Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #749 – March 1, 2016

Where Do You Spend Your Leadership Time?

I have often asked of leaders a couple of questions that usually serves to illuminate precisely where they spend their time. The first question I ask is: “What proportion of your time is spent solving problems versus what proportion is spent on exploring new opportunities?” After what can often be a rather awkward reflection period, the answer I will usually elicit is about 80% on solving problems and 20% on exploring opportunities.

From knowing and spending time with many of them, I suspect that it is really more like 95% on problems and 5% on opportunities, but let’s analyze what this division of time infers. This means that as a leader, you are spending 80% of your time and energy looking backwards and fixing things, while only 20% looking forward and creating things. Firms operating in this mode may be constrained in attempting to take the lead in their competitive marketplace.

So why does this happen? Well, it should be obvious that most professionals are veteran problem solvers. We are trained to resolve the issues, put out the fires, correct the underperformance, and generally “fix” the problem. There is a powerful gravitational pull that unconsciously moves us toward fixing things instead of innovating, toward restoring instead of increasing, and toward reacting rather than being proactive.

The truth is, we secretly love the urgency of problems to be addressed. The urgent makes us feel valued. We get an adrenalin rush from urgent matters. With problems to be fixed we can be the hero that saves the day. Some of us are even pros at waiting until the last minute to do something. If we’re honest we feel more secure when we are busy doing something, even if it isn’t the most important. That urgent little problem can sometimes actually become a convenient excuse to ignore or put off the important. But we need to focus our energies on where we will have the greatest impact.

We need to understand that fixing things, while however noble, simply restores the prior performance or condition; which is comfortable, but limits value. However, if your focus is on improving the condition, on inspiring entrepreneurial endeavors, on being innovative; then your intent is not on restoring the status quo, but on developing a level of performance that exceeds any previous standards.

Now there is another question, a follow-up inquiry I tend to pose which goes like this: “Of the time you spend on exploring opportunities, (remember it was reported to be 20% of the total) how much of that time is directed toward pursuing billable production, winning the next big transaction or responding to a competitor, (the present) versus pursuing the development of entirely new skills, new technologies, or new niche services (the future)?

Again, if I were generous in reporting what I have learned, the average firm leader spends about 60% of their time exploring present opportunities and 40% on future opportunities. This, albeit unscientific research does drive a point worth scrutiny: What kind of a future is likely to be created by someone spending only about 8% of his or her total leadership/management time and energy focused on the future? 

Post #748 – Monday, February 1, 2016

Effective Leadership Requires Critical Reflection

Drawing from some meetings I’ve had these past weeks, I think every leader should consider taking time to reflect on how their leadership actions are viewed by their colleagues.

Moliere, the 17th century French dramatist, once said: It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.  Is there anything that you are avoiding doing that needs to be done?  For example, are you putting off a difficult conversation? Are you delaying any important decisions?  Are you delegating away responsibilities that should stay in your court?

At the end of each day, before you head home, take a few minutes to mentally go over your day.  Think about significant conversations you’ve held, meetings you attended, emails you sent and other actions you undertook.  Did all of your various interactions enhance your relationships?  Could you have handled anything a touch better?  This should inspire you to plan your next day around your highest purpose.

Get hold of a leadership assessment form and use it to reflect on how others in your team might critically rate you on each dimension.  For example, did you . . .
- put the interests of the team before own interests;
- share credit for successes;
- readily share relevant information;
- ask how others were doing;
- treat others with respect regardless of their position;
- foster teamwork across all groups;
- stand behind decisions made by the team;
- provide honest feedback on a timely basis.

How would others candidly respond to these questions about your behavior?

No one can be responsible for your state of mind.  We are totally responsible for the impact that others have on us.  Understand the disruptive effect that emotions can have on your behavior and resolve to do something about it.

Post #747 – Monday, January 4, 2016

An Unprecedented 75-Year Harvard Study

Happy New Year!  I’m pleased to direct your attention to a TED Talk that one of my friends shared with me.

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life?  If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken.  As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.  In an unprecedented study that tracked boys from their early teens through the last years of their lives, from all socio-economic categories, we learn the true secrets to happiness.  It’s not that complicated, and it is attainable for everyone.

In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from his research, as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

Here is the link: What Makes a Good Life

Post #746 – Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 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 2015 looked like:


 • Geographic Locations:
84% U.S. Based
16% International (Europe & Asia)

• Nature of Assignments:
36% developing / implementing strategic plans
52% governance and leadership issues
12% client relations and marketing counsel

• Firm Size Range:
17% firms of over 500 attorneys
24% firms of 300 to 500 attorneys
51% firms of 100 to 300 attorneys
  8% corporate legal departments



• Participated in presenting at 2 Webinars
Practice Group Leadership 2.0 (June)
Strategies For Overcoming Obstacles To Change (December)

• Participated in 5 Conferences, Workshops & MasterClasses
Co-facilitator – First 100 Days Masterclass (Atlanta in January)
Chaired Managing Partners Panel Discussion – Compensation Think Tank (San Francisco in February)
Chaired Managing Partners Panel Discussion – ALA Conference (Nashville in May)
Facilitator – Practice Group Leaders Workshop (Chicago in August)
Presenter – Growth Strategies Conference (Chicago in November)


• Contributed to 2 New Books:     
The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader     
2020 Vision:  The Future of Legal Services (contributed two chapters)

• Authored or Contributed to 40 Articles in Publications including:
American Bar Association Journal
American Lawyer Magazine
Association of Corporate Executive Coaches [Australia]
Bloomberg BigLaw Business (
CBA Law Firm Leaders Newsletter
Harvard Business Review Magazine
Legal Executive Institute
Managing Partner Magazine [UK]
Of Counsel – Legal Practice and Management Report
Thomson Reuters Managing Partner 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 22 different articles covering leadership and strategy issues on my LinkedIn site with 10 generating over 500 reads and 5 over 1000 readers.


• Appointed as a Special Advisor to the Board of Jackson Lewis (the first quasi-NED in an AmLaw 100 law firm).
According to Firm Chairman, Vincent A. Cino, “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.”
Jackson Lewis represents management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation with over 800 attorneys in 55 offices throughout the United States and is ranked as a Global 100 law firm.

• Appointed as Honorary Fellow: Leaders Excellence of Harvard Square
The honorary fellowship designation recognizes exceptional achievement and contributions within an individual’s professional field. Leaders Excellence is a community of leading academics and practitioners who specialize in leadership and collaborate to share their thinking, research and experiences. To preserve the integrity and exclusivity of the network, membership is offered on an invitation-or qualification-only basis.

• Appointed to the Advisory Board of Premonition Analytics.
Premonition is a powerful, proprietary AI technology that both sources and mines legal big data, such as court records domestically and internationally allowing consumers of legal services to answer commercially critical questions, such as which lawyers usually win before which judges (read: likely case outcome).

• I was invited to become a regular Thought Leadership Columnist & Contributor to the Legal Executive Institute  -
The Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute brings together people from across the legal industry to ignite conversation and debate, make sense of the latest events and trends, and provide guidance as you confront the opportunities and challenges that these changes present.

• Increased the size of my Linkedin site – Law Firm Leaders – to more than 320 members.
Law Firm Leaders is the ONLY social networking site exclusively for the chairs and managing partners of firms of over 100 lawyers in size - with 62% representing leaders from firms of 100 to 300 lawyers; 16% from firms of 300 to 500 lawyers and another 19% coming from firms of over 500 attorneys.

• Have now received over 140 “UNSOLICITED” LinkedIn Endorsements for my strategic expertise from firm leaders and senior professionals in major firms
Including: Allen & Overy (Europe); Baker & McKenzie (Asia); Barnes & Thornburg; Dickinson Wright; Faegre Baker Daniels; Fasken Martineau (Canada); Fragomen Del Ray; Gordon & Rees; Gowlings (Canada); Jackson Lewis; Kutak Rock; Linklaters (Europe); Mayer Brown; Miller Canfield; NautaDutilh (Europe); Nelson Mullins; Shook Hardy & Bacon; Skadden Arps; Thompson & Knight; and Wyatt Tarrant 

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 2016.

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's 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.

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