If there’s one thing I’ve learned having trained and coached thousands of lawyers for over two decades, it’s that implementing new initiatives requires engaged and proactive leadership. This begs the question – how do we get law firm leaders to act in a more engaged and proactive fashion? The following describes three key factors to consider:
It’s extremely hard to make people do what they don’t want to do, so find the coalition of the willing. While some leaders are given the job because they have “earned” it through seniority or their book of business, it doesn’t mean they’ll be committed or effective leaders. Instead, find people who have proven they care, who can rally others to get things done, and who have the respect of the group. In those situations where you are “stuck” with certain ineffective leaders and don’t feel you can remove them from their leadership position, go to plan B, which is to assign deputies (see below).
In the battle between generating billable hours (which drives compensation), and fulfilling leadership responsibilities (which does not), billable hours usually win. Especially for leaders with full billable quotas who are also responsible for managing larger groups, they just don’t have the time to get the group firing on all cylinders. In these situations, we must find the leadership hours elsewhere. The answer is to distribute leadership responsibilities more widely throughout a group. As discussed above, assign passionate deputies who can handle certain roles that will drive the group forward. These sub-leaders can come from the ranks of partners, of counsel, associates, and staff, and by involving them in the leadership of the firm, it increases the number of leadership hours available and raises levels of engagement within a wider audience. The result – more people who care, and more hours available to get things done!
3. Knowledge and Skills
Few lawyers are trained in the art of managing and leading other lawyers. To develop their knowledge and skills, you should provide appropriate training and coaching, followed by ongoing refresher and information-sharing sessions. Since law firm leadership is a lonely sport, your goal should be to turn individual lawyers into a collaborative team of skilled leaders. Once they’ve been trained, ingrain the lessons by having them periodically meet to provide a forum for continued growth and connection. During these meetings, introduce new ideas and allow your leaders to learn from each other. Allocate time for them to share best practices, give and receive advice on how to handle their challenges, and in general, come together as a cohesive leadership team for the betterment of their groups and the firm.
With the right approach, those who impact your day-to-day operations can become more efficient and effective leaders. With some focus and commitment, a better, more productive organization can be in your future.
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Published first at talentthinktank.com | July 31, 2014