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Post #774 – Wednesday, March 22, 2017
The Spring-Summer Issue of International Review Magazine is Now Available
Two of the articles
contained here are the result of a collaboration with my good friend and
colleague, David Parnell whose regular Forbes column is avidly read by leaders
throughout the legal community. The Burning Issues Facing Firm Leaders in
2017 and Leaders Get the Behavior You Tolerate
are the product of extensive surveys we have conducted during the past six
months and should provide you with intersting data and substantive counsel.
The Firm of Choice, I am pleased to feature an excerpt from a new book
(by the same title), authored by old friends Robert Lees and August
Aquila. I commend both this article and
their new book as insightful and very worthwhile reading.
coping with the stress involved in looking like you know what you are doing to
the enormous time demands imposed by partner requests, The Five Challenging Paradoxes of
Firm Leadership identifies the top tensions that every leader has to
contend with at some point in their leadership role.
Your Clients To Do Your Talking offers some practical advice for how
you can meaningfully differentiate who you are and what you have to offer
final selection, When A Firm Leader Hangs Up The Crown, represents an except from
the newly revised and expanded second edition of my The Changing of The Guard: Selecting Your New Firm Leader, destined
to be published in April 2017.Click on the cover to download your complimentary PDF copy of this magazine
Post #773 – Wednesday,
March 22, 2017
The Challenges Inherent in Assessing Firm Leader
In a recent article I was reading, the former chair of Hinshaw
Culbertson wrote about How To Evaluate Law
Firm Leaders. While I concur with the overall theory of his
message that law firm leader should receive feedback, from my experience it is
critically important to recognize that there are some real-world hurdles to
To Read the rest of my article in Legal Executive Institute - Click here
in an article I wrote some years back (2010) Evaluating
Your Performance As A Managing Partner, I wrote “There is an old adage in managing
a client’s expectations that states, whether we like it or not, we are going to
be measured. If we take a very passive approach the measuring stick
against which we will be measured will be exclusively a creation of our client.
Alternatively, we can help create and shape the measurement criteria.”
My message was that as the firm leader you should take the initiative
and I provided a quick-and-easy sample of 29 evaluative factors that any firm
leader could use to elicit feedback from their colleagues.
Post #772 – Wednesday,
March 22, 2017
Delighted To Have Contributed to a Number of New Books
Rise of the Legal COO – published by Ark Publishing
For law firms considering restructuring their business to meet
the demands of a highly competitive market, hiring an experienced chief
operations officer (COO) is sure to be a consideration. However, the reassignment of duties and shift
in perspective this appointment will require may prove challenging for some
firms. Finding the perfect match for a
firm’s unique culture and requirements is a difficult yet essential task. With input from a number of current law firm
COOs and executive directors, alongside some of the most respected and
sought-after consultants working in the legal space, Rise of the Legal COO
examines the scope and variety of the legal COO role and how the challenges and
demands of the position have altered as law firms have evolved over the last
For more details - https://www.ark-group.com/product/rise-legal-coo#.WK4R-VeE1OE
Recruiting and Retaining
Lawyers: Innovative Strategies to Attract, Develop and Retain Legal Talent - published by Global Law and Business.
competition for talent that leading experts started to describe in the 1990s
has now become a reality in the legal profession. Like most industries across
the globe, the legal industry is facing a shortage of exceptional people.
Although in some jurisdictions there are more lawyers than the market can
absorb, the reality is that the number of lawyers with the right skills is
limited and that organizations are fighting to attract and retain the best
professionals in a legal market that has become globalized and where mobility
is now the norm. This practical
handbook, coordinated on behalf of the International Bar Association
(IBA), explores the opportunities and challenges for
adopting effective recruitment, development and retention strategies.
For more information - http://www.globelawandbusiness.com/RRL
Post #771 – Wednesday, March 22, 2017
There A New Science To Teamwork?
a very long time subscriber and member of your HBR Advisory Council I cannot
tell you how shocked I was to read your March-April cover article: “The New
Science of Teamwork.”
Are you kidding me? Where in the world do the folks at Deloitte get
away with suggesting that anything in this supposedly research based article is
“new” other than modified labeling of their four primary styles and a fancy
product name: “Business Chemistry.”
in 2002, when Dr. David Maister and I authored our book, First Among Equals:
How To Manage a Group of Professionals, we devoted a 22-page chapter, “Deal
Differently With Different People” to (these same) four distinctive work
styles and provided in-depth guidelines to assist our readers in understanding
and working with each. But even more importantly, we cited our primary
source, the extensive research of Dr. David Merrill (Personal Style and
Effective Performance, St. Lucie Press) whose work on this subject was
first published over 35 years ago.
these authors and the folks at Deloitte to make claims that they have built
this assessment tool and that it is the product of over 190,000 individual
assessments is, in my opinion, a blatant infringement in intellectual integrity
and I guess goes to prove the adage that if one waits long enough the old
becomes the new once again. Very Sad!
This is a copy of the letter I recently sent to HBR Magazine - https://hbr.org/archive-toc/BR1702
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.
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