Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #842 – April 14, 2020


Effective Strategy Often Requires Being First and Being Exceptional


The curious paradox is that most law firms go to great lengths to look like every other law firm.  In fact the common response that you are most likely to elicit from the leadership of many firms when first presenting a new concept, idea, or potential market opportunity is: “Can you please give us a list of the other firms which are doing this”. 


The corresponding irony is that today, most competitive efforts are invested in tit-for-tat rivalry rather than in pioneering new market spaces.  In other words, firms seek to outperform each other by being better (busily pursuing cost and efficiency gains, usually at doing commodity work) – rather then by aiming to be significantly different (exploring lucrative, emerging client micro-niche needs).


This effort to be better often has the perverse and unintended consequence of (once again) only making competitors look more alike as they inexorably slide into low-cost mediocrity.  


Real competitive advantage is achieved by getting out in front, by focusing on some area, some micro-niche (like any of the dozen I have identified and been writing about for the past year) in which you can be unbeatable.  By definition, if you are doing what everyone else is, you are not meaningfully differentiated; you do not have an advantage!

Post # 841 – April 9, 2020

“Industry” Should be THE Critical Component of Your Firm’s Overall Strategy  (Part 3)


Strategy is often a misunderstood concept among law firm leaders.


Being a law firm leader means that you are not managing one homogeneous firm, but rather a portfolio of very different businesses.  Strategy should be thought about at the business unit level with a clear, shared understanding of where the firm will allocate its scarce resources (people, time, and dollars) towards the goal of being the go-to firm for one (or multiple) segments of clients, facing one (or multiple) types of business issues.


In practical terms, strategy helps guide deliberate choices about where your firm is; and, just as importantly, where the firm is not going to direct its limited resources.  More controversially, strategy can also determine which clients and targets your firm will (and will not) continue to serve or pursue.  Our experience is that being more industry focused allows your firm to find more (and better) client opportunities.


In Part Three of our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to try to help you to assess the importance of your having effective industry practices.


Post #840 – March 29, 2020


Hanging Up the Crown


Taking over from some long-serving firm leader or a founding partner can present an enormous challenge for a new managing partner. In some firms, it gets ridiculously difficult when the new leader is given only a few weeks, or even days, to prepare themselves before having to step into the role -- or when the incumbent is not fully supportive of the transition.

A departing firm leader can undertake a number of actions to make the leadership transition much smoother.

Post #839 – March 26, 2020


New Insights from Managing Partners On a New Kind of Crisis


No one knows what to expect. But the near term is not good – or worse depending on who you talk to.  This week I was pleased to have the opportunity to join Michael Rynowecer, President of BTI Consulting to see what we could learn from leadership partners about what law firms are doing and how they are thinking.  We canvassed about 25 managing partners (or equivalent) at firms with more than 500 attorneys.  

Here are key insights from their thinking, together with a few of our observations:


Post #838 – March 10, 2020

Clients Value You Having a “DEEP” Industry Focus: So Do You?  (Part Two)

While attorneys tout their deep technical or functional expertise, most clients view that as table stakes.  They assume you’re an expert in employment law, international tax or complex litigation.  And as clients face increasingly complex business challenges that go well beyond any one (traditional practice group) area of the law, they wonder if you really understand the key aspects of their industry.  To be fair – they don’t care if you don’t know the intricacies of making their widgets – but they DO want you to know the idiosyncratic aspects of what they are having to deal with.  


What they also want to know is – have you done it in their industry?  Do you understand the nuances of their industry?  Can you hit the ground running or will they have to invest hours to teach you and your team how things are normally done in their world?


In Part Two of our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to try to help you to assess the strength of your industry practices and to identify those signals where clients know when you are not up to speed on their deeper industry concerns.

Post #837 – March 4, 2020 


How Do You Get Your Practice and Industry Groups Firing on All Cylinders?

If you are like many, for several years now you’ve been attempting to get your practice and industry groups to achieve high performance . . . with limited success!

You appointed professionals to positions as practice group leader whom you thought would do the job (and who promised you that they would try); you provided them with some basic training; and you endeavored to periodically meet with them all as a group to provide a bit of a pep talk. Despite all your efforts, only a FEW of your groups are functioning as you had hoped. So what to do? 

Well, if you are like some firm leaders I’ve spoken with, you might have now decided to embark upon what one termed: “Practice Group 2.0” and start fresh . . . largely by changing most of your leaders and hoping that some new recruits might do a better job. But if I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that your challenge is not so much a people issue, as it is a structural issue.

Download your PDF copy of the new Legal Business World magazine article

Post #836 – March 1, 2020


Thought Leader and Influencer Interview


Thinkers360 interviews profile prominent members of the Thinkers360 community who embody the power of ideas in their work. In this edition, we speak with Patrick McKenna, Principal, McKenna Associates Inc. An internationally recognized author, lecturer, strategist and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier professional firms, Patrick has had the honor of working with at least one of the largest firms in over a dozen different countries.  He was recently featured in the Thinkers360 Top 50 Global Thought Leaders and Influencers on Innovation.


Post #835 – February 19, 2020

Does Your Firm Have A REAL Industry Focus?

Understanding Your Client’s Industry is the single biggest differentiator among law firms. Unfortunately, for too many firms, any pretense of having a real industry focus is simply a list of industries displayed on their website – without any recognition that perhaps clients can discern the difference. Bad News Flash: you are not fooling anyone!  

Meanwhile, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to hear how industry group leaders are completely frustrated . . . by their lack of any clear mandate, authority, and visible support from firm leadership. Few get any meaningful leadership training; a separate budget or a dedicated marketing support professional attached to the group. Few meet on a monthly basis or collaborate across offices; nor have they developed a ‘real’ formal strategic plan. Worse yet, few get support from partners or firm management, which could, for example, make a firm require that partners work only in one core industry.

Here are a dozen diagnostic questions (not intended to be comprehensive) that you might internally review and discuss, to evaluate where you stand with respect to having a genuine industry focus.

Post #834 – January 20, 2020


Don’t Miss Out on Reading One of My Latest eBooks


At different times during this past year, I released three new eBooks through the kind folks at Legal Business World – all of which remain available free for you to download.


This morning I received some Net Reader Metrics – the online reader counts together with stats from each visiting country.  A HUGE thank you to all of those who participated in reading and downloading copies of my work.



When It Comes Time To Instigate Change  (54 Pages)

18,446 Total Readers

Top countries: US, India, Turkey, United Kingdom, Germany




The Art of Leadership Succession: How To Select Your Next Firm Leader  (264 Pages)

48,596 Total Readers

Top Countries: US, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, India




Strategy Innovation: Getting to The Future First  (242 Pages)

43,079 Total Readers

Top Countries: US, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Netherlands

Post # 833 – January 17, 2020


Make Your 2020 Vision 20/20

According to new survey research released this week, the number one reason why partners leave their firms is not dissatisfaction with compensation, but rather a lack of confidence in firm management and strategy.

For anyone in a leadership position and starting a new decade with today’s pace of change, this research should suggest how important it is to ensure that your 2020 vision is crystal clear.  Therefore, you need to know exactly what you want to accomplish over the next twelve months; you need to communicate your goals to your colleagues; and you need to set out for everyone what it will look like when it is achieved.  

What follows are some possible areas for setting some 2020 Goals.  Why not start by assessing how well you are currently performing with each, by using the following self-assessed grading:

A = We are a dominant performer in this area
B = We are certainly ahead of most competitive firms at this
C = We are probably ‘average’ when compared with our competitors
D = This is an area that needs remedial attention
F = If we were honest, this is near crisis for us

1.         Creating innovative solutions to address client problems
2.         Finding new, efficient ways to lower costs in performing our professional tasks
3.         Staffing projects in ways that render extra value and enhanced benefit
4.         Securing more challenging and complex work from our existing clients
5.         Transforming individual client assignments into long-term relationships
6.         Being better at systematic listening and getting closer to our clients
7.         Monitoring market trends to track emerging client needs
8.         Generating increased awareness of our capabilities across our market footprint
9.         Launching entirely new legal service offerings
10.       Developing a recognized presence in serving new industry niches
11.       Attracting high-quality lateral talent
12.       Growing new partners from junior ranks
13.       Collaborating and sharing knowledge among partners
14.       Helping partners to grow and develop marketable new skills and capabilities
15.       Developing future leaders for our practices

Start with identify only three (3) areas in which you want to formulate a specific action plan and diligently focus your efforts.  In this year of 2020, let’s start the decade with a clear 20/20 vision and focus on achieving some tangible results.

Need help with seeing 20/20?  Let’s talk.  Shoot me an email, and I’ll be in touch.

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