What are the qualities of successful law firms whether large or small? One is that they have leaders who know and capitalise on their fields of strength and recognize the territory beyond.
President Obama knows this well. It was one of the strategies he used early on in his political career. When President Obama first became United States Senator from Illinois in 2005 he courted Washington veteran Pete Rouse to be his Chief of Staff. In an interview with the CBC’s Passionate Eye Rouse recalled Obama telling him:
I know what I am good at. I know what I am not good at. I can give a good speech but I don’t know anything about what it takes to get established in the Senate.
This is the quality we see in the most successful law firms. These firms recruit the best administrative advisors and then give them the power to lead their departments and advise the firm on strategy, process and management.
In this Sunday’s Globe and Mail, columnist Wallace Immen interviewed Syndey Finkelstein, Professor of Leadership, and one of the authors of Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep it From Happening to You. Finklestein commented:
It is important that leaders have sounding boards, people who do not have the same pre-judgement and who will push back and challenge and not be afraid of pointing out contradictory facts.
This is where some law firms go wrong. They invest considerable amounts of money, time and effort into recruiting the top marketing, financial, human resources and administrative directors and then the firm leadership proceeds to ignore the advice of these hand-picked professionals. It’s a standing joke in the legal profession that for administrative professionals to get a point across to their law firms they must hire expensive consultants to carry the message.
My advice to law firm leaders: Take a page from President Obama’s book. Understand that intelligence operates in fields. Recognize your strengths and learn your weaknesses. Surround yourself with the best advisors and listen and reflect on what they have to tell you.