Kathy Fortin

January 18, 2017

Remember the childhood game where one child is picked to be the leader and the others follow behind mimicking the leader’s actions?  If only it worked that way in a law firm. 

In large law firms, a leader is selected, whether it be a Managing Partner or an Executive Administrator.  Selection is made based on certain qualifications.  The ability to develop and carry out a vision is one key aspect. The skills to communicate the vision, advocate for the causes and motivate everyone are hallmarks of leadership.  In small and mid-sized law firms, leaders are a different story.  These firms have been formed by one or more lawyers who desire to practice law on their own.  The thought may not have occurred to them that they would need to possess leadership qualities to help them run their operation as it grew. Typically, a young firm will expand, with hiring of staff, paralegals and even more lawyers.  Before long, the firm might be made up of ten, twenty or more individuals.  Firms this size need leadership, as much as any small business.  And, we have seen in our consulting work that firms with good leadership are the most successful firms.

We find that leaders come in all varieties.  Some lawyers have become great leaders.  They have been accomplished at forming a vision, carrying it out, managing the firm well and becoming well respected as the firm’s leader.  However, in other firms, the founder might find himself or herself in uncharted territory.  Unable to develop a vision and communicate ideas with his or her followers can make firm members feel adrift at sea, with no rudder to guide them. How the leader manages the firm, or fails in managing, becomes a reflection of them as a leader.  If you have a reputation for letting matters slide it will be very difficult to change that perception.  Becoming aware of your skills and style is critical, because every firm, no matter how small, needs a leader.