Leadership in law firms

by Simon Tupman

LawTalk speaks with law firm development specialist Simon Tupman about leadership in law firms

Within the context of a law firm, what is leadership and how is it relevant? 

The last decade has seen dramatic changes in the way law firms operate. Technological advances, generational demands and competitive market forces have all added to the complexity of running a legal practice, hence the increasing need for people with leadership skills.

Unfortunately, many partners, by virtue of their status, see themselves as “leaders” when in fact they are not.

Leadership is not about being aggressive, assertive or in a position of authority. In fact it is the opposite. Leaders have humility, listen and are to be found at all levels within a firm. Leaders have the ability to influence people to change and adapt.

What are the most common challenges you come across faced by law firm leaders? 

There are several:

What are the attributes and skill sets that are frequently found in good leaders?

I believe there are many but essentially a good leader embodies these qualities:

Are law firms doing enough to develop leadership skills?

Generally not. While leadership development is standard in most corporations, law firms have lagged behind their corporate counterparts for years.

This is evident by the amount of time and money invested in leadership development where, in some firms, leadership development is discretionary rather than mandatory.

Given the unique culture of law firms, how can leadership skills help their people meet these challenges?

Leadership skills can enable people at all levels in law firms to bring about change and make progress. While it is essential that there is buy-in and participation at the highest level, the real benefit will accrue when leadership development is spread across the firm, to include legal and support staff.

What will be the real benefits?

There will be many. Those that come to mind include:

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by Simon Tupman

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