May/June 2019


The LP Chair's Perspective: Managing to Be a Good Manager

Katy Goshtasbi

In my practice as a securities lawyer and now, as a consultant, I’ve witnessed most lawyers cringe at the term “management.” They only detest two words more: “leadership” and “marketing.” We’ve already tackled leadership and marketing in previous issues of this magazine. So let’s chat now about the mysterious and ever-elusive topic of management.

Many lawyers are confused over the meaning of the term “management,” much less how to actually manage; therefore, I think the term deserves clarification.

Management is not leadership. Please don’t get the terms confused. Leadership is much broader in scope in terms of thinking and execution than management. Leadership is about inspiration, and being a visionary, and wanting your employees and associates to fare well and grow overall.

So, if that’s leadership, what’s management? From my experience, both as a consultant and as a leader and manager, the difference is vast.

Management is much narrower in scope. As you’ll see in this issue, there are many areas that management touches upon as you manage the lawyer-financial management of your firm, human capital management, technical management, etc. The list is endless, and yet you can keep the scope of management action within any one of those areas narrow.

The biggest difference that I’ve found has to do with human capital management. As compared with leadership, which involves expansive thinking and the broad use of control and power to influence and inspire, management of human capital can be dealt with much more narrowly. That’s good news for introvert lawyers who are single-focused.

In human capital management, I could give you, the manager, a list of tasks that each and every lawyer must execute. Your job, as manager, is to ensure that the lawyers accomplish each task. You effectively have to go down the list and check the boxes next to each task and each lawyer and make sure they are performing. You are not responsible for inspiring or motivating, just effective execution.

How do you ensure effective execution? While you don’t have to inspire or motivate to manage, it certainly always helps to do so to ensure effective execution. How could it not? So the real issue becomes, if you are not in leadership, how can you be an effective manager to support your lawyers, legal staff and, of course, your leaders?

The easiest tool I can give you is to stop thinking like a manager, or simply “management,” and begin thinking like a leader. What would a leader do to ensure the tasks on the list are checked off and done effectively? Would a leader just stand watch over the staff to make sure they are controlled and frightened into action? Or would a leader find a way to decipher what makes the staff members tick and then figure out a way to motivate them to want to execute the tasks on the list to the best of their abilities because the staff knows it is important to do so—and to do so well?

What does this mean for you? Stop and consider:

  • How much management do you exercise now? In what areas? 
  • How effective are you as a manager? Why or why not?
  • How much do you care for the welfare of those you manage? How could you care more?
  • What’s one small change you can make to start to see your role as management differently so you can become more effective?

In addition to the wonderful content that we provide in this Management issue, if you would like more support on management for your practice and firm, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at the ABA Law Practice Division. I’m personally happy to support each and every one of you in any way you want. I’m your biggest fan—you’ve got this!

Katy Goshtasbi, Law Practice Division Chair

Katy Goshtasbi

Katy Goshtasbi is a change and branding expert and founder of Puris Consulting. She works with law firms, lawyers and organizations on growing, in size and profits, by mastering change and developing brands that get their message out effectively. The results include happier, more productive lawyers, reduced stress, attracting better clients and more revenues. Katy practiced securities law for over 14 years. Email her.