Law firms have not always recognised the correlation between leadership in various parts of a firm and overall organisational success. This has changed – successful firms have learned the benefit of a focus on leadership at both the top levels of the organisation and in various roles below that. Areas that have attracted increased attention in recent years are practice or industry sector group leadership as well as partner–lawyer team leadership, two pivotal areas and determinants of overall success and profitability. In this sense ‘leadership’ has become an important matter for every partner in every firm and in many firms some form of contribution to leadership within the firm has become an important criterion for performance.

The challenge for most firms has been to find enough partners to undertake leadership roles or to develop the leadership capability they believe or hope exists within the firm.

We have extensive experience assisting firms to identify leadership potential, develop leadership and governance structures, leadership skills and roles and most importantly, to build the quality of leadership being exercised throughout firms. We develop coaching and training regimes for firms around leadership and emphasise that leadership development is just that, a development over time, which needs ongoing attention and evolution – also that there are various styles of leadership which can and should be brought to bear in different scenarios faced by leaders.

We have found that while not every partner has the necessary capability to head up an organisation, it is our belief that every partner has leadership capability and that this important capacity should be realised to fullest potential. The sum total of this leadership capability being brought to bear for the benefit of a firm can have a massive impact on the firm’s fundamental strength and ultimately, financial success.

No-one needs reminding of how competitive legal practice has become. As a result it has become obvious to firms that every effort must be made to help every partner and staff member realise their full potential. This has led many firms to consider the introduction of partner performance management systems or similar. We have assisted many firms worldwide to develop and implement such systems, helping them to grow, develop and improve profitability in the process, but at the same time ensuring such systems are suitably aligned to the firm’s culture.

In some cases we have assisted firms to recognise and implement new performance criteria, which when harnessed, can play a definitive role in transforming partner cultures and performance. One such example is the concept of capital fabric™ i.e. building the foundational, fundamental, long term strength of a firm.

One of the challenges of introducing such systems is to “take the partnership group with you”. To achieve wide ranging and long term success such systems need the active involvement and full support of the partners. We have worked with the leadership teams of many firms to ensure that this is achieved.

  • A high performing, extremely profitable firm started to feel competitive pressure. They were convinced that it was necessary to implement some form of partner performance management system. They had made three attempts in recent years to introduce such systems but little progress had been made. We were asked to assist and recognised the importance of aligning such a system to the firm’s culture and to use language which made sense to the partners of this firm. Partners were extensively consulted as to the criteria they felt would further drive the firm’s success. We were able to engage partners and build their confidence in the process and objectives and also to persuade them to introduce new criteria to encourage new, positive partner behaviours.
  • A blue–chip international firm had started to face declining revenues and the loss of clients. We assisted the firm in restructuring its leadership structures, emphasising the pivotal leadership roles of partners and their lawyer–teams, as well as practice and industry sector group leadership and coupled this with an extensive leadership development program for partners and potential partners. In conjunction with this we brought a focus to bear on the development of support service management leadership, something which does not get enough attention in many firms. This was linked to a new approach to partner performance management with an emphasis on developmental feedback and support.
  • A well-established, long-standing firm believed it had “run out of leaders” and it was about to look outside the firm. We were called in to review their circumstances and came to the view that there were a number of potential leaders within their ranks as well as much unrealised leadership potential. The assignment required some restructuring, a new attitude to leadership development and acceptance by partners of new responsibilities and accountabilities. Over time they were able to develop their own leadership and succession into the future.
  • We have undertaken countless assignments providing leadership development, high level executive coaching and ongoing support and mentoring for both new as well as highly experienced leaders in various roles within law firms. Many of our partners have practical experience of running large successful legal organisations. Coupled with hands-on practical experience over many decades we can bring ongoing strategic and practical advice to leaders as and when they arise during the course of such assignments.