November 01, 2020 The Leadership Issue

Three Ways Law Firm Leaders Contribute to Internal Conflict

By reviewing solutions to three common mistakes, law firm leaders can avoid creating internal chaos.

Debra L. Bruce
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An illustration of people conversing around speech bubbles that form puzzle pieces.

via Dane_Mark / Getty Images

Law firm leaders often unknowingly create or exacerbate internal chaos and conflict within the firm. They aren’t entirely to blame. Many rise to their leadership position by being the biggest rainmaker in the firm or a stellar expert in their area of practice, not for having the most training and experience in law firm management. Law schools don’t teach that.

This article discusses three mistakes firm leaders commonly make and what to do about them.

Mistake #1: They don’t adequately explain their rationale.

Any leadership directive can have unintended consequences. If employees don’t understand the reasons behind a policy, some may be unmotivated to fully cooperate, creating friction with those who do comply. Or, a zealous employee may apply the principles erroneously or dogmatically because they don’t grasp how circumstances justify adjustments to accomplish the firm’s goals. The resulting confusion can sow discord and jealousies due to perceived unfairness.

The solution.

When giving directives or announcing changes, get in the habit of including “because . . .” followed by an explanation. When people understand and support why a leader wants to pursue a certain course, it fosters morale and helps everyone row in the same direction. That takes a little more of the leader’s time in the short run but avoids a lot of headaches in the long run.

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