When I practiced law, I always wanted to be a part of a collaborative firm striving to be the best firm it could be. My old law firm had many talented lawyers, but it was not a “collaborative” law firm. We were a group of lawyers with unique talents, opportunities and dreams. We just happened to be in the same firm at the same time. Back then I read a phrase written about the US and Soviet Union relationship:
The foundation of cooperation is not really trust, but the durability of the relationship.
I felt our leaders never articulated a clear vision and got buy-in from the partners. Looking back now, I can laugh about the time we hired high powered consultants and paid them over $3 million, only to discover very few of our partners bought into their recommendations. I wish I had a recording of one of our “town hall” meetings.
I felt the durability of our relationship depended on effective communication and understanding. I once asked firm leaders: How many of our partners know…
- how firm leaders define” success” and how we are doing?
- where firm leaders want to take the firm and what their plan is to take us there?
- what is our culture and how is it different from other firms?
- what each of our practice groups and offices do?
- what is expected of partners?
- which of our clients are the largest and most important?
- our largest clients’ industries?
- what work we are doing for our largest clients, and what additional work we could be doing?
- what innovative things some of our lawyers are doing to attract and retain their best clients?
- who are our top associates and what motivates them?
- what we are doing to train and develop our associates?
- what, other than billable hours, is expected of our associates?
- what we are doing to raise the satisfaction of our clients?
- what we are doing to obtain better business?
- what our best clients think about our work and our service?
- how we are perceived by law students, firm alumni and lawyers in other firms?
Not surprisingly, very few of our partners knew the answers to those questions. Do your partners?