Critical Skills for Next-Generation Law Firm Leaders

Carol CrawfordBeing a Leader

Change is inevitable. Flat demand for traditional legal services, continued pressure on expenses in an environment of uncertainty debunks any myth that law firms can go on as they always have. Purposeful leadership is essential for firms seeking to position themselves at the forefront of the next era of the legal industry evolution. Leaders must be equipped with the knowledge, foresight and resources required to propel their firms into the next generation of legal services. In addition to casting a compelling vision of the future that others willingly follow, they must embody specific leadership traits essential for transformation. Like no other time in their history, law firms need a provocative strategy that not only responds to client demands in a rapidly changing industry, but anticipates the future, clearly seeking its purpose. We believe this can be accomplished by leveraging talent assets to differentiate oneself from the rest.

Business/Industry Imperative – Call to Leadership
In its 2017 Client Advisory, Hildebrandt Consulting LLC and Citi Private Bank predict continued modest growth in an environment consistent with post-recession years.

“Requiring strong and visionary leadership, a high caliber management team, and each partner’s commitment to hard work and profitability, the most successful firms will focus on adapting their business, leverage and partnership models to operate more efficiently and grow revenue under these challenging market conditions.”

The Advisory predicts that the market will reward firms “who focus on operational efficiency in its broadest sense – not just managing expenses, but transforming the way they run their firms and deliver legal services.”

The firms who embrace this opportunity and commit to purposeful leadership will seek talent who embody the following traits:

Excellence
Those individuals who bring their best to their job everyday model excellence for others.
They operate collaboratively in an environment of trust, believe in team above self and hold themselves and others accountable for excellence and unparalleled client service.

Courage
Transformation does not occur in the comfort zone. Transformation doesn’t wait to see what other firms do. It takes confidence and courage to take bold action. Bold action which is informed by data and passes the risk/reward test is a necessary part of growth and change. Competent leaders must be willing to test new solutions, experiment with new strategies, learn from failures and be able to recover quickly.

Emotional Intelligence
Unlike IQ, EQ skills can be developed and learned. Individuals with strong EQ “get” people. They understand their own reactions to change and appreciate and anticipate different reactions from others, helping people to adapt and deal with uncertainty. Their self-awareness and confidence helps them relate to and listen to others’ ideas. Those with a high EQ adapt their own approach to accomplish what is best for the organization.

Intellectual Curiosity
Individuals who are intellectually curious are actively engaged and listening; they routinely ask “why?” and speak up when they have new ideas to share. Intellectually curious individuals do not believe they have all the answers; rather they are open-minded and seek insights from others and look for possibilities. The intellectually curious pay attention to what is happening, looking for trends, clues and warning signs.

Quest for Transformation
Fill your team with individuals who embrace change and become bored with the status quo. Leaders driven by this quest, face challenges with an open mind and remain calm and true to the greater purpose even under adversity. Transformational change is hard work and is not for the faint of heart. It takes endurance, perseverance and commitment to stay the course.

Developing these talents within your firm’s culture and leadership team requires intentional actions as part of an overall talent development strategy. Our Advisory Services respond to the need for firms to attract, develop and equip leaders to confidently take their firms into the future.

Carol E. Crawford, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Managing Director
Calibrate Legal Advisory Services