Leadership styles in law firms vary but whether you are in a huge law firm or a boutique practice, leadership requires understanding what makes people tick, communication skills and the ability to inspire trust. Interpersonal skills are just as important as knowledge of the law. The skill set that makes a great litigator—extremely high level executive functions, strong negotiation skills, a thick skin and a quick wit—doesn’t always translate into leadership. What qualities does a great law firm leader have?
Highly effective leaders see the big picture. When deciding on how to handle an angry client, for instance, they are looking at the long-term issues. Why the client is upset is just one facet of the situation. They are ten steps ahead, considering how can the problem be solved in the short term, if the client has the potential to become an outstanding referral source, and was there a procedural glitch that led to the problem?
Effective leaders stay the course. They rely on an analytical mindset with a strategic perspective. They understand that law firms today are facing new challenges, from disruptive competitive forces to an abundance of attorneys. They are focused on the end game: a profitable law firm practice with attorneys who are proficient and productive and clients who are raving fans.
Law firm leaders have strong interpersonal skills. A good leader motivates and inspires, understanding that they sit in a position of power and that how they treat partners, associates and administrative team members has an impact on everyone in the practice. They are able to tailor their management style to bring out the best in the people around them. One partner put it bluntly: some people work better with a carrot, others with a stick. A leader knows which one to use.
They are not always early adapters but do embrace change, including technology. Today’s law firm leader knows that so many elements in the business of law have changed, from e-discovery to document management to marketing. They may not always be on the bleeding edge but when they see that something is working, they will make the decision to try it—even if it’s just a proverbial toe in the water to test.
Law firm leaders understand the value of integrity. There’s a reason our name includes the word integrity. Numerous studies demonstrate the impact of integrity and honesty on organizational success. Consistent adherence to honesty and doing the right thing creates an atmosphere of trust and stability. It creates a culture of success.