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From prestigious Dewey to regional practices, ABA book examines why law firms fail


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From prestigious Dewey to regional practices, ABA book examines why law firms fail

By John Glynn

CHICAGO, June 9, 2014 — Over the past 30 years, the legal landscape is sprinkled with law firms of varying sizes that failed and closed shop because of poor leadership, out-of-whack compensation or for a myriad of other reasons.

A new book from the American Bar Association, “The Failing Law Firm: Symptoms and Remedies,” presents a detailed and straightforward look at how law firms operate and how they can go off track, leaving a trail of human resource, financial and other problems.

The book, written by Forbes columnist and legal recruiter David J. Parnell, is a must read for attorneys — whether freshly minted or seasoned — to better understand how even an established and prestigious national firm like Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP can collapse.  “The Failing Law Firm” also provides valuable insight into law firm operations dealing with compensation, culture and governance while offering a fresh perspective on management and leadership pertinent to all professional services firms.

From a comprehensive pool of sources, Parnell dissects the failures of 42 firms, including the 1995 collapse of Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon LLP, the legal home of former President Richard Nixon with a history dating to 1869. One of the purposes in writing this book, he says, is for lawyers to recognize red flags suggesting law firms are headed into trouble. “It is not enough to know that your firm has a relatively unified and homogenous culture,” he writes. “You need to know if the firm’s strategy is one that will achieve full buy-in from that culture.”

Parnell is co-founder and principal of Edward, Anthony & Steele, LLC, a New York-based legal recruiting and coaching firm. A political science graduate of the University of Rochester, he has more than 18 years of executive recruiting and coaching experience and is a regular online columnist for Forbes magazine, where he covers the business, politics and psychology of big law.

Title:                “The Failing Law Firm: Symptoms and Remedies”

Publisher:        ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section

Pages:             404

Product Code: 5190502

ISBN:               978-1-62722-355-3

Size:                7x10

Price:               $79.95

Orders:            Order at or by phone at 800-285-2221


Editor’s note:  Author interviews and review copies are available by sending an email to
Kelly Keane at . If you publish a review of this book, please send tear sheets or a copy for our files to Kelly Keane, American Bar Association, Book Publishing, 321 N. Clark St., Chicago, IL 60654.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.

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