It’s my pleasure to welcome you to the management issue of Law Practice. There isn’t a law practice of any shape or size that need not contemplate looking down the road to make informed judgments about what lies ahead. Even complete speculation, with generous space for constructive criticism, can help to elevate an organization from one level to the next.
Whether or not you officially manage some portion of a law practice, peeking your head above the onslaught of office busyness on a regular basis can only help you cling to client relevance. When you neglect to reflect on your practice, you risk circling the drain of complacency. Unsure if you are riddled with symptoms of stagnation? Try some of these on for size.
Things are just going well. How comfortable are you in the administration of your practice? If you haven’t been in a little over your head or been forced to make a difficult decision recently, you are either out of the loop or simply inserting your head in the proverbial sand. If things are good, what components have made things so good?
That’s the way it’s always been. Whether you have been in continuous operation 100 years or 100 days, you must seek channels for measurable improvement or risk bypassing innovation. The tried and true is unquestionably dependable, but is it excellent? Do you allow yourself to be challenged or are you surrounded by yes-men?
No news is good news. Haven’t received any comments from your clients beyond the ever-useless “Keep doing what you’re doing” feedback? Most of the time, if communication is in a single direction, one party is either unhappy or not engaged enough to care.
We know what the client wants. They trust you with critical legal problems. Do you trust clients enough to ask them how you can improve? Don’t want to bother them with questions? Does that even sound like a healthy relationship?
My thanks go out to Cynthia Thomas and Bill Gibson, who served as editors for this issue, as well as Courtney Ward-Reichard and Heidi Barcus, members of the issue team. We are proud to field a wide variety of management topics for your consideration. If you have hung out your own shingle, Bill Gibson has featured excerpts from his book Flying Solo as a guide for solo and small-firm lawyers. Our roundtable article on “What Makes Law Firms Succeed or Fail?” features insight from an all-star cast of practice management advisors, including Judith Equels, Karen MacKay, Catherine Sanders Reach, Katherine Suchocki and Erik Mazzone. Recognizing that law firm culture is difficult to influence, Timothy Lupinacci shares from his personal experience in “Building an Award-Winning Legal Office Culture.” Donald M. Lewis provides a road map for how to instruct law practice management in “Teaching for Success: The Business of Lawyering.” In his article “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?” Richard Goldstein offers his observations on and solutions to a leadership drought in law practices. Cynthia Thomas tackles “The Changing Role of Legal Support Staff,” highlighting how confused titles have led to distorted law office responsibilities.
Of course, our columnists have yet again served up first-rate perspectives on the full management spectrum. Whether it is social intelligence, herding cats, smartphones, budgeting or the NSA, we have you covered. Sadly, this issue includes the last column for Jennifer Ator and Erik Mazzone. I thank both of them for imparting their wisdom as columnists in a consistent string of Law Practice issues.
I leave you with some parting thoughts, intended to spur your continuous improvement quest: Leadership need not be requested of leaders. Only mere managers might be compensated to maintain the status quo.
John D. Bowers