Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post# 875 – March 18, 2021

Listen to our Managing Partners’ Forum Webinar: 

“Dealing with The Underperforming or Misbehaving Partner”


In tackling this thorny subject our four panelists also explore a number of DIFFERENT definitions of underperformance, some of which go entirely overlooked in many firms.  


For example there is:


• the Obvious – the partner who for whatever reason is not achieving their billable hour performance standards;


• the Hoarder – that partner who holds tight all of their billable work to make themselves look good, without bothering to delegate that portion that they know full well could be done by juniors thereby providing better value to the client;


• the Gate Keeper – the partner who will not introduce any other lawyers to their clients even though they know full well that the more lawyers from the firm serving the client, the more loyal that client becomes; and


• the Deadbeat – that partner who is meeting billable goals, but meeting those standards by doing the same old schtick, often only marginally profitable, without bothering to invest any time in building their skills to make themselves more valuable.


Latest Webinar Episode -

Post #874 – February 16, 2021

Upcoming Managing Partners' Forum North America WEBINAR:

Dealing With The Underperforming or Misbehaving Partner

The underperforming or misbehaving partner in a professional firm is hard to ignore. It can be costly in addition to the risk of a potential time bomb regarding client relationships. In many cases the underperforming partner might not be a ‘newbie’ but a once high achieving partner that is now floundering due to any number of reasons. The misbehaving partner can be anywhere in a firm even amongst the star billers. Other partners are now pointing the finger at the firm’s leadership to deal with the bubbling animosity. Overall it creates an interesting challenge for firm leaders, firm values and firm cultures.

In this relevant moderated panel discussion hear from two firm leaders (accounting and law) that have had to deal with underperforming or misbehaving partners and also joining the panel are two leadership specialists that advise professional services firms.

Post #873 – January 28, 2021

When A Leader Needs to Confront Underperformance


One of the more difficult decisions that any firm leader or practice leader will be faced with, is when you have to confront and possibly remove someone on your team who is no longer “pulling their weight.”


When you are faced with this challenge (and you definitely will be at some time in your leadership tenure) you need to understand that the consequences of taking decisive action are rarely as dire as they might seem to you at first glance. Nevertheless, there are numerous reasons why intelligent and capable leaders will go to great lengths to avoid taking any action. In reality, not taking action is the same as announcing that you will continue accepting unacceptable performance.


There are always reasons to put off the decision to take decisive action. A number of leaders have admitted to me, that in hindsight they came up with all kinds of rationalizations to postpone a painful decision that they just knew was inevitable. In the end all they succeeded in doing was hurting both their team and crippling the team’s possible progress in a highly competitive marketplace.


No leader would ever tell you that this is the easy part of the job.  It isn’t!


Post #872 – January 8, 2021

Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future FIRST

I am pleased to report a total online readership of 47,712

over the past 18 months since my latest e-Book was released,

according to metrics just reported to me from the good folks

at Legal Business World.

Thank you LBW!

Post #871 – December 27, 2020

Top Global Thought Leaders on Business Strategy


My sincere thanks to Thinkers360 for the honor in being acknowledged among their Global 20 Thought Leaders on Business Strategy.


Congrats to the Top 50 Global Thought Leaders & Influencers on Business Strategy.  To see the full list -OR- to participate by sharing your own content, sign-up (free) for Thinkers360 today:


Post # 870 – December 17, 2020

The Managing Partners' Forum North America Webinar Recording


A few weeks back we officially launched the Managing Partners' Forum North America with an Inaugural Webinar and firm leaders attending from not only all parts of North America but also from countries as far afield as Spain, Bulgaria and Australia.  The Webinar was entitled: "Aftershocks and Opportunities” and featured Keynote Presenter Rohit Talwar, a global futurist, award winning speaker, author and strategic advisor to CEOs; with panelists Beth Wilson, CEO at Dentons Canada and Sean Denham, Global and US Industry Leader with Grant Thornton LLP.

The Managing Partners’ Forum was initially formed in the UK in 1995 comprised of firm leaders from law, accountancy, consulting and other professions to share their experiences and ideas to enhance excellence in professional service firm leadership.
  For those who are interested, here is a link to the recording of this event which I was pleased to moderate:


Post # 869 – December 1, 2020

Looking Back on 2020: Ten of My Most Popular Insights

It’s been an unprecedented year and I sincerely hope that sharing my articles and insights, here on LinkedIn, have helped to answer some of your leadership and strategic challenges.  Below is a list of some of my most popular articles in case you missed any of them the first time.  Happy reading, stay well and future focused, and please share these with your team & colleagues. 


• Memo to Firm Leader: Are You Getting Minutes from Group Meetings?

Many groups may spend time talking about workloads and about what might be new with a particular client that everybody is familiar with – but few actually engage in collaborating on projects that could advance the group’s ambitions -


• Suffering Obsolescence (Part 2): Are You Fostering a Skill Building Culture?

Since your firm sells professional skill rather than time (hopefully), it makes sense that one should probably think of those skills as valuable assets and have some kind of program to manage and prevent those assets from inevitably becoming obsolete -


• Suffering Human Capital Obsolescence: Partners Doing the Same Old Schtick!

In most firms, my observation is that we seriously over-invest in the efficiency (“let’s provide a discount” or “do more for less”) arena and under-invest in having partners working to build their skills –


• Is Your Industry Group Monitoring Trends?

One activity that I have learned that only high-performance industry groups do, is they engage their members in a monthly meeting specifically to review the trends impacting their clients -


• Embrace Thought Leadership as Your Industry Group’s Strategy for Growth

Here are 12 recommended actions for how you and your group might develop a position of being recognized industry thought leaders -


• Enough with The Visionary Leadership BS

While many books on leadership suggests that a leader needs to have a vision, I think it is all very nice in theory, sounds profoundly intelligent as a concept, but is absolute BS in its application         -


• Big Industry Groups Suck!

Here’s a half-dozen important reasons why big groups suck, why we need to strive for smaller teams, and some prescriptive options for you to consider in making a course correction -


• In Matters of Strategy: Beware of Best Practices

What is it about this term, ‘best practices’ that makes it sound so persuasive, and yet why don’t they always seem to work as well as some might be suggesting?  I would caution that it is nothing more than the myth of a single standard of excellence; the one right way to compete -


• What to Do When Your Chosen Industry Falters

What happens if the industry focus that you happen to have selected, like retail, is now being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic -


• Having Your Groups Firing on All Cylinders

My work with literally hundreds of practice leaders over the past two decades confirms for me that there are at least ten structural impediments, in no particular order of importance, all of which should be addressed if you ever hope to have effective groups -


Post #868 – November 19, 2020

A Sincere Thanksgiving Message Worth Taking to Heart


Next Thursday is U.S. Thanksgiving.  I can just imagine how many lawyers and their firms are getting all prepared and working out how they plan to extend their very best wishes to all of their most valued clients.  


On that note, I was struck by the comments shared earlier this week by Dan Haley who serves as General Counsel at Sprinklr, a provider of enterprise software headquartered in Boston.  He was commenting on a rather perverse behavior that those who work at in-house legal departments witness so many professionals engaging in, at every holiday season.


Dan strongly suggested, that if and when you really care enough . . . to simply click a button that sends the very same digital Thanksgiving greeting to everyone on your list . . . please, please do NOT bother!!!

Post #867 – November 7, 2020

15 Innovation Questions to Ask Yourself


It is my honor to be Chairing, for the third consecutive year, Ark’s Law Firm Innovation Summit, being conducted virtually.  In my opening remarks today, I posed the following provocative questions for the participants to ask themselves:


• Is our firm focused on innovative projects – or on creating an innovative culture?


• Are we paying as much attention to ”cognitive diversity” as we are to diversity of gender, race, culture and ethnicity?


• Does our innovation suffer because firm leadership requires ‘ironclad assurances’ of results?


• If asked, can we name a current management practice that does the most to insert a “NO” into InNOvation?


• How do we identify and neutralize the deadly and often hidden toxins that destroy innovation?


• Is innovation listed as a responsibility within our practice and industry group leader job descriptions?


• What is the tomorrow challenge that our firm needed to start working on . . . yesterday?


• Where might short-term profitability need to be sacrificed in order to achieve long-term market success?


• Is there a procedure and how easy is it for some lawyer to secure “experimental funding” for their idea?


• Does our firm have any organized process by which firm leadership monitors and reports on the trends impacting our firm’s possible future prosperity?


• How does our firm know that it isn’t over-investing in “what is” – at the expense of “what could be”?


• How easy do we make it for our valued clients to contribute their ideas and actually be heard?


• How do we pursue game-changing ideas without taking outsized risks?


• If failure is recognized as a necessary component of innovation, how does our firm deal with failure?


• Does firm leadership hold regular meetings to discuss the firm’s growth and innovation efforts; reflect on new strategic insights and ideas; and track ongoing innovation projects?


I am delighted to be welcoming participants from firms including Barnes and Thornburg; Baker Donelson; Benesch; Blake Cassels; Burns & Levinson; Butler Snow; Cooley; Crowell & Moring; Faegre; Fox Rothschild; Goodwin; Hogan Lovells; Husch Blackwell; Jackson Lewis; Levenfeld Pearlstein; Locke Lord; McAndrews Held; Norton Rose; Osler Hoskins; Paul Hastings; Reed Smith; Shearman & Sterling; Simpson Thacher; Thompson Hine; Vorys Sater; Waller Lansden; and many others


Post # 866 – October 22, 2020

Join me at a Virtual Masterclass for NEW Practice Leaders

You have just been appointed as one of your firm’s newest practice leaders and you now have the care and custody of a group of your peers.  This may be your first experiencing in managing or leading (or whatever you call it) a group.  To be effective you must now forge a team out of a collection of autonomous individuals - most of whom are now working from home.  Only one small problem . . . you were never trained or given any guidance on how to go about organizing and managing a group of your fellow professionals. 


So, now where do you turn?


This intensive, skills-building workshop is an investment in your ability to make a measurable difference to your group’s quality of service, profitability, and professional morale.  Every aspect of this experience is designed to provide hands-on checklists, interpersonal techniques and exercises to make it completely applicable for you to use immediately.

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