Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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Post #851 – June 17, 2020

Enough with The Visionary Leadership BS

Last week I came across another article by another supposed best practices researcher that claimed to have surveyed more than 1800 law firm partners on “what they really want from their leaders.”  This author informs us that they “asked partners to describe, in their own words, what they saw as the key strengths of their leaders.”

Survey Says . . . “being a Visionary” is at the top of their list.  Can you just imagine?

While many books on leadership suggests that a leader needs to have a vision (with some 627 books currently listed under Visionary Leadership on Amazon) I think it is all very nice in theory, sounds profoundly intelligent as a concept, but is absolute BS in its application for you leading a team of highly talented professionals.

Let me tell you about some of the garbage that gets spouted about what leadership is all about and what does work.

Read the complete article - HERE

Post # 850 – June 10, 2020

Big Industry Groups Suck!

In a recent webinar on industry group best practices, the panelists were asked whether there was an ideal size for their groups.  “How big do you allow an industry sector group to become?” asked the moderator.  According to the first panelist: “I would say, our membership is unlimited . . . the more the merrier.”  

Unfortunately, bigger does not always mean better, and nowhere is that more evident than when it comes to measuring practice or industry group effectiveness.  In the process of David Maister and my writing First Among Equals, we devoted an entire chapter to our observations from working with and interviewing the leaders of high performing practice and industry groups – across professions.  In it we reported emphatically that one of the clearest ways to ensure failure is to allow membership to grow beyond a small, solid working group.

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.

Read the complete article – HERE

Post # 849 – June 3, 2020

In Matters of Strategy: Beware of Best Practices

I was taken back the other day by an article wherein the author, a law firm consultant, was promoting the concept of best practices and how his firm had developed an “evaluation tool” to assess how close you are to achieving a true industry focus.  The proposition was that they have a “diagnostic tool which allows your firm to assess the current level of effectiveness of your existing industry strategy.”  It all sounded so compelling.  They then suggested that your firm could engage them to help you “progress to the next stage by way of a workshop to run through the issues identified and explore the gap and the solutions.”

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. 

In fact, I have a few concerns that come to mind that I believe are worth you considering

Read the complete article - HERE

Post # 848 – May 29, 2020

The Post-Pandemic Importance of Industry Groups

In this post-pandemic arena, I believe your ability to have an effective industry group operation will no longer be discretionary.  In fact, having your groups functioning as high-performing teams is likely to be what separates those law firms that emerge from this crisis much stronger from those firms that seriously falter.  This process starts with your leadership team postioning industries as a strategic priority and partners being invited, encouraged and incentivized to position themselves as knowledge leaders in those industries niches recognized to be most lucrative.

So, if you are looking for specific insight into Industry Group Practices may I invite you to have a read through our in-depth 13-page article, “Clients Want Firms That Know Their Industry” in the latest edition of Legal Business World magazine.  It covers this subject in the kind of prescriptive detail that you will NOT obtain from any other source.  And if it stimulates any observations or questions, please give me a shout: 780.921.8286


Post #847 – May 24, 2020

Four Client Industries Needing Attention

I was pleased to have been a member of Futurist Peter Diamandis’s book launch team last November when he was in the process of introducing his latest work, “The Future is Faster Than You Think.”  And talk about fast, Peter’s new book was quickly followed by a global pandemic.  Now no one is more in tune with economic disruption than Peter.  Here are some notes from a recent briefing identifying 4 industries worth your monitoring – especially if you have large clients in any of these:

• The Restaurant Industry

Do you remember the housing bubble in 2008?  Yeah, the restaurant bubble is similar.  For 20 years, this volatile industry has seen unprecedented growth.  Until now.  And even when we fully open the economy, 30–50% of the restaurant industry will disappear.  Think about it — if you remove 65% of a restaurant’s seating and bar to be socially distant, there is no money to be made.

Opportunity: With so many restaurants disappearing, it might be a good time to actually open one.  Seriously.  You can negotiate cheap commercial rent, the labor is available, and you can be flexible with seating capacity (you aren’t going to be married to the old model).

• Brick and Mortar Retail

This industry was already heading towards a catastrophic disruption before the coronavirus.  Many brick and mortar retail stores won’t recover from the losses incurred this spring (and the slow opening of the economy this summer).  American consumers are being trained to buy online-only right now.  All of this is going to be a huge hit for their industry.

Opportunity: This will vastly accelerate the Virtual Reality e-commerce industry — where, for example, a consumer can put on a headset in their home, peruse a “virtual” retail clothing store, and make purchases. Investing in VR companies seems like a great fit right now.

• Commercial Real Estate

If a huge percentage of restaurants and retail stores are disappearing, expect a major disruption to the commercial real estate market.  In addition to the acceleration of shopping online, we are all being trained to work virtually.  When life returns to semi-normality, expect an increase in stay-at-home work.  This will further disrupt the commercial real estate industry.  It’s not going to be pretty.

Opportunity: It’s obvious, but SaaS (software as a service) companies that eliminate the need for an office will continue to explode going forward.  Companies like Slack, Taskworld, Zoom, etc. will speed up this disruption.

• Social Media

Let me be clear, social media isn’t going away, I’m not saying that.  But, I’m reminded of an old saying that applies to the social media economy right now.  Twelve years ago social media “started as a movement, then it became a business, and eventually it turned into a racket.”  A racket where most people have no desire to “connect”.  They only want to show you how great their life is, and control how you perceive their life (which is better than yours) via pictures and video.  Frankly, no one gives a crap about that now.  If you post on social media about how amazing your life is right now, you are tone deaf.  I’m not sure where this downturn will go, but I do know that for the majority of non-substantive “influencers”, they will no longer make money by bragging about their lives.

Opportunity: This is a very positive disruption (in my opinion).  The opportunity is that we can now be more appreciative of our friends, families, and values.  We can focus on using social media to connect and help others, build trust, and provide safety.  Positioning your brand via social media, on those 3 factors, will sell more products or services in this new economy.

Convergence, disruption, and opportunity.  These are the 3 factors I’m seeing in the economy right now.  Don’t be scared of it — lean in, build something great, and serve others with purpose.

Post #846 – May 15, 2020

When Your Chosen Industry Falters

After writing about the need for law firms to establish an industry focus for some time, I received the following question from an industry group leader: 

I have been following your stream of articles on the merits of having Industry specialization — which I agree with. But what happens if the industry that you happen to have selected, like retail, is now being decimated by the coronavirus pandemic?

Retail is among a number of industries that are experiencing severe stress, previously from the trade wars and now largely due to the shuttering of many brick-and-mortar stores due to the ongoing pandemic.  Indeed, we are currently witnessing something akin to collapse in the clothing apparel retail segment, with J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman all filing for bankruptcy.  While these business failures appeared to result from a dramatic and immediate reduction in demand, other factors were largely observable and predictable to anyone monitoring developments in the retail industry.

So, in response to the industry group leader’s question, my follow-up would be: Have the members of your industry group monitored and discussed (especially during monthly industry group meetings) the evolving trends that are impacting their chosen industry?

Along that same theme, here are a few strategic recommendations that I would offer to any industry group:

Post #845 – May 12, 2020

Horizon Scanning: Modernizing Legal Service Delivery

I’m pleased to have contributed two Chapters to this new book being released by the Ark Group this month.  

While also including analysis of the impact of COVID19 on legal services, this timely book is intended to help law firms prepare for the known and unknown disruptions that will impact their business models over the next few years.

Chapter One: “Seeing the Future First – Analyzing Strategic Trends” is being offered as a sample for your review:

More information, contents, and executive summary:

And if you are interested in listening to a half-hour Webinar that I moderated featuring three of the authors - Please use the following information to access the recording:


Meeting Recording:


Access Password: 7L$21X7t

Post #844 – April 23, 2020

Monitoring Client Industries & Planning for the Pandemic Aftershock.

Amid the fast-paced consequences of this global COVID-19 pandemic, it is already a given that every law firm must now adapt to dramatic and rapidly changing circumstances. Nowhere is that more evident than with the client industries that your firm has been serving as this crisis winds down.

For many of your clients, the scale of change is unprecedented. The world may be embarking upon a Great Reset in which the status quo of nearly every industry will be called into question. This crisis has upended everything, including your clients’ mindsets, and this means that in order for you to be an effective and trusted advisor to those clients, you need to have members of your industry team glean what is changing and identify specific insights that will help your clients either adjust or completely pivot their business strategy.

Post #843 – April 16, 2020

Steps Your Firm Can Take to Make Your Industry Focus Effective (Part 4)


As we discussed previously, there are numerous reasons why an industry focus can improve your firm’s performance and greatly enhance its relationships with clients.  In this article we outline seven specific steps your firm can take to ensure its industry focus efforts are worthwhile and ultimately effective.


In Part Four and the final piece in our series on the importance of Industry Groups, Michael Rynowecer (BTI Consulting) and I continue to offer our counsel in an attempt to help you to have effective industry practices.

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!

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