We don’t care if you are a three person law firm or a practice area in a large law firm: strong leadership skills will make the difference between maintaining the status quo or growing your practice into a powerhouse. Most law schools don’t teach leadership skills. This is one area where on-the-job training can be counter-productive. What does the estate planning and elder law attorney need to know about leadership? As it turns out, a fair amount.
At its core, leadership is the ability to influence people to act towards a goal. Understand that leadership is different from management. Management is important also, but a manager focuses on the day to day operations of a law firm. Leadership is a much bigger role. Are you a leader at your firm?
The Long Run. Leaders understand the difference between short term management and a long and broad vision essential to the success of their law practice. They share their perspectives with team members, and that includes everyone from the receptionist to the senior associates. Employees who adopt a leader’s vision are motivated and energized.
It Takes More Than Money. Your firm’s future depends on having an engaged group of professional and administrative employees who come to work every day for reasons that are greater than a paycheck. People want to be in an office where they feel that they are a valued part of an enterprise that can achieve short and long term goals.
It Takes a Team. A great leader knows it takes a great team to succeed and just as importantly, a leader who takes care of their team. A steady diet of conflict and criticism can doom a practice–we’ve seen it happen. You may not have learned how to manage employees during law school, so be careful about on-the-job training. Running into the same problems over and over again with support staff? Maybe it’s not the staff, but a lack of leadership and a shared set of values.
Breaking up is Hard to Do. One of the hardest tasks is telling an employee they’re fired. Unless you are really hard-hearted, or angry about poor performance or a bad attitude, it’s difficult to tell another person that they no longer have a job. However, a bad employee impacts other employees, who are likely to resent someone who isn’t doing their fair share or who is not being penalized for slacking off. A good leader makes the hard decisions.
Innovation is Good. So is Change. One of the shared characteristics that we have seen in successful leaders is being open to trying new things. That includes everything from new document systems and marketing tools to changing up where people sit. Your office may have processes that have been in place for more than ten years. Could your office be better with a change?
Good leaders are forward thinking, excited about the possibilities and always looking to make things better. Does that describe you?