In talking to law firm leaders these days, what I am hearing most frequently are their concerns about disruptive change and its impact on their ability to maintain a profitable and competitive firm.
One consequence of this increased focus on change is that rank-and-file partners are being asked to do more with less—to take on additional roles, step up their performance, be better at the things they never had to be good at before.
This has two psychological consequences: (1) It increases the level of stress that partners are under, and (2) it makes it imperative that they develop better “people” skills. (Most of these newer roles depend on interpersonal skill for their success.) Luckily, doing the second thing well can mitigate the first thing.
Lawyers have never been big fans of people skills. Culturally, the legal profession has historically relegated people skills to an unwelcome corner of the room. Even today, many lawyers belittle, dismiss, devalue and mock any mention of such skills.
This is ironic, because these skills are more essential to your firm’s survival today, and because more than ever before, there is solid scientific evidence emerging that shows how powerful and central these skills are to the superior performance of business organizations.
These days, there are at least four specific types of “people” skills at which the average partner, and most certainly any law firm leader, should become more skilled: