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Your partners have given you the honor-and the monumental challenge-of managing your law firm. What now? How about some quick pointers from those who've mastered the job in some of today's premier firms? We sought the wisdom of eight distinguished current and former firm leaders, all members of the Managing Partner Leadership Advisory Board.* Here's what they had to say when asked for their "most succinct advice for that individual who has just become managing partner."
Focus, focus, focus. The new MP will be confronted with myriad problems, requests, advice, opinions and the like. Attempting to attend to all of them can drive anyone to ineffectiveness. The goal: Identify the top few problems first, then lead toward their solutions.
Angelo Arcadipane, Dickstein Shapiro LLP, West Palm Beach, FL
Be patient. Be candid. Be humble. Listen. Be firm, fair and consistent. Demonstrate passion for the practice and the firm. Lead by example on professionalism, teamwork and accountability. Communicate expectations. And help others achieve their potential.
John Bouma, Snell & Wilmer LLP, Phoenix, AZ
Avoid self-interest and the appearance of self-interest. Never place yourself at the head of the line or claim entitlement to special privileges by reason of your leadership position. Lack of self-interest goes hand in hand with credibility.
Brian K. Burke, Baker & Daniels LLP, Indianapolis, IN
At every level of the firm generate contagious enthusiasm for (1) the profession and the practice of law as the very highest calling and (2) the firm’s uniquely important role in that profession.
Ben F. Johnson, III, Alston & Bird LLP, Atlanta, GA
Take time to listen and reflect. Create an action plan with specific steps and goals. Assemble a team of direct-report people that you have confidence in and let them do their jobs.
John R. Sapp, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Milwaukee, WI
Talk less and listen more—and when it is important to talk, be brief and don’t pontificate. Be sure you have a good kitchen cabinet comprised of individuals who are respected and whose judgment you trust.
Keith B. Simmons, Bass Berry & Sims PLC, Nashville, TN
Every decision should be driven by fairness and high ethical standards. Show no favoritism, bias or prejudice. If you want partners to follow you and adopt your vision, earn their trust and confidence from day one. Lose that trust and you will never get it back.
William J. Strickland, McGuire Woods LLP, Richmond, VA
Consider yourself more coach than sergeant—a coach with a winning game plan. Understand that your lawyering skills must be subordinated to more important leadership skills. Go outside the law to get sound leadership training. See the bigger picture and your broader goals as you make every decision.
Harry P. Trueheart, III, Nixon Peabody LLP, New York, NY
*The LAB, comprised of the above leaders, together with Patrick J. McKenna of Edge International, was formed to address and inform the burning issues at the top of the managing partner agenda-issues like strategy, governance, performance and profitability. Whether you are new to the role of firm leadership or simply trying to be more effective in your role, you may pose your questions, challenges or issues to tap the LAB's collective expertise. Learn more at www.patrickmckenna.com/LeadershipAdvisoryBoard40258.aspx?ID=40281.