November/December 2019

Perspectives

Teaching Leadership Must Be a Law Firm Priority

Rodney Dowell

One of the best reasons for being part of the Law Practice Division (LP) is the depth of expertise in leadership that exists among the active members who participate in our meetings. Over my years of participation in LP, I had opportunities to take leadership positions in my employment, in various bar associations and while participating in local activities. Of course, these opportunities have required me to reflect on leadership to improve the organization I am leading, my style of leadership and how to develop future leaders. As with most things, I believe that we all improve if we are mindful of the need to improve and if we have the opportunity to work with great leaders. LP has provided me that opportunity and may serve that purpose for you also.

As I reflect back on my career as an associate at various firms and as a founder of a law firm, I am struck by the many lost opportunities that existed during my career for developing leadership skills. From the minute associates enter a law firm door, they have opportunities to lead others. The initial opportunities may consist of leading staff members or fellow associates. Soon the firm associates gain experience and have opportunities to lead younger associates, teams of legal assistants or investigators.

As attorneys move up in the firm structure, they are asked to lead larger and more complex groups either servicing clients or working on internal issues. I may be challenged here by others who will say that I am discussing management, not leadership. However, for me, from the practical side of the aisle, there is not good management without good leadership. Moreover, there is not a strong culture without strong, consistent leadership throughout the firm. Without good leadership in each of these management roles taken on by lawyers, the firm loses opportunities to produce its best work. Leadership is a critical skill at all levels of the organization.

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