Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post # 799 – October 20, 2018

The Advent of The Legal Practice’s Micro Niches (Part 2)

Today, firms are facing yet another structural and marketing challenge, that which I have come to call, “Tech-Driven Hybrids.” These are practices that are not simply conventional in that they require a level of expertise that goes beyond any one vertical (e.g., may require regulatory plus tax, plus IP), and they are practices that extend beyond impacting just one industry in that their effect will likely be felt in a good number of different industries.

What are the micro niches in your legal practice? And how can you use them to find new clients and better service your existing ones?

Post # 798 – October 5, 2018

The Advent of Micro Niches (Part 1)

There was a time when we simply organized our law firms vertically, by the same subject matter we studied in law school — a corporate practice, a litigation practice, a labor and employment practice and so forth.  So that today, we tend to think of the typical labor and employment practice as highly commoditized with practitioners doing low-value work for highly discounted fees.  In the real world, however, those looking at the trends, monitoring the pace of change, and exploring where new client needs may be, are discovering the answers might be in highly-specialized micro-niches.

What are the micro niches in your legal practice? And how can you use them to find new clients and better service your existing ones?

Post #797 – October 1, 2018

Everything You Need To Know Has An Expiration Date

As a professional one of the things we tend to ignore and overlook is that everything we know has an expiration date.  In an earlier era, many professionals retired having practiced in the same area, having attained competency and then spent their time doing pretty much the same thing from the day they entered their profession.  Today, continuous learning and skill building are conditions precedent to maintain a healthy career.

Read this entire article: 

Post #796 – September 15, 2018

For A Truly Different Perspective on The Big 4

There is a lot of buzz throughout the legal profession as of recent, regarding the threat coming from the large accounting firms.  However, it should be noted that the Big Four accounting and audit firms – KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC – are in trouble like never before.  They face a multitude of existential pressures all at once.  First, traditional accounting has been hit with a series of major (and expensive) auditing scandals, such as TBW-Colonial and Lehman Brothers in the US; Carillion in the UK; and the Guptas in South Africa.

One result is widespread concern that the current style of auditing has become a hollow ritual that provides little assurance for investors, lenders and employees.  Regulators are talking about forcibly breaking up the Big Four in the UK, taking antitrust action in Italy, and pulling back from relying on the firms to advise the government in Australia.  In China, the government is creating new firms to take on the Big Four in the marketplace.

Changing times are bringing a range of disruptions: Technologies — such as digital analytics, cognitive AI, big data and blockchain — are rapidly making old forms of auditing obsolete. A new era of transparency (including a culture of hair-trigger leaking) is undermining services that depend on secrecy, such as Big Four tax avoidance services; think Lux Leaks, Paradise Papers and Panama Papers.

Within the Big Four sphere, tensions have been mounting, including increasing conflicts between advisory services and auditing as firms enter new fields, such as marketing, law, real estate and IT.  And the #Metoo movement has exposed a darker underside within the firms’ cultures.  Finally, the limitations of the Big Four’s thinly capitalized international franchise structures make it difficult to change direction, or to make large investments in IT and IP. Without conventional corporate structures, the firms can’t raise capital easily.

That’s not to suggest that they are not a threat to the legal profession only to cite some of the external changes that the Big 4 are having to contend with.  For more on this subject, check out the writings of Professor Ian Gow at the University of Melbourne.

Post # 795 – August 22, 2018

New White Paper: The State of Law Firm Leadership 2018

In new white paper published by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute, authors Patrick J. McKenna and David J. Parnell delve into what it takes to be a law firm leader today, culling valuable insight from a survey of law firm leaders and identifying some key issues related to the role of being firm chair or managing partner.

The white paper is based on a comprehensive 30-question survey, distributed in June and July to a group of about 300 law firm leaders, many among the Am Law 100 and 200 ranked firms.  The data uncovered some surprising and potentially valuable findings, according to the authors.

For example, they found that many leaders of America’s largest firms who are managing multi-million-dollar businesses are too often thrust into the role with minimal planning time and no clear job description.  “They’re given next to no formal preparatory training and are expected to either sink or swim,” the authors write. “ Further, they’re expected to approach the end of their term with no precise parachute or exit agreement in place when they decide to step down or retire.”

Not surprisingly, the survey found that a majority of today’s law firm leaders — no matter the firm size — see the challenges they are facing as far more complex than even just a few years ago, and a percentage of them reported feeling “almost overwhelming at times.”

You can download a free copy of the “State of Law Firm Leadership 2018” white paper here.

Post #794 – August 22, 2018

Law Practice Management 2.0 Conference


Join me October 4th at the University of Chicago, Gleacher Center.  We will begin by exploring how one might organize new ‘tech-driven hybrid’ groups like Blockchain or Synthetic Biology; hear directly from panels of highly-experienced Practice Group Leaders and Chief Practice Officers; participate in an interactive exercise with the LEADING EXPERT in the field of “virtual distance;” hear first-hand, from the professions’ leading client research firm concerning why some practices thrive and others dwindle; and conclude our day by venturing outside the comfortable corridors of our profession to hear from one of the most distinguished leaders in the accounting world.

Post # 793 – Friday, June 29, 2018

Get Your Free E-Book: Leadership Lessons From The Trenches

I’m pleased to announce that my good friends at Legal Business World, Joek Peters and Allard Winterink, have published a collection of my leadership articles and are making them available as an e-book at no cost for you to download or read on line.

This 120-page book is a compilation of some 34 concise, leadership tips containing pithy, pragmatic and sometimes, provocative advice on everything from how the best leaders get exactly what they expect to being a good coach to your colleagues (contained in Part One: In The Trenches With Colleagues) – and – from how to signal what you value as a leader to why those supposed ‘best practices’ are not always best (in Part Two: In The Trenches With Your Team).

These meanderings were inspired by those I’ve had the honor of working with, were fun to write and so I hope equally rewarding to read; but more importantly provide some guidance on how you can make your leadership journey more meaningful for those you serve and more personally gratifying for yourself.

For your PDF Download copy – go to: 

My good friends at Legal Business World (, Joek Peters and Allard Winterink, advised that my collection of leadership articles made available as an e-book, at no cost for you to download or read online, has been warmly received - OVER 9600 copies downloaded thus far!

Post # 792 – Friday, May 25, 2018

The Spring-Summer 2018 Issue of My International Review Magazine 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 the outcome of my collaboration with a group of colleagues that I greatly admire and the result of an inaugural meeting of our international Legal Think-Tank in New York.  I invite you to read “Legal Trends and Predictions For 2018.”

How Conventional Strategizing Can Be A Waste of Time is intended to give you a guided tour through the typical strategic planning process with an emphsis on what NOT to do, which is then folowed by “Leadership Transition Misfires which essentially does the same thing with respect to idenifying the dysfunctional behavior that some firms experience with their leadership succession efforts. 

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.  “Should Your Leadership Build A Brand” is the 4th in a series of surveys that David and I have conducted over the past two years. 

My final selection, “The Evolution of Blockchain and Its Impact on Your Clients” is a short piece meant to be demonstrative of the tech-driven hybrid, micro-niches that law firms must now contend with figuring out how to best serve.

Access your complimentary PDF of the magazine here -

Post # 791 – Sunday, April 29, 2018

Blockchain and its Impact on Your Clients

I thought it might be interesting to highlight a few of your existing clients (industries) out there that are likely to be impacted, or even disrupted by this technology while concurrently identifying a few of the blockchain “industry” players involved in creating this disruption.

Post #790 – Thursday, March 8, 2018

Tackling Partner Underperformance

I’m delighted to have been asked and subsequently contributed a Chapter to the second revised edition of Tackling Partner Performance, a new book by an old friend, Nick Jarrett-Kerr.


As Nick’s publisher, the Ark Group, points out, “The issue of underperformance at partner level remains incredibly agonizing and sensitive in law firms.”  Nick’s excellent book addresses contributing factors to and potential remedies for this difficult situation in chapters that range across topics such as “Clarifying and Managing Expectations of Partnership,” “Supporting and Rehabilitating Underperforming Partners,” “When Lateral Hires Fail,” “Communication and Conflict Resolution,” and many other pertinent topics. (See the book’s Executive Summary and Table of Contents for more detail.)

Nick is one of the leading UK and international specialist advisors to law firms and professional services companies worldwide on issues of strategy, governance and leadership development.  Prior to becoming a consultant, he was the chief executive partner of Bevan Ashford, an esteemed law firm in Great Britain, and he is currently a visiting professor at Nottingham Trent University, where he leads the strategy modules for the Nottingham Law School MBA.

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