It is with deep sorrow that Edge International acknowledges the death of our longtime partner and friend Ed Wesemann. Ed died peacefully at his home in Savannah, Georgia on August 1, 2016.
Those who worked with Ed mourn the loss not only of an esteemed colleague and friend, but an essential contributor to the knowledge that made Edge International a respected, leading legal consultancy around the world. Says founding principal Gerry Riskin of Canada and Anguilla, “For many years, as Edge’s focus on strategy for global firms became our hallmark, Ed has been our ‘man on the mountain’ from whom wisdom was always available — wisdom that always stood the test of time. Ed was a mentor and a leader at Edge, and many of our achievements have been accomplished thanks to him. On a personal level, I am bereft. It’s unimaginable not to be able to pick up the phone and talk things over with Ed.”
Adds U.K. principal Nick Jarrett-Kerr, “I have worked with many extremely clever people throughout my career, lawyers and consultants whom I have admired and respected. Ed is right at the top of the list! There was a great deal about Ed to love and respect: his deep knowledge of the legal profession, his ability to command respect every time he opened his mouth, his intuition, his humility, his respect for others, and the pithy phrases that distinguish his many articles – all of which were well worth reading. But above all, I will always value his friendship that transcended the long distance between us and enabled us – every time we spoke – to continue where we had last left off. This was a man I truly loved.”
Ed Wesemann was considered a leading global expert on law firm strategy and culture, particularly issues involving market dominance, governance, merger and acquisition, and the activities related to strategy implementation. As well as in the U.S., he worked with law firms in the U.K., Europe, Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, South America, Canada and Mexico. Sean Larkan – longtime Edge principal based in Australia – explains in part why Ed’s work was so widely admired: “Ed helped to engender a genuine culture of caring for and about clients. What strikes one is how well he is remembered from past trips and assignments, and how fondly by those who met him. As a result, he created a wonderful atmosphere around the Edge brand.”
“Ed’s passing hits hard for all of us. His legacy, however, is remarkable and worthy of celebration. His skill with clients, his deep knowledge of his market and his contribution to colleagues are just a few things I will remember every time I take on an engagement.” – David Cruickshank, Edge principal, New York City and San Diego
Atlanta-based Edge principal Mike White also admired Ed Wesemann’s work with clients. He says, “Ed had a remarkable ability to synthesize seemingly irreconcilable inputs and ideas, derive trends, and deliver insights more efficiently than any consulting professional I’ve ever been around. The legion firm leaders who relied on Ed habitually went to him for unfiltered direction (‘Just tell us what to do!’), and Ed always delivered. His clients ended up implementing Ed’s recommendations with noteworthy conviction and confidence.” Nick Jarrett-Kerr echoes that statement, saying “He had a unique incisive diagnostic ability to get straight to the heart of every issue and immediately to be able to frame options that might solve the problem.”
Ed held a Masters of Public Administration degree with Honors from Roosevelt University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Valparaiso University. He served on the adjunct faculties of a number of law and graduate schools of business including the Case Western Reserve School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, the Carnegie Mellon School of Public Affairs and the Gordon Institute of Graduate Business School of the University of Pretoria, South Africa.
Long-time Edge International principal Jordan Furlong, now at Law21.ca, says, “It’s hard to know what would be the best single word to describe Ed Wesemann. ‘Professional’ would certainly be appropriate, reflecting the world-class expertise, loyalty and dedication with which he constantly helped achieve the best interests of his law firm clients. ‘Leader’ would also be fitting, as anyone could attest who saw him easily command the attention and respect of high-powered lawyers and consultants, and help direct them towards their optimal outcomes. But I think that as a naturalized Southerner, Ed might appreciate no description more than ‘gentleman’ – a word that goes only some way towards expressing his extraordinary generosity, his gracious hospitality, and his stalwart friendship. We will not see his like again, and we are immeasurably poorer for his loss.”
Bithika Anand, Edge principal based in Delhi, India, remembers the warm reception she received from Ed when she joined the group. “He was a wonderful professional and a human being,” she says. “His passing away has left a void.” Adds Mike White, “As good a consultant as Ed was (and he was simply the best!), he was an even better person. He was both an ‘idea’ person and a ‘people’ person, and everyone he touched became more of the latter.”
Ed was the author of four books on law firm management, including Looking Tall by Standing Next to Short People, Creating Dominance: Winning Strategies for Law Firms, and The First Great Myth of Legal Management Is That It Exists. In addition to having published over 100 articles, he was a frequent speaker and the author of a monthly email message that was read by thousands of law firm leaders around the world.
Toronto-based John Plank joined Edge in 2004 after meeting Gerry Riskin and Ed in Savannah. As a communications coach himself, John ranks Ed Wesemann as one of the top communicators in the profession. “Shy by nature, Ed put effort into communicating simply, clearly and as economically as possible. Whether conversing, presenting or in his writing, Ed’s genius was to be able to make the complex simple, to make sense out of chaos and to achieve it in simple, eloquent and inclusive language and style that was always infused with Ed’s abundant warmth and humanity.”
Ed’s legacy to Edge International is massive. In the words of Sean Larkan, “There are few professionals who leave behind what I call ‘capital fabric’ – a basic, solid foundation for their firm that will benefit it in years to come. Ed is certainly one of those people, in terms of culture but also learnings and approach, and the actual materials and references he unselfishly shared with us and left for our use.”
“There is a saying that ‘no one is irreplaceable,’ but in the case of Ed Wesemann that simply does not apply.” – Gerry Riskin
Ed Wesemann is survived by his beloved wife of 49 years, Janice, his children William and Emily, Emily’s spouse Erin, and his grandchildren Carmella and William. The formal obituary may be found at Fox and Weeks Funeral Directors. Any clients or friends who would like to share their memories of Ed with us are welcome to contact us directly.
Buy now from Amazon.com » With wit, wisdom and a knack for cutting through the nonsense, Ed Wesemann’s latest book, Looking Tall by Standing Next to Short People again addresses the most perplexing issues facing law firms today. Hoping that you “disagree with large portions” of his take on the minefield of legal management, Ed’s purpose in offering his extensive insights is to ignite the exchange of ideas, creative dialogue, enthusiasm and – most importantly – action. Ed tackles legal management’s hot button issues by delving into six general topics: The role of partners ~ Massive non-equity partnership ranks results in a large group of lawyers who don’t meet any “full partner” criteria but are too senior to be associates. What happens when there are no “up or out” reviews in place to prevent partners from sapping up the work that should be going to associates? The operation of partnerships ~ We used to talk about managing law firms – now we govern them. Mergers ~ It’s been a sleepy couple of years where merger activity has largely been less than expected. But the natural maturation of the legal industry won’t let the lull last for long. Business development ~ Business development is the same as it has been since the founders of our most venerable law firms hung out their shingles. Everything else is details. Strategy ~ Figuring out what has to be done to be more profitable is easy. The issue is what to do to make those things actually occur – that’s strategy.
Buy now from Amazon.com » If there was a handbook for members of law firm management, it would be The First Great Myth of Law Firm Management is that it Exists. Dealing with the tough topics that managing partners worry about but many consultants are afraid to tackle, The First Great Myth– collects some of Ed Wesemann’s most popular articles from publications around the world, including his famous monthly e-mail columns. Some of the topics covered include: Firing Unprofitable Clients: Many firms get so busy pushing hours and rates that they overlook a critical review of their clients as an opportunity to “pick some low hanging fruit”. Ten Terrible Truths About Law Firm Strategic Planning: Law firms have trouble implementing strategic plans because it is a flawed process from the beginning. Valuing Management: Law firms aren’t really mismanaged – most aren’t managed at all. That’s what you get when you have volunteers running your business. Taking the Easy Way Out: Non-equity Partnerships: Many firms think that by making non-equity partners they have solved their problems with unproductive partners and associate leverage. Wrong! Ten Terrible Truths About Law Firm Compensation: Some law firms equate compensation with management as if lawyers were commission-based aluminum siding salesmen. It’s time to take a new look at the way we pay people. Hitting the Wall: Six Rules to Managing the Mega Practice: Most major business developers top out at about$3 million in annual billings. It’s time to help the elite billers manage their practices. Knowledge Management: The Emperor Has No Clothes: For most law firms, all of the money and effort spent on knowledge management is a waste of time. For anyone to benefit from KM, law firms have to change the way they do business. Pricing to the Market: Some clients are more price sensitive than others. It is possible to identify the clients who are willing to accept higher rates before you send the bill.
Buy now from Amazon.com » Dominance is an integral aspect of strategy. Strategy, whether in war, sports or business, is about how one can place themselves in a competitive position that gives them an advantage over competitors. If that position can be made so overwhelming by one competitor that others are effectively taken out of effective competition, that competitor is dominant. Dominance wins. The game is over. Everyone else is playing for second place or lower. Creating Dominance describes how successful law firms have gone about dominating their marketplaces – be they a practice area, a city or an industry. The book begins by describing the characteristics that identify a dominant firm and the precise strategies law firms can use to put themselves in a position of dominance.