Firm Leadership

Rants, Raves, Rebuttals, Reflections, Revelations & Ruminations

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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.

Post #789 – Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sound Advice For New Firm Leaders 

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of conducting research and one-on-one interviews with at least 50 law firm leaders who provided their real-world perspectives and experience on all aspects of becoming a firm leader — from the agony of deciding to take on the job, to making the difficult transition from just practicing law, to also leading an entire firm.  All of my work unhesitatingly confirms for me that there are some critical actions that new leaders will need to take to ensure a successful tenure at the top.  These include the following:

Post # 788 – Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018 Will Be The Year For Exploring Micro-Niches

I remember an incident, some years back, where I was called in to facilitate a partner meeting that was intended to develop a strategic plan for, at that time, what was being called a “Technology Group.”  Shortly into the discussions I realized that four of the partners were excited about their work with internet providers, three others focused on cable television, another five were serving software development companies, while the final three were into e-commerce operations.  One supposed practice group that in reality was comprised of four sub-groups serving entirely different clients.  These partners in their different sub-groups really had nothing in common.

Welcome to 2018 and Déjà vu!

Many law firms are recognizing the tremendous growth opportunities available to them in targeting and serving what I call “Tech-Driven Hybrids.”  These are not purely substantive legal practices, nor are they correctly categorized as being industry practices. Rather a hybrid can be both – in that as a partner or law firm you can choose to serve Artificial Intelligence companies (e.g. Deep Learning) and/or some specific sub-industry niche (e.g. FinTech) that may be dramatically impacted and disrupted by AI.

The challenge for many law firms will be in organizing groups capable of effectively serving these hybrids as evidenced by recent announcements from both LeClair Ryan (US) and Clifford Chance (UK).  We are told that LeClairRyan has just launched a “new cross-office, cross-disciplinary Technology & Innovations practice team focused on ramping up service for companies that sell—or are heavily dependent upon—technology.”  Meanwhile Clifford Chance has pulled together 400 of its lawyers to form a new technology group to be deployed across different practice areas.  Based on my prior experience and the little example I conveyed earlier, this is all about to get very messy with lawyers crawling over each other trying to figure out who should best serve which client.

By way of contrast, if we were to look at the area of Virtual Reality (VR) we could identify 8 significant players located in places like Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago and Silicon Valley; and ranging in size from a sole practitioner to a 1000-lawyer firm with four partners who focus on this niche area.  Here’s a NEWS FLASH: From the client’s perspective, they don’t care whether you have a dedicated Technology practice team of hundreds, they just care whether you can show evidence that you know anything about their particular area and business issues.

In a very similar fashion, I authored a paper (Unlocking The Mystique of Understanding Industry Clients) wherein I chastised those law firms promoting their one large, homogeneous Health Care Practice, advocating that there is no such thing as a Heath Care lawyer.  In that article I identified how the Health Care industry is now divided into well over 40 different sub-segments and from the client’s perspective (which should be paramount) if I’m looking for legal counsel in emerging litigation risk assessment with CRISPR Genomics Editing, your having hundreds of lawyers in some Health Care Group really has little significance for me . . . unless you have proven expertise in my area of concern.

So, welcome to 2018 and the age of the Micro-Niche.

Don’t tell me you have a Technology Practice Team.  Tell me what specific legal experience you have and about the business issues related to applying 3D printing to the energy management industry; in utilizing AI to develop treatment plans for brain-cancer patients; in using industrial robots for remote construction site surveillance; micro-chipping employees to enhance workplace surveillance, or how synthetic biology is being used to produce wine without grapes – all things that are happening right now, as you read this.

I am told that one of the very specific strategic goals at both Deloitte and McKinsey is recognizing that within the next three years, by the end of 2020, one-third of firm revenues need to come from services they do NOT now provide.  Law firms can achieve that same goal . . . if properly organized and strategically focused.

Post # 787 – Thursday, January 11, 2018

First International Legal Think-Tank Formed

2017 saw the formation of the first International Legal Thank-Tank (LIFT – Legal Institute for Forward Thinking) comprised of thought leaders from three countries that meet to brainstorm, debate and analyze top issues and future trends impacting the legal industry with an objective of “raising the awareness of market disruption.”  Members include:

• Ronald Friedmann
• Professor William Henderson
• Patrick J. McKenna
• David J. Parnell
• Edwin Reeser
• Michael B. Rynowecer
• Dr. Silvia Hodges Silverstein

• Professor Richard Susskind

In an inaugural December meeting in New York City, the group discussed trends and challenges facing the profession.  A small excerpt of the day’s intense discussions are available on Forbes

Post # 786 – Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board

It may be lonely at the top, but it doesn’t have to be.

A new white paper, The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board — published by Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute and written by Patrick J. McKenna, an internationally recognized author, lecturer, strategist and seasoned advisor to the leaders of premier law firms — discusses the value for law firm leaders in establishing an Advisory Board.

More than just a sounding board or a chance to schmooze, a carefully selected and trusted Advisory Board can help a law firm leader avoid potential problems while solving existing ones, fine-tune strategies and stimulate some new and innovative ideas. However, as McKenna contends, there are many factors that have to be considered in selecting and running your Advisory Board for it to succeed as envisioned, including its size, its rules of operation, and the relationships of the Board members to the law firm leaders, the firm and each other.


A good number of other professional service firms, from accounting to consulting businesses, have found success by forming an external Advisory Board to counsel the firm’s leadership on various aspects of the business — everything from operations to planning for growth or enhancing client service.

Think about the last time you met with a group of business people and had an open discussion, sharing ideas and concerns. An Advisory Board is a formal version of this process. Unlike a one-time event, you might think of an Advisory Board as your own special leadership think tank. Participants can serve as your personal sounding board or a source of ideas and expertise as well as give you honest and candid advice. If properly constituted, your Advisory Board will be comprised of people with no axe to grind, and who want to listen and impart their wisdom.

Click on Cover to Download your Copy of This White Paper

Post #785 – Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Year End Review

I’m 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 2017 looked like:


• Geographic Locations:
78% U.S. Based
22% International (Europe)

• Nature of Assignments:
22% developing / implementing strategic plans
67% governance and leadership counsel
11% client relations and marketing advice

• Firm Size Range:
33% firms of over 500 attorneys
11% firms of 301 to 500 attorneys
34% firms of 100 to 300 attorneys
11% non-legal firms
11% corporate legal departments


• Participated in 5 Conference, Workshop, MasterClass and Webinar Events
- Co-facilitator – First 100 Days Masterclass
- Facilitator – Practice Group Leaders Workshops
(San Francisco in February / Chicago in August)
- Presenter – Chief Strategy Officer Summit (New York in May)
- Differentiation Webinar – Ark US Events (October)


• Advisory Board Member - True Balance Longevity Institute Inc.
True Balance is the Canadian leader in providing Regenerative and Anti-Aging Medicine, Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy and Medical Aesthetics from five clinics throughout Alberta and British Columbia.


• Authored One (1) New Book:
The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your Next Firm Leader (Second Revised Edition)

• Contributed Chapter to Seven (7) New Books from international publishing houses in Europe, India and the United Kingdom:
- Effective Practice Group Leadership (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Measuring and Managing Performance for Law Firms (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Smarter Lateral Hiring for Law Firms (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Managing Your Legal Organization: Global Insights  (Magic Lawyers Publishing, New Delhi, India, 2017)
- Rise of The Legal COO  (Ark Publishing, 2017)
- Recruiting And Retaining Legal Talent  (Global Law & Business, 2017)
- Managing Legal Change Initiatives  (Ark Publishing, 2017)

• Contributor to Two (2) White Papers [Thomson Reuters]
Becoming Fearless: Facing Uncertainty in The Legal Market With Confidence - Interview commentary
The Fearless Leader’s Advisory Board - author

• Authored or Contributed to 42 Articles in 11 different international Publications including:
Big Law Business
Global Legal Post
Legal Management Magazine
Legal Business World Magazine
Legal Executive Institute
Of Counsel – Legal Practice and Management Report
CBA Practice Link for Law Firm Leaders
Association of Legal Administrators Newsletter

• 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 articles covering leadership and strategy issues on my LinkedIn site.



• Co-Founder and Member of
LIFT: Legal Institute for Forward Thinking

L.I.F.T. is an international Think-Tank and coalition of recognized thought-leaders that meets to brainstorm, debate and analyze top issues and future trends impacting the legal industry with an objective of “raising the awareness of market disruption.”

• Acknowledged by
Legal Business World Magazine

- Awarded a Cover Article for one of my written contributions
- Recognized by the readers as one of seven "International Thought Leaders"

To 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 2018

Post #784 - Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Developing Your Growth Strategy: Seeking Clear Blue Water

The New issue of LEGAL BUSINESS WORLD is now available with great contributions from Thought Leaders and Legal Experts.

Articles include: 

The Client’s Way, Start adapting your firm today to the buyer’s market in legal services, Jordan Furlong

• Law and Engineering Should Share Curriculum, Daniel B. Rodriguez/Julio Ottino

• How Lawyers Benefit from Legal Project Management, Hans Schuurman

• Legal Data Analytics, Can Lawyers Be Data Analysts? Jodie Baker

• The Immediate Impact of Blockchain on the Legal Industry, Joseph Raczynski

• Establishing a Legal Function Beyond Home Jurisdiction, Kenneth Tung

• Process is Not a Four-Letter Word, Lucy Endel Bassli

• The Ethical Lawyer, Legal Ethics as B.D. opportunity, Karolina Dorenbos

• Move Over Legal Operations, Meet BIPIG, Jennifer Vandersmisse/Ed Medlin

• How to Qualify Effective Referral Sources, David Ackert

• Trans European Law Firm Association Country by Country Guide

• Design Thinking Will Change the Practice of Law, Alix Devendra/Cat Moo

AND MORE . . .

Download your copy in the Library or read it now

Post # 783 – Sunday, October 29, 2017

Should Law Firm Leaders Build A Personal Brand?

Exactly 10 years ago, in March 2007, at a time when most firms were doing very well economically, a survey was conducted of the profession to determine how certain firm leaders were perceived. A lot has happened since 2007. So, for the fourth in a series of Leader’s Pulse Surveys conducted by Patrick McKenna and David Parnell, they repeated that same survey in October, asking lawyers, specifically those in some form of leadership position (firm leaders, office heads, practice group leaders, elected board members), to reflect upon the various firm leaders that they have met, observed and/or read about across the country and respond to three specific questions.

Read the entire article here.

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