I was just reading a Forbes article about the top 3 burning issues in law firm’s – highlighted in 2017. I’ve worked with a number of legal professionals and this top 3 really resonated with what I’ve been experiencing and hearing. Here’s my take on the key challenges:
- Vision and Strategy – gone are the times when being the top fee earner was all a firm is strategically focused on – or indeed extremely reactive leadership which only reacts to day to day events. MORE is required these days to engage firm staff, clients and other stakeholders in a meaningful strategic vision and aspirational brand values. More forward thinking firms are moving into this evolving paradigm because they recognise the world has moved on. People want a more common purpose, inspiration and fulfilment. Being technically excellent is no longer enough
- Succession Planning & Developing Talent – many firms are in a new era of leadership transition. They are looking at one or two years ahead where managing partners who have been in the firm for 10-20, sometime nearly 30 years are about to retire. Reflection on the old paradigm of this kind of term is bringing about a realisation that in order for firms to grow, their leadership needs to be more fresh, creative and forward thinking. The old paradigm of long serving partners may be consistent and solid but can also create stagnation and client silos. Firms need emerging partners, associates who have the strategic engagement skills to deliver client development AND bring about a compelling strategic vision
- Cultural Congruency – the practise in many law firms has been to segregate departments and recruit laterally based on industry groupings or areas of law. However cross cultural alignment can be a big issue across firms. Employment law departments can foster a very different culture in comparison to say conveyancing which can be far more transactional. Firm leaders need to have the aptitude and adaptability to engage and serve clients across the firm. It’s a real challenge for firms to create a common culture when head of departments may be at odds in both their leadership style and their willingness to invest in the firm’s strategic leadership development
I’ve recently been doing some research for a leadership programme – with varied feedback from legal firms of different sizes and complexity. The themes I’ve pulled from this so far, plus feedback from clients, has reflected similar challenges. I think it’s immensely positive that some firms are aware of their barriers to growth – the next step is doing something about it! And of course engaging their firm is key – enrolling themselves, teams, clients and other stakeholders to ‘get on the train’ as it were.
Here are 3 top tips then to reflect on…
- Leadership Capacity – invest the time to look at where the firm’s leadership is in relation to both current growth and challenges, where’s the gap? What are the challenges telling you? I’m a great believer in challenges being the biggest opportunity for growth. Is the leadership resisting challenges or getting aligned with the reality of change – and most importantly what clients needs are
- Pro-active Leadership – engage partners and stakeholders in developing a vision for the future – one which is not just about technical or financial growth but HOW this vision is going to be lead. What is it going to take in the existing (or up and coming) leadership to build the firm’s evolving world? Making the time and investment to consciously choose how to lead is very different from batting off challenges as they arise
- Collective Leadership Vision – invest in the development of both existing leadership and emerging talent. Review how the firm can commit to empowering and harnessing talent, those who are going to be leading the firm into the distant future. Create openness and honesty about the existing capabilities and barriers of current leadership behaviours. Develop both individual leadership visions and a collective leadership vision which inspires, creates clarity and ambition
So there you go! I’m passionate about individual and collective self awareness in firms, mostly because self awareness = choice. The choice to respond differently. The choice to be pro-active rather than reactive. How powerful would your firm be if you were consciously choosing how to behave? Wow!
Want to create that vision or proactive leadership in your firm?
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