November/December 2019

Simple Steps

Five Ways to Develop Law Firm Leaders

Allison C. Shields

According to an article titled “The Future of Leadership Development” in the March 2019 Harvard Business Review, despite the proliferation of leadership development courses available today, “[s]everal large-scale industry studies ... indicate that more than 50 percent of senior leaders believe that their talent development efforts don’t adequately build critical skills and organizational capabilities.”

Is the same true in law firms? In fact, it may be worse. Many law firms do not have their own leadership development programs and do not invest in sending potential leaders to available lawyer leadership development programs.

“The State of Law Firm Leadership 2018,” a white paper published by Patrick J. McKenna and David J. Parnell for the Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute in August 2018, found that many law firm leaders are ill-prepared for the position and are given little to no training or leadership development. It reports that most do their jobs with either a vague job description or none at all. More than half of managing partners take over the job with a transition period lasting less than three months, and 30 percent reported obtaining no guidance whatsoever in their new role. 

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