Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #745 – Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles To Change

Join me at my upcoming Webinar where we will be discussing how to effectively promote change within your firm—transforming best intentions into best practices.  I will be joined by three distinguished presenters:

David Morley, Senior Partner, Allen & Overy LLP.  David is Allen & Overy's worldwide Senior Partner, a role akin to Executive Chairman.  He was elected worldwide Managing Partner, a role akin to CEO, in May 2003, elected worldwide Senior Partner in 2008 and re-elected for a further four year term in 2012. 

David J. Parnell, Legal Search & Placement, ABA Author, Speaker, and Forbes and American Lawyer Media Columnist.  Prior to founding his own lateral placement firm, David worked in-house with the likes of Intel, Xircom, and DreamWorks SKG.

Maurice A. Watson, Chairman, Husch Blackwell LLP.  Maurice became Chairman of Husch Blackwell in 2012. In this role, he is responsible for developing and communicating the firm’s strategic direction and ensuring that its policies and culture align with this direction.

This one-hour web-based discussion is designed to help you refine your change leadership approach – so when the need for a change is acknowledged, and everyone's running around wondering how best to approach it, you can guide your partners around the pitfalls and transform your best intentions into best practices.

This webinar is focused on how to instigate change in a law firm setting and is designed to focus your attention on specific change or renewal issues, like:
• why many lawyers find change to be so difficult;
• understanding the hurdles to bringing about change;
• what definitely does not work in introducing change;
• developing a sense of urgency that gets partner’s attention;
• some approaches that firm leaders have found to be effective; and
• fitting your leadership style to the challenge.

Click HERE for more information and to register 

Post #744 – Thursday, October 15, 2015

First quasi-NED of a U.S. Law Firm

Jackson Lewis P.C., one of the country’s preeminent workplace law firms, is pleased to announce internationally renowned legal strategist Patrick J. McKenna has been appointed Advisor to the Board, where he will meet regularly with Jackson Lewis’ Board of Directors to provide confidential counsel and advice.

“Jackson Lewis is thriving, in part due to our role in introducing business of law innovations such as alternative fee arrangements and our move away from the billable hour as an evaluative measure for associates,” said Firm Chairman Vincent A. Cino.  “We want to make sure we continue to thrive.  For many years I have been a proponent of operating a law firm in the most client-centric and business-like manner.  Patrick’s addition will introduce an external business voice to our Board’s discussions, and is aligned with Jackson Lewis’ mission to provide best in class legal services in the most efficient, strategic manner.”

“The old methods of managing a law firm are no longer sufficient to address the magnitude of changes the legal community must regularly address,” added Cino.  “We have watched as law firms in Europe and Australia have brought outside expertise to their boards by way of Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) and while we are not yet able to follow that precise model in the U.S., we are pleased to again stay ahead of the curve by adding this outside voice to our governing body.”

Mr. McKenna, who brings with him over thirty years of extensive experience consulting to law firms on an international scale, is an author, lecturer, strategist and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier professional service firms, having served at least one of the largest law firms in over a dozen different countries.  He has authored eight books - most notably the international business best seller, First Among Equals.  Mr. McKenna has been recognized by Lawdragon as “one of the most trusted names in legal consulting," and his three decades of experience led to being the subject of a Harvard Law School Case Study entitled: “Innovations In Legal Consulting.”

“Law firms today are experiencing intense competitive pressure, encouraging those with vision to seek meaningful ways to differentiate themselves from the pack,” said Mr. McKenna.  “My research suggests adding outside expertise to a law firm’s governing body brings wider business experience and thinking to the firm, and contributes to clients viewing the law firm as more likely to operate with a greater awareness of prudent business practices than its peers.  Jackson Lewis is saying ‘we are different and we are going to manage differently’ and I am extremely proud to be a part of their innovative initiative.”

About Jackson Lewis

Founded in 1958, Jackson Lewis is dedicated to representing management exclusively in workplace law.  With 800 attorneys practicing in major locations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Jackson Lewis is included in the AmLaw 100 and Global 100 rankings of law firms.  The firm’s wide range of specialized areas of practice provides the resources to address every aspect of the employer/employee relationship.  Jackson Lewis is a leader in educating employers about the laws of equal opportunity and, as a firm, understands the importance of having a workforce that reflects the various communities it serves.  Jackson Lewis is a founding member of L&E Global Employers’ Counsel Worldwide, an alliance of premier employment law firms and practices in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific Region.

Post #743 – Thursday, October 8, 2015

Join Me at The Conference on Growth Strategies

What are the implications of a shift from unfettered growth to a market share battle?   Until recently, many law firms kept doing the same things, the same way, with the same people – as if immune to economic pressures (while expecting ever-increasing rates to be accepted by the firm’s clients).

After the financial reset of 2008/2009, a lot of legal work (that would otherwise have gone to outside counsel) started staying in-house, with clients intent on keeping it there. Clients are clearly doing more work in-house, while law firms compete for the same (or diminishing) outside spend.

In today's hyper-competitive legal market, the best way for law firms to grow their business is at another law firm’s expense (taking market share away from competing firms and practices).

Some firms are set on buying market share, acquiring firms with the practices (and talent) they need to drive their strategic growth plans. While other firms have begun marketing with a laser-like focus in to market segments where they have a differentiating strength.

Ark Group’s Client Growth Strategies for Legal Services will showcase a client-centric approach to winning & retaining business. Attendees will learn about law firm client service approaches, models and measures that industry leaders are employing to better serve their clients, enable stronger relationships, and provide a platform for differentiation and growth.

For my part I will be presenting on the topic of: Strategic Planning For Practice Growth
For More Information and to Register - Click Here

Post #742 – Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Fall 2015 Issue of International Review Is Now Available

INTERNATIONAL REVIEW is my 24-page glossy, printed magazine distributed to over 1600 law firm chairs and managing partners throughout North America.

We start with some prescriptive counsel on how your industry groups need to better Understand Industry Dynamics in order to be successful, and then continue with a reminder of how you need to Schedule Time For Strategic Thinking as it could arguably be the most important activity in your leadership role.

While I have never been a fan of “branding” and watched over the years as numerous law firms have wasted incredible monetary resources in various expensive advertising experiments, I am nevertheless going to stick my neck out and suggest that The Value In Developing A Leadership Brand is there for every firm leader to employ.

Pages 12 and 13 are intended to introduce you to my newest work, The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader, and How New Managing Partners Can Avoid Being Blindsided is a related one-on-one interview with the Editor of Managing Partner Magazine.

How Effective Leaders Delegate has its origins in a survey that I send out to new managing partners, after their First 100 Days (see back cover) inquiring about their most unexpected challenges and the last piece, Why Law Firms Need Non-Executive Directors is included to provoke your thinking about a trend that has been paying dividends for UK and Australian law firms for a few years now.

As always, I sincerely hope that you find some practical ideas, tips and techniques here that you can put to use immediately.  Please send me your observations, critiques, comments and suggestions with respect to any of these articles. 

Click on the Cover to download your complimentary PDF copy of the magazine.

Post #741 – Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2020 Vision: The Future of Legal Services

I’m pleased to have contributed two separate chapters to this new 116-page Ark report designed to help law firm leaders assess the lay of the legal landscape, prepare for foreseeable change, and above all to position themselves so that they are ready to respond to the unseen challenges and opportunities ahead.

Wind back the clock 20 years or so to when law firms held all the cards.  At that time, clients paid an hourly rate with few complaints, allowing firms to work as they chose, and those clients were loyal. Lawyers specialized right out of law school, and were prepared to work round the clock for a shot at the brass ring of partnership. What is now known as the “traditional” law firm business model was then the only one, and that model made money. In the decade leading up to the economic downturn, revenues in the legal sector grew steadily every year. All that has changed.

Now, firms are operating in a “buyers” market, with non-traditional competitors and new technologies encroaching on what was once the sole province of traditional firms; endemic overcapacity threatens those firms’ profitability; and clients spread available work across a variety of providers – or keep it in house. Moreover, a new generation of “millennial” lawyers is now well established in the profession – and they have very different expectations about working styles, workplace culture, and job longevity.

For better or worse, the legal industry has changed radically over the past two decades – arguably more so than it had done in the previous century. What is more, the pace of change continues to accelerate as new technologies develop, and client businesses – already ahead of their law firms when it comes to embracing technology and streamlining processes – demand certain efficiencies as a prerequisite for sending work a law firm’s way. The speed of evolution is such that, looking just five years into the future, we can predict even more major changes for law firms.

In this fast-moving, competitive, increasingly varied environment, only the most agile firms – those able to respond rapidly to future trends – are likely to succeed. 2020 Vision: The Future of Legal Services brings together the advice of leading industry practitioners and consultants who scan the legal horizon for indicators of change, offer their predictions, and share experience and practical guidance to help law firm leaders prepare for what is coming up next.

For more information on this publication - click here

Post #740 – Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Lucrative Industry Segment

There are 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day -- and every day for the next 14 years.  Older people are heavier users of hospitals, as you'd expect.  But there's a certain subset that's growing faster than full-service hospitals: ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs).  These facilities focus on same-day surgical care.  So they'd do laparoscopic surgery on your knee, but not open-heart surgery.

ASCs are a $35 billion fast-growing industry.  The trend is toward more outpatient procedures at ASCs.  Twenty years ago, 30% of all surgeries were outpatient.  Today it's 70%.

A well-run business in this sector prints money.  For any procedure, there are three fees for the patient.  There is a fee paid to the physician, billed by physician.  There is an anesthesiology fee, billed by the anesthesia provider.  And there is a facility fee for use of the facility.  It's that last fee an ASC collects, paid by the patient's insurer.  And it's high-margin.  A foot operation can cost as little as $1,000, but the ASC collects as much as $20,000.  

To really understand what I’m talking about in this post, read my article: Understanding Industry Dynamics wherein I make the point amongst a number of others, that there is no such thing as a Health Care lawyer.

Post #739 – Friday, July 24, 2015

Some of My Most Recent Articles

I have written and published a number of articles recently, some of which may not appear on my website.  Should you have an interest in any of these titles and wish to obtain a copy of the article, please feel free to send me a note –

Firm Strategy: Understanding Industry Dynamics [Part One] - article
Bloomberg BigLaw Business ( - July 2015

When Is A Partner Not A Partner? - article contribution [Australia] - July 2015

Strategic Accountability - co-authored article
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report - July 2015

Admitting You're Wrong - co-authored article
American Lawyer magazine - June 2015

Where Do You Spend Your Leadership Time? - Thought Leadership Column
Law Practice Management, Legal Executive Institute - June 2015

A Response to Harvard Study on Collaboration - article
Bloomberg BigLaw Business ( - June 2015

4 Ways You Can Become Your Client's Favorite Firm - interview contribution - June 2015

The Leadership Succession Process: Identifying, Developing, Electing - article
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report - June 2015

Succession Strategies - a critique of my Changing Of The Guard book
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report - June 2015

Mistakes To Avoid As A New Firm Leader - Thought Leadership Column
Law Practice Management, Legal Executive Institute - May 2015

Breaking Down Barriers to Collaboration - commentary
Harvard Business Review - May 2015

Patrick McKenna On How New Managing Partners Can Avoid Being Blindsided - Feature Interview
Managing Partner Magazine [UK] - May 2015

Why Law Firms Need Non-Executive Direcotrs - Thought Leadership Column
Law Firm Management, Legal Executive Institute - May 2015

A Key Performance Issue - article
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report - May 2015

Going All In On Industry Group Model - interview contribution
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report - May 2015

Post #738 – Friday, July 3, 2015

Is Your Firm Facing A Leadership Transition?

Do these sound like some of the questions that all new Firm Leaders are likely to be asking themselves:
• Am I really clear on the reasons why I accepted this position?
• How can I be sure that I have correctly understood what is expected of me?
• Which tasks should be a priority and which can be put on hold?
• Who am I going to meet with first and what am I going to say?
• Have I defined the challenges facing my firm and determined an approach to dealing with them?
• When can I begin to introduce change and what is my initial plan of action?
• How do I make sure that I have the support I need from the partnership?

If you are (or know of a firm that is) facing a firm leadership transition or even introducing a new office managing partner taking charge of a larger office, please have a look at

The next program is scheduled for Thursday, August 13, 2015, at Gleacher Center, the University of Chicago, and we are now accepting registrations. Have a look at the day's agenda, the faculty, the testimonials, and extensive course materials, the follow-up support and your total satisfaction guarantee.

Thus far, over 70 firm chairs and managing partners have experienced and can attest to the value and benefits of the program--including leaders from notable AmLaw 100 and AmLaw200 law firms. 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 Master Class 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 of the practical, impartial, and time-tested advice they can get. 

Post # 737 – Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Book Offers Practical, Insightful Advice on Succession Planning

I am indebted to Steve Taylor for his gracious review of my latest work.  Here is an excerpt:

Patrick J. McKenna’s latest book, The Changing of the Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader, may be the most comprehensive text on law firm succession ever written, covering every priority from choosing a nominating committee to defining leadership criteria.

It’s worth highlighting some points that McKenna makes in his thorough and informative guidebook—and that’s really what it is: a succession bible.  He really covers all the bases, from selecting a nominating committee with the right composition and setting selection criteria for the next leader, to developing and implementing a transition and integration plan to usher out the former chair or managing partner gracefully and usher in the new one.  And, he offers guidance on all of the many steps in between.

The biggest value of The Changing of the Guard is the way it helps show how best to pass the leadership baton.  To use another metaphor, it serves as a beacon to navigating through the rocky waters of succession planning.

Excerpted from Critique written by: Stephen T. Taylor, Senior Editor
Of Counsel, The Legal Practice and Management Report  -  Vol.34 • No. 6 • June 2015

Post #736 – Monday, June 1, 2015

Why Do Leaders Find It Hard To Say I’m Sorry?

Even the smartest leaders often find it hard to swallow their pride and say the simple words, “I was wrong” when they have made a mistake.  Yet executives who cannot openly assume responsibility for flawed decisions can never correct these mistakes or successfully change direction, wrote Harvard Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter.  And the implications of poor judgment get worse the longer denial continues, she warned.

The simple sentence "I was wrong" is the hardest for leaders to utter and the most necessary for them to learn.  If a leader cannot admit being wrong in a timely fashion, he or she can never correct mistakes, change direction, and restore success.  The consequences get worse the longer denial prevails.

The arrogance of success is well-known.  Powerful people start to believe that they are above the rules, that what applies to ordinary people does not apply to them.  That's how officials get into trouble in the first place, using their power to suppress criticism.  They never have to say "I was wrong," because everyone conspires to hide mistakes.  The best leaders manage the risk that they could be wrong by surrounding themselves with people are smarter than they are, at least in some things.  They create conversations, weigh facts, listen to arguments, and then make better-informed and less self-serving decisions. 

Perhaps apology training will become a growth business.  Actually, I hope not.  But I do hope that smart leaders will be more alert to problems, and if mistakes are made, they can utter the three magic words and take corrective action.

For more on this subject you might find my co-authored article in the brand new June issue of American Lawyer Magazine of interest – Admitting You’re Wrong: Why you made that strategic mistake – and how to recover from it.

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