I loved practicing law in a law firm. Why? I wanted to be part of a team striving to get better. Now that I am recruiting lawyers, I want to place highly motivated lawyers in law firms that are striving to be the best the firm can be.
Several years ago, I wrote a The Practical Lawyer column Leadership For the Recession and Beyond focusing on leadership and how the recession changed law firms and the practice of law forever.
Nine years later, the economy is booming, but what I wrote back then still applies.
Is your law firm striving to become the best it can be?
If so, my bet is your firm leader has integrity, articulates a purpose other than profits per partner, clearly has a vision for the firm’s future, makes sure the firm is acting consistently with its values and holds people accountable. These answers are fairly obvious.
But, if they are so obvious why isn’t every leader doing what it takes for the firm to be successful?
A law firm leader must be honest, ethical and credible. In their book Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, James Kouzes and Barry Posner reported the results of 1500 interviews with managers across the United States. When asked to identify the characteristics and attitudes they believed to be most important for effective leadership, the number one response was: integrity (leaders are truthful, are trustworthy, have character, have convictions).
2. Purpose Beyond Profits Per Partner (the Why)
A law firm leader must be able to express the firm’s purpose. James Collins and Jerry Porras in Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies Built to Last define purpose as “the set of fundamental reasons for a company’s existence beyond just making money.”
3. Vision for the Future (the What)
A law firm leader must be able to express his or her vision for the firm in a way that creates excitement in the firm. Almost nothing energizes people more than feeling they are part of building something special. When President Kennedy expressed the vision that the United States would land a man on the moon by the end of the decade, people were energized and inspired.
4. Culture and Core Values (the How)
A law firm leader must be able to both articulately express the firm’s culture and core values and to make sure the firm acts consistently with those core values. In Aligning the Stars, Jay Lorsch and Tom Tierney describe culture as “a system of beliefs that members of an organization share about the goals and values that are important to them and about the behavior that is appropriate to attain those goals and live those values.”
5. Accountability (the What is Expected)
A law firm leader must clearly articulate minimum standards. Actually, “minimum” is not the best word because the standards should actually be very high. Each person should know clearly what is expected of him or her and then must be held accountable with consequences for non-performance.