rich storehouse of history, skills, ideas and connections to offer you . . . if they are motivated to do so.
• Establish a "safe haven" - - a person or people with whom you can talk candidly.  Where will you go when you don’t have all the answers?  You must feel secure asking questions and testing ideas with someone you can trust.  Many have successfully found this vital resource in an external coach or special advisor.
• Identify a learning plan for your first 100 Days that covers these points: What information must you master in your first month?  What are the top 10 questions you need to have answered immediately?  How will you get the information?  Who will assist you?
• Reconnect with the "influence pathways" within your firm.  Reconnect with the network of key partners who can help you get the information you’ll need to get things done.
• Get clear about your immediate priorities.  Establish clear expectations.  Be sure you and your Executive Committee or Board members agree: What does success look like in the first 3 months?

Moving into a new leadership position is complex, and each situation is unique. By keeping your attention on the right things, you will cut months off of your transition time, and establish the reputation of a successful leader.

"After nine years I once again had the opportunity to work with Patrick McKenna, this time on my First 100 Days.  As in the past, it was a very valuable experience, combining a global approach with practical suggestions.  I consider Patrick to be one of the best, if not the best, in his field."
Philippe Peters, Managing Partner - NAUTADUTILH  (Brussels)

Your Success Depends On Whether

You Can Establish Strong Support by:
Having candid, focused discussions with your partners to build trust and accountability;
Utilizing an external advisor to discuss confidential questions, concerns and ideas;
Learning how to effectively influence people in your firm; and
Utilizing your team of administrative professionals to produce early and "small successes."

You Can Accelerate Your Learning Curve by:
Utilizing a variety of assessment tools to take leadership abilities to the next level;
Asking the right questions and in the right way, to get insight into the firm's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; and
Establishing strategies for sorting through a mountain of new data, so the first months are manageable.

You Can Maintain Focus by:
Discerning your "top priorities" from a sea of contenders;
Clarifying key metrics to measure personal, team, and firm success;
Delegating appropriately; and
Demonstrating personal accountability, and holding others accountable, from the beginning.


• Initial session reviewing the new leader's profile that includes personality and leadership style surveys, 360-degree feedback information and telephone interviews with selected work colleagues.
• Monthly (face-to-face) feedback and goal-setting sessions.
• Ongoing coaching by telephone, in person, or both.
• On-site observations - shadowing - can be included in the assessment or coaching phase.
• Review of progress towards goals.
• After-hour telephone consultation provided during and outside office hours as required.

Expect to Achieve
A more powerful leadership style, where you:
• Communicate an inspiring direction for the firm's future
• Keep the firm focused on the priorities and strategies for success
• Influence partners effectively, to get support for key initiatives
• Transform those with different agendas into a collaborative team that exceeds expectations
• Motivate people to embrace change so the firm stays competitive and innovative
• Share leadership responsibilities with others, grooming them to succeed
• Manage confrontation effectively
• Make conscious choices about work-life balance, and act on them
• Identify key metrics to measure success


If you are transitioning into a new, high-stakes position, I invite you to discuss whether I might be in a position to assist you and your firm. Contact me for a complimentary consultation and have a look at the outline for my PERSONAL COACHING SESSIONS


The First 100 Days: MasterClass for the NEW Firm Leader

    Next Scheduled:  January 25, 2018 - Georgia Tech Center in Atlanta

Read all of the Testimonials and Feedback from AmLaw 100 and AmLaw 200 firm leaders - HERE

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Patrick J. McKenna Ashridge House 11226 - 60 Street Edmonton, Canada T5W 3Y8
Phone (800) 921-3343 or (780) 428-1052 Fax (780) 426-4182
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