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Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations


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Post # 788 – Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018 Will Be The Year For Exploring Micro-Niches

I remember an incident, some years back, where I was called in to facilitate a partner meeting that was intended to develop a strategic plan for, at that time, what was being called a “Technology Group.”  Shortly into the discussions I realized that four of the partners were excited about their work with internet providers, three others focused on cable television, another five were serving software development companies, while the final three were into e-commerce operations.  One supposed practice group that in reality was comprised of four sub-groups serving entirely different clients.  These partners in their different sub-groups really had nothing in common.

Welcome to 2018 and Déjà vu!

Many law firms are recognizing the tremendous growth opportunities available to them in targeting and serving what I call “Tech-Driven Hybrids.”  These are not purely substantive legal practices, nor are they correctly categorized as being industry practices. Rather a hybrid can be both – in that as a partner or law firm you can choose to serve Artificial Intelligence companies (e.g. Deep Learning) and/or some specific sub-industry niche (e.g. FinTech) that may be dramatically impacted and disrupted by AI.

The challenge for many law firms will be in organizing groups capable of effectively serving these hybrids as evidenced by recent announcements from both LeClair Ryan (US) and Clifford Chance (UK).  We are told that LeClairRyan has just launched a “new cross-office, cross-disciplinary Technology & Innovations practice team focused on ramping up service for companies that sell—or are heavily dependent upon—technology.”  Meanwhile Clifford Chance has pulled together 400 of its lawyers to form a new technology group to be deployed across different practice areas.  Based on my prior experience and the little example I conveyed earlier, this is all about to get very messy with lawyers crawling over each other trying to figure out who should best serve which client.

By way of contrast, if we were to look at the area of Virtual Reality (VR) we could identify 8 significant players located in places like Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago and Silicon Valley; and ranging in size from a sole practitioner to a 1000-lawyer firm with four partners who focus on this niche area.  Here’s a NEWS FLASH: From the client’s perspective, they don’t care whether you have a dedicated Technology practice team of hundreds, they just care whether you can show evidence that you know anything about their particular area and business issues.

In a very similar fashion, I authored a paper (Unlocking The Mystique of Understanding Industry Clients) wherein I chastised those law firms promoting their one large, homogeneous Health Care Practice, advocating that there is no such thing as a Heath Care lawyer.  In that article I identified how the Health Care industry is now divided into well over 40 different sub-segments and from the client’s perspective (which should be paramount) if I’m looking for legal counsel in emerging litigation risk assessment with CRISPR Genomics Editing, your having hundreds of lawyers in some Health Care Group really has little significance for me . . . unless you have proven expertise in my area of concern.

So, welcome to 2018 and the age of the Micro-Niche.

Don’t tell me you have a Technology Practice Team.  Tell me what specific legal experience you have and about the business issues related to applying 3D printing to the energy management industry; in utilizing AI to develop treatment plans for brain-cancer patients; in using industrial robots for remote construction site surveillance; micro-chipping employees to enhance workplace surveillance, or how synthetic biology is being used to produce wine without grapes – all things that are happening right now, as you read this.

I am told that one of the very specific strategic goals at both Deloitte and McKinsey is recognizing that within the next three years, by the end of 2020, one-third of firm revenues need to come from services they do NOT now provide.  Law firms can achieve that same goal . . . if properly organized and strategically focused.



Post # 787 – Thursday, January 11, 2018

First International Legal Think-Tank Formed

2017 saw the formation of the first International Legal Thank-Tank (LIFT – Legal Institute for Forward Thinking) comprised of thought leaders from three countries that meet to brainstorm, debate and analyze top issues and future trends impacting the legal industry with an objective of “raising the awareness of market disruption.”  Members include:

• Ronald Friedmann
• Professor William Henderson
• Patrick J. McKenna
• David J. Parnell
• Edwin Reeser
• Michael B. Rynowecer
• Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein

• Professor Richard Susskind

In an inaugural December meeting in New York City, the group discussed trends and challenges facing the profession.  A small excerpt of the day’s intense discussions are available on Forbes



Post # 786 – Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board

It may be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be.

A new white paper, The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board — published by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and written by Patrick J. McKenna, an internationally recognized author, lecturer, strategist and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier law firms — discusses the value for law firm leaders in establishing an Advisory Board.

More than just a sounding board or a chance to schmooze, a carefully selected and trusted Advisory Board can help a law firm leader avoid potential problems while solving existing ones, fine-tune strategies and stimulate some new and innovative ideas. However, as McKenna contends, there are many factors that have to be considered in selecting and running your Advisory Board for it to succeed as envisioned, including its size, its rules of operation, and the relationships of the Board members to the law firm leaders, the firm and each other.

Excerpt:

A good number of other professional service firms, from accounting to consulting businesses, have found success by forming an external Advisory Board to counsel the firm’s leadership on various aspects of the business — everything from operations to planning for growth or enhancing client service.

Think about the last time you met with a group of business people and had an open discussion, sharing ideas and concerns. An Advisory Board is a formal version of this process. Unlike a one-time event, you might think of an Advisory Board as your own special leadership think tank. Participants can serve as your personal sounding board or a source of ideas and expertise as well as give you honest and candid advice. If properly constituted, your Advisory Board will be comprised of people with no axe to grind, and who want to listen and impart their wisdom.

Click on Cover to Download your Copy of This White Paper



Post #785 – Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Year End Review

I’m often asked about my consulting practice, what kinds of assignments I get called in on, for what sized firms; what I’m currently researching and writing about, and just generally how I spend my professional time.  As always, at this time of the year, I looked back over my various activities.  With some of these items (like clients served) activity is not a sufficient measure; results and the client’s satisfaction are really what counts (and to that end, you can find over 100 client testimonials and endorsements throughout this web site).  But for purposes of looking at where one’s time is invested, here is what my 2017 looked like:
 

CLIENTS / FIRMS SERVED

• Geographic Locations:
78% U.S. Based
22% International (Europe)

• Nature of Assignments:
22% developing / implementing strategic plans
67% governance and leadership counsel
11% client relations and marketing advice

• Firm Size Range:
33% firms of over 500 attorneys
11% firms of 301 to 500 attorneys
34% firms of 100 to 300 attorneys
11% non-legal firms
11% corporate legal departments

SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS

• Participated in 5 Conference, Workshop, MasterClass and Webinar Events
- Co-facilitator – First 100 Days Masterclass
- Facilitator – Practice Group Leaders Workshops
(San Francisco in February / Chicago in August)
- Presenter – Chief Strategy Officer Summit (New York in May)
- Differentiation Webinar – Ark US Events (October)
 

OTHER PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES

• Advisory Board Member - True Balance Longevity Institute Inc.
True Balance is the Canadian leader in providing Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Medical Aesthetics from five clinics throughout Alberta and British Columbia.


THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

• Authored One (1) New Book:
The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader (Second Revised Edition)

• Contributed Chapter to Seven (7) New Books from international publishing houses in Europe, India and the United Kingdom:
- Effective Practice Group Leadership (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Measuring and Managing Performance for Law Firms (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Smarter Lateral Hiring for Law Firms (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Managing Your Legal Organization: Global Insights  (Magic Lawyers Publishing, New Delhi, India, 2017)
- Rise of The Legal COO  (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Recruiting And Retaining Legal Talent  (Global Law & Business, 2017)
- Managing Legal Change Initiatives  (Ark Publishing, 2017)

• Contributor to Two (2) White Papers [Thomson Reuters]
Becoming Fearless: Facing Uncertainty in The Legal Market With Confidence - Interview commentary
The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board - author

• Authored or Contributed to 42 Articles in 11 different international Publications including:
AmericanLawyer.com
Forbes
Law360.com
Big Law Business
Global Legal Post
Legal Management Magazine
Legal Business World Magazine
Legal Executive Institute
Of Counsel – Legal Practice and Management Report
CBA Practice Link for Law Firm Leaders
Association of Legal Administrators Newsletter

• Two new issues (Spring & Fall) of my INTERNATIONAL REVIEW 24-page glossy magazine were produced and distributed to 1800 firm leaders.

• Wrote and posted 12 articles covering leadership and strategy issues on my LinkedIn site.

  

OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS 

• Co-Founder and Member of
LIFT: Legal Institute for Forward Thinking

L.I.F.T. is an international Think-Tank and coalition of recognized thought-leaders that meets to brainstorm, debate and analyze top issues and future trends impacting the legal industry with an objective of “raising the awareness of market disruption.”

• Acknowledged by
Legal Business World Magazine

- Awarded a Cover Article for one of my written contributions
- Recognized by the readers as one of seven "International Thought Leaders"


To all of my valued clients, colleagues and friends, I want to say thank you for allowing me to spend time with you; for your confidence, your commitment and your fellowship. 
I wish you and your families the Very Best in 2018



Post #784 - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Developing Your Growth Strategy: Seeking Clear Blue Water

The New issue of LEGAL BUSINESS WORLD is now available with great contributions from Thought Leaders and Legal Experts.

Articles include: 

The Client’s Way, Start adapting your firm today to the buyer’s market in legal services, Jordan Furlong

• Law and Engineering Should Share Curriculum, Daniel B. Rodriguez/Julio Ottino

• How Lawyers Benefit from Legal Project Management, Hans Schuurman

• Legal Data Analytics, Can Lawyers Be Data Analysts? Jodie Baker

• The Immediate Impact of Blockchain on the Legal Industry, Joseph Raczynski

• Establishing a Legal Function Beyond Home Jurisdiction, Kenneth Tung

• Process is Not a Four-Letter Word, Lucy Endel Bassli

• The Ethical Lawyer, Legal Ethics as B.D. opportunity, Karolina Dorenbos

• Move Over Legal Operations, Meet BIPIG, Jennifer Vandersmisse/Ed Medlin

• How to Qualify Effective Referral Sources, David Ackert

• Trans European Law Firm Association Country by Country Guide

• Design Thinking Will Change the Practice of Law, Alix Devendra/Cat Moo

AND MORE . . .

Download your copy in the Library or read it now



Post # 783 – Sunday, October 29, 2017

Should Law Firm Leaders Build A Personal Brand?

Exactly 10 years ago, in March 2007, at a time when most firms were doing very well economically, a survey was conducted of the profession to determine how certain firm leaders were perceived. A lot has happened since 2007. So, for the fourth in a series of Leader’s Pulse Surveys conducted by Patrick McKenna and David Parnell, they repeated that same survey in October, asking lawyers, specifically those in some form of leadership position (firm leaders, office heads, practice group leaders, elected board members), to reflect upon the various firm leaders that they have met, observed and/or read about across the country and respond to three specific questions.

Read the entire article here.



Post # 782 – Sunday, October 29, 2017

Publically Contested 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 occur.

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!

Our 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 INITIATIVES

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 a transformation.


EFFECTIVE PRACTICE GROUP LEADERSHIP

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 the authority.

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 team:
* What do you want to be known for?
* What makes you soar – what is your superpower?  About what do you have a burning passion?
* What work do you find absorbing, involving, enthralling?
* What is your personal agenda?  What do you want to prove to your peers?
* 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 clients?
• “What is clearly unusual, uniquely distinctive and of great value to clients about the services you offer?”

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 to ask:
• “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?”    

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