The State of Law Firm Leadership:
What Future Law Firm Leaders Will Need (2010)

The next generation of law firm leaders will need both business and people skills, as well as a thick skin, according to a survey of those currently in the job.

Ninety-two leaders of law firms with more than 100 lawyers responded to the survey (PDF) by law firm consultant Patrick McKenna, who teaches an annual class for new managing partners at the University of Chicago.

McKenna asked the respondents what skills and attributes are most needed for the next generation of law firm leaders. Some saw no difference in the skills needed by future and today’s leaders. Other popular answers predicted future leaders will need:
• Financial and business acumen, as well as strategic thinking skills, to handle increased competition and more rapid commoditization of legal services.
• Capacity to build consensus and bring about change, and to deliver tough love with compassion.
• Good interpersonal and communications skills.
• Courage, patience, a sense of humor, and “a thick skin to the point of having all nerve endings removed.”
• Serious dedication to the success of others.

McKenna tells the ABA Journal that the ability to oversee change is becoming more important in an era of outsourcing, alternative fees and virtual law firms. Those who see no difference in the characteristics needed now and in the future may be in a geographic area where legal fees are low and revenues are up, he says.

Or they may be “sadly delusional in hoping that their world will eventually return to normal,” he writes in an e-mail.

This news item was authored by Debra Cassens Weiss and appeared on ABA Journal Law News Now

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