November/December 2018

Editor's Note

Leadership, Again? You Bet--It's Important

Heidi Barcus

This week one of my law partners exclaimed over lunch that if she heard one more thing about leadership she was going to throw up her hands in exasperation. She has heard too much about leadership these days and felt like the term had turned into a buzzword. She’d had enough of it.

Facing down the deadline for this column and the magazine, I found this daunting news. I wondered how many of our readers feel the same way. I worried that readers might push this issue aside because it’s about leadership. However, try as hard as we might, lawyers can’t push aside their responsibility as leaders. We are leaders by nature of our profession, whether we like it or not. We are sought after for boards and governmental positions because of our training and skills. When our friends are really in a bind and need advice, they turn to us. This Sunday I received a text about a family law problem. I have no experience with domestic matters, but I could at least set my friend on the right path to someone who knew what she was doing. It felt good that I was trusted.

By virtue of our profession, we are asked to be leaders. Unfortunately, most lawyers haven’t been trained for it. Sure, I took a leadership class in college in 1983, but that didn’t prepare me for the role my community would ask me to fill. As lawyers, we have a choice. We can choose to be leaders or shy away from the task. For me the choice was easy—I had to answer that call. I actually found great fulfillment when I said yes.

Good leaders think intentionally about their roles as servant leaders. They recognize that their legal training didn’t focus much on developing them into leaders. To make up for the deficit, we seek out the skills to develop into thoughtful leaders. I have turned to other lawyers and asked for advice from leaders in the legal profession. I have tuned into podcasts and read books. I learned a lot from serving in executive positions in local and state bar associations. Some of the best training I ever got was from executive directors at bar associations.

The Law Practice Division provides an excellent place to develop the skills you need. I hope this issue of the magazine, in particular, provides benefits to you. Timothy Corcoran starts us off with “Smart Leaders Set Smart Visions,” in which he advises that law firm leaders must formulate strategic plans that are grounded upon data, differentiate their firm from the pack of other firms and rely on astute economic analysis. In “Leadership Development That Works,” Kathleen Bradley discusses the Fundamental Four leadership competencies: being self-aware, communicating clearly and often, inspiring a culture of learning and influencing other partners to achieve the leader’s vision. Janice Marturano then introduces us to “Using Mindful Leadership to Build Bridges,” where she recommends that leaders identify their biases, minimize their knee-jerk reactivity and look for commonalities among their partners. Robert Millard offers “Leading in an Era of Digital Transformation,” in which he notes that firms that plan today for the changing digital legal landscape will fare best in the future. In “Leading Tomorrow: A Relational Paradigm,” Stewart Levine suggests that relationships, and the gentle nudging of partners, are paramount to affect change. Finally, Vito Gagliardi Jr. provides insight into how to approach and implement a transformative law firm leadership change in “Managing to Succeed: Leveraging a Leadership Transition.”

I also owe thanks to Reid Trautz and Jim Calloway for educating us about the various future-of-law initiatives that are occurring across the country in the Highlights column.


Heidi A. Barcus, Editor-in-Chief

Thanks to our Issue Team: Susan Letterman White and Cynthia Thomas

Heidi Barcus

Partner, London Amburn, P.C.

Heidi A. Barcus is a partner with London Amburn, P.C. in Knoxville, Tennessee. She is a past president of the Knoxville Bar Association and certified by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. Email her