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Post #770 – Wednesday, January 18,
What Leadership Messages Are You Sending?
One of the more profound things I’ve learned and try to pass
along to new leaders (be they managing partners or practice heads) is to “act
like you are on stage at all times… because you are!” Everything you do
and say will send messages, set a tone, establish expectations and
communicate direction about what is of priority to you.
With that in mind, you need to carefully orchestrate what
symbolic acts you may want to execute to create a lasting impression and convey
what you stand for in 2017. In other words, you need to always think
through the following items.
Read the remainder of my latest column on Legal Executive Institute.
Post #769 – Wednesday, January 11,
What Do You Know About BlockChain?
In 2015, Virgin’s Richard Branson hosted a “blockchain summit”
on his private Caribbean island. In that
same year, while addressing a Conference of managing partners and legal
marketing professionals, I asked the audience, how many of them had heard about
BlockChain and to my surprise not a single hand was raised. And that has been the pattern throughout all
of 2016 whenever I broach the topic with some group of lawyers – including in
December when I raised the topic again amongst the partners of a significant
Well, for what it’s worth, I received
a note the other day from Gerald Celente, Publisher of
The TRENDS JOURNAL, updating me on a few of the latest developments.
Groups ranging from Wells Fargo to the London Stock Exchange are
getting ready for a blockchain-based future.
Overall, more than $1.5 billion has been invested worldwide in
blockchains’ possibilities so far. Goldman
Sachs has put $50 million into startups creating their own blockchains. And the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Bank of
England and the Bank of Canada have all announced plans to examine the pros and
cons of digital currencies. Perhaps as
early as this year, your bank or investment manager could be managing your
money with blockchains. But blockchains
will reach beyond banks — it’s good for much more than logging payments. They
can be used to validate the security of anything with value.
Gem, a blockchain entrant, has partnered with Capital One and
healthcare giant Philips to smooth and speed payments for medical insurance
claims. The Cambridge, Massachusetts,
company Learning Machine has partnered with MIT’s Media Lab to create a
blockchain that stores and verifies academic degrees and professional
certifications. A college graduate can store diplomas and certificates
electronically on a smartphone.
In June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave a $199,000
grant to Factom, a company in Austin, Texas, to figure out ways to use
blockchain designs to maintain the integrity of the so-called internet of
things. With every device connected to
every other one through the internet, the potential for hackers and malware
skyrockets. Blockchains may be a new tool for cybersecurity. And with a grant from the Bill and Melinda
Gates Foundation, Factom is setting out to apply blockchains to secure
electronic medical records as well.
It’s not only about keeping snooping insurance companies from
prying into your health history. There’s
also the problem that medical records in developing countries or remote regions
aren’t always accessible and sometimes not updated quickly. Blockchains resolve those problems. Using the blockchain’s options, people could
decide who may see their medical records. People could even have ready access
to their own records, instead of wrangling with a doctor before getting a look.
Major companies are betting big on blockchaining’s future. To set a standard, more than 30 major
companies — including Hitachi, JP Morgan and Intel — have formed
Hyperledger. That project aims to settle
on a general-purpose blockchain structure that can be used by any enterprise in
any industry. IBM already has chipped in tens of thousands of lines of software
code to the venture. These companies,
like so many others, invest in the effort because they foresee the benefits.
I believe that Blockchains will transform the way we exchange
value in our digital, cyber-insecure future.
#768 – Friday, December 23, 2016
2016 Year End Review
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 2016 looked like:
/ FIRMS SERVED
International (Europe & Asia)
Nature of Assignments:
developing / implementing strategic plans
governance and leadership issues
client relations and marketing counsel
Firm Size Range:
firms of over 500 attorneys
firms of 300 to 500 attorneys
firms of 100 to 300 attorneys
non-legal client firms
7% corporate legal departments
Participated in Presenting at 7 Webinars
Firm Succession - Ark US Events (May)
Performance Issues – Ark US Events (July)
Leadership – Association of Legal Administrators (August)
Planning – CPA Leadership Institute (October)
Different Practices Differently – Ark US Events (November)
High Performance Practices – Ark US Events (November)
Groups – Leadership Excellence (December)
Participated in 5 Conferences, Workshops & MasterClasses
– First 100 Days Masterclass (Atlanta
– Practice Group Leaders Workshops (San
Francisco in February / Chicago in August)
Facilitator – Managing
Partner Forum Boot Camp (London in March)
Presenter – Managing Partner
Institute (Los Angeles in April)
Chapter to 1 New Book:
Inovativni Pravnici - Proceedings From CCE Conference about
Innovations in Law (E.conomia, Czech
• And Acknowledged As Contributing Source:
How to Become The Firm of Choice: Win the best clients, Recruit
the best people, Increase profitability by taking your firm to the next level -
- August J. Aquila and Robert J. Lees (CPA Trendiness, 2016)
Authored or Contributed to 24 Articles in Publications including:
Business Insider newsletter [UK]
Business World Magazine
Counsel – Legal Practice and Management Report
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 different articles covering leadership and strategy issues
on my LinkedIn site.
Appointed as a Faculty Member for the MBA Workshop Series conducted by Leaders
Excellence at Harvard Square.
This is an online executive development program consisting of
highly interactive sessions with MBA topics, at MBA level, by MBA faculty and
guest star leadership experts; designed for those seeking cross-functional
management and leadership development. Each workshop consists of 1 hour of
effective online lecturing and is presented LIVE in our online study rooms in
order to provide you with inspirational ideas, penetrating insights, and
practical advice from MBA faculty and leadership experts. If requested by the
professor, each workshop can be prolonged up to 30 minutes.
Profiled in the 35th edition of The Writers Directory – as published
by Gale / Cengage Learning.
Have now received over 150 “UNSOLICITED” LinkedIn Endorsements for my strategic
expertise from firm leaders and senior professionals in major firms including:
& Overy (Europe); Baker & McKenzie (Asia); Barnes & Thornburg; Dickinson
Baker Daniels; Fasken Martineau (Canada); Fragomen Del Ray; Gordon & Rees;
Gowlings (Canada); Jackson Lewis; Kutak
(Europe); Mayer Brown; Miller Canfield; NautaDutilh (Europe); Nelson Mullins;
Shook Hardy & Bacon; Skadden
Arps; Thompson & Knight; and Wyatt Tarrant.
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 2017
Rant #767 – Tuesday,
October 25, 2016
Law Firms Suffer The Behavior They Tolerate
93% of AmLaw 100 firms have experienced bullying, a
lack of respect, and “me-first” attitudes among their ranks, despite 87% of
them reporting how important it is to have written value statements
sufficiently specific to ensure behavior that is consistent with those values.
In the first of a series of Leader’s Pulse Surveys,
consultants David J. Parnell and Patrick J. McKenna find from the survey
results of 124 responding firms (both in and out of the AmLaw 100) that partly
to blame is that only one in four firms “have any clear and tough sanctions for
behavior that does not comply with their values”. Further, firm leaders
tolerate bad behavior among their partners, and often among those who may be
considered their higher performing colleagues.
What Kinds Of Bad Behavior?
The top five most common detrimental behaviors that
firm leaders cited, say Parnell and McKenna, include: “bullying behavior and
lack of respect” (by 89% of respondents); “not being a team player with a
‘me-first’ personal agenda” (84%); “poor matter management habits like getting
in time, etc.” (80%); “failure to achieve work quality standards” (76%); and
“negative attitude infecting others” (69%).
Among the AmLaw 100 respondents, while these top
five were the same, there was a three-way tie at the #1 spot with “poor matter
management habits like getting in time, etc.”; “bullying behavior and lack of
respect”; and “not being a team player with a ‘me-first’ personal agenda” – all
scoring at 93%.
Parnell and McKenna reported that there was no shortage
of additional examples of bad behavior raised by numerous leaders: “blocking
the advancement of others and acting out”; “failing to share credit and
failing to treat staff with respect”; “not managing files to a
budget”; “big egos engaged in internal empire building”; “failing to
address and support diversity issues”, and even “general poor behavior: the ‘-
- - hole factor’.”
Fear Of Addressing The Problem
“It is our view,” say Parnell and McKenna, “that a
significant number of firm leaders feel deeply uncomfortable with confronting
the inappropriate behavior of their colleagues, thereby delaying or even
preventing intervention altogether.” By way of supporting evidence, their
survey results indicate that when firms were asked whether discomfort among
leadership in challenging detrimental actors has been strong enough to delay
addressing the problem, they were told that that was indeed the case in 41% of
the firms – about which, they opined, “if we think about it, is a pretty tough
question for many leaders to hear, given that they may have to admit some
degree of failure.”
The authors of the survey went on to say, “We then
went even a step further and inquired as to whether that ‘discomfort was strong
enough to altogether prevent leaders from addressing the problem’, and had a
surprising one out of four firms – 22% – freely admit that that was the case.”
The consultants report that a very telling
observation came from one managing partner who said, “Any of the above
could be actionable,” regarding the detrimental behavior elaborated upon in the
survey, “but typically is limited to consideration in compensation for
partners. However, the status of the partner and the amount of billings appears
to affect what action, if any, is taken.”
When asked about how they might confront bad
behavior if-and-when they do, the survey uncovered that 82% of leaders would
“first confront detrimental actors – one-on-one”, but with some reporting “not
as often as we should” and “our less well managed groups and offices just
ignore it until someone else has to deal with it.”
The Effectiveness Of Current Methods Of
So just how effective are those leaders who do
confront bad actors within the firm? Many will see little real change in
behavior! In fact, sadly, the consultants were informed by 47% of the
firms that “our detrimental actors have been repeat offenders despite
intervention.” Some of these firm leaders reported a range of responses from
“the intervention is often tepid and carried out by the wrong people”
to “these actors repeat but less frequently and less severely.”
The consultants conclude: “What is clear to us is
that law firm leaders, in order to protect their important cultural and
competitive standing, need to not only more actively encourage
behavior consistent with their stated firm values, but to also confront those
acting out quicker and with more effective methods than they seem to be doing
currently. As one firm leader expressed it best, ‘These kinds of problems
don’t go away on their own and they certainly don’t improve with age.’”
Rant #766 – Thursday, October 13, 2016
Succession Planning Is Inevitable
Other than taxes and death, the only other sure thing that will
happen in all organizations is succession planning. Failure to plan for succession is, perhaps,
the greatest current threat to the future of professional firms and should be
one of your most important strategic issues.
Since the issue won't go away or won't be resolved by itself, it is
critical to have your firm management or the partner group address this issue
rather than ignoring it.
join me on October 27th for a special Webinar on Succession Planning
where I will be joined by:
founder and CEO of Aquila Global Advisors and a key thought leader for professional
Vincent A. Cino,
the Chairman of Jackson Lewis P.C. a Global 100 law firm and responsible for
the entire firm's day-to-day administration and management.
former Managing Partner from 2001–2009 at Plante Moran, he was on the firm's
leadership team from 1995–2001 and launched the Ann Arbor office in 1982.
can obtain further details HERE
Post #765 – Tuesday, August 30, 2016
The Fall-Winter 2016 Issue of International Review Is Now Available
REVIEW is my 24-page glossy, printed magazine, distributed to over 1600 law
firm chairs and managing partners throughout North America.
Fall-Winter issue begins with Your Guide To Charting A Strategic Direction
For Your Practice Groups. You may recall
that in my “Bring Your Strategy Process
Back To Life” article (see my Spring-Summer 2016 issue) I advocated for
making your practice groups the key building blocks for your firm’s future
direction. I reported on how “there is nothing more exciting than to
observe lawyers enthusiastically devoting their limited and precious
non-billable time into developing new and potentially lucrative practice niches.” This article
is intended to serve as your hands-on guide to understanding how to make this
happen in your firm.
was delighted to join some old friends, Vincent Sergi, Chairman Emeritus,
Katten Muchin Rosenman; Edwin Reeser,
occasional article co-author and former office Managing Partner of an AmLaw 40
firm; and Nick Jarrett-Kerr,
Principal with Edge International UK in conducting a Webinar together. The
Underproductive Lawyer: Addressing Performance Issues is a
transcript of some of my remarks in response to the questions posed.
Leaders Are Not Necessarily Nice is a counterintuitive reminder on how,
while we may all want to be liked, admired and perceived as loyal to our
colleagues, we need to remember that “nice” leaders don’t always enforce rules
or take on difficult situations which can ultimately contribute to their not
The ‘Commitment Drift’ Frustration is some straight-forward guidance on
how to prevent the situation wherein well-meaning partners may make promises to
you and their fellow group members, but don’t always follow through.
As always, I sincerely hope
that you find practical ideas, tips and techniques here that you can put to use
immediately. Please send me your candid
observations, critiques, comments and suggestions with respect to any of these
on the Cover to download your complimentary PDF copy of the magazine.
Post #764 – Monday, August 29, 2016
New Law Firm Leadership Testing Results
A new study emanating from the UK attempts to
investigate the influence of personality on leadership potential in lawyers. Based on the responses from over 100 lawyers
the research found that lawyers are less able to
cope with uncertainty and less suited to handle difficult situations, than are other
Edward Walker, a psychology postgraduate at Leeds University and
former law firm graduate recruiter who conducted the study, reported that this
research has interesting implications for identifying and developing
leaders in law firms: ‘Cognitive ability and personality traits are the
two most reliable predictors of future success; it therefore makes logical
sense that firms pay careful attention to both when recruiting and developing
You may access and read Edward’s
7-page report: The Influence of Personality on The Leadership Potential of Lawyers
Post #763 – Thursday, August 25, 2016
Design For Your Law Office
Visiting one of my clients in Washington DC recently, I was
struck by a number of the innovative features that were contained within their
Reception area, which was a sharp contrast to some of the more sterile
environments that many firms seem to create.
In a similar manner I came across and was thoroughly impressed by the
work on Nick Kazakoff, co-founder of OneTwoSix Design and recently profiled by
Western Living Magazine (August issue) as one of a handful of rising design
stars – “Industrial Designers To Watch.”
One standout piece is their Loop phone booth (shown here)—a
modern glass-and-maple soundproof phone booth that provides privacy for
confidential phone calls or for working on your laptop, in open-concept offices. “It’s so creative and so practical,” says Judge
And, given the increasing costs of downtown commercial real estate and the decreasing sizes of both partners and associate's offices these days, this innovation may just work as an office for some of your professionals.
For more information, have a look at
Nick’s website - http://onetwosix.design
Post #762 – Friday, August
Skills Women Need To Be Successful Leaders
session recently organized by Cadwalader explored the skills that women
need to be successful leaders:
Cultivate your own leadership style and find your own voice,
deriving confidence through competence. It's also important to avoid
being too self-critical.
Welcome not only positive feedback, but honest and constructive
appraisals. Entrepreneurialism is also important - for example, looking for
opportunities and making the most of them.
In general, women are good team managers, adept at conflict
resolution and juggling various personalities and logistical demands. Women's
capacity to encourage and motivate the marginalized allows them to bridge gaps
more naturally and find common ground.
When negotiating salary offers, let your negotiating counterpart
know that you understand their position and that your own position is
legitimate and justifiable. Showing effective negotiation skills enhances
women's role in a firm.
Firms need to show greater commitment to supporting their female
talent through key career crossroads, and by encouraging men to take paternity
The global competitive environment places a premium on leaders who
can encourage and guide their teams, and the growth of strong women's networks
and sponsorship programs provide the support and opportunities crucial to
should feel empowered and ask for what they believe they deserve.
Confidence backed by a logical argument is a winning combination.
panel discussion was moderated by Claire Cockerton, Chairwoman, Entiq,
and Co-Founder of Innovate Finance, and included Eileen Herlihy,
Executive Director and EMEA Head of Clearing Sales, J.P.Morgan; Cathryn
Lyall, Chief Operating Officer, CurveGlobal, London Stock Exchange Group; Joanna
Nader, Chief Investment Officer, JRJ Group; Meryam Omi, Head of
Sustainability, Legal & General Investment Management; and Louisa Watt,
Partner and Head of Cadwalader's Debt and Claims Trading Practice.
Post #761 – Monday, August
Solving The ‘Commitment Drift’ Frustration
If there is one single frustration that I hear from firm and
practice leaders on a continual basis it is trying to determine how to deal
with the “commitment drift” of those partners who make promises but don’t
always follow through. In other words, how do you ensure task completion on important
projects when your partners agree to do something at the implementation stage,
and you’re uncertain that you will see the necessary committed follow-through?
Whether it is in a practice group setting, around the table with
the members of your Strategic Planning Committee, or wherever colleagues are
meeting, this seems to be one of the most common challenges. That said, there
are seven important steps you can take to ensure results (in most cases):
Read the remainder of my latest
column on Legal Executive Institute
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