October 23, 2012

On the Horizon for Law Practice Management

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By Tom Grella

Dwight Eisenhower said, “We, the people, elect leaders not to rule, but to serve.” As my closest friends know, I am a student of leadership. In addition, for more than five years, I’ve had the honor to serve my law firm as Chair of the Management Committee. I am certain that, in large part, the opportunity was extended to me because of the practice management knowledge I had acquired through my involvement in the Law Practice Management Section.

Notwithstanding that knowledge, when I took the management reins at my firm, it did not take me long to realize three truths. First, regardless of the title I had been given, those bestowing such an honor not only expected me to manage, but also to lead. Second, management and leadership are not one and the same. And third, I did not know much about leadership.

At that point, I began to study the concept of organizational leadership. I discovered that management of an organization’s day-to-day problems, though frustrating at times, is easier than leading a firm today. I also came to find that Eisenhower had it right. Leadership is all about service. Well-known leadership speaker John Maxwell often hears others tell him they “desire to be a leader.” When he hears this, he usually asks, “Why?” If the response given conveys a desire for power, control or the special perks associated with position, the person is not that interested in true leadership. Maxwell indicates that if an organization wants to identify a true leader, the response given needs to be focused solely on service.

Recently, I have attempted to focus on “servant leadership” and have come to believe this is the key to effective leadership. LPM members will likely hear me talk about the concept quite a bit this year, especially the need for our Section to be a servant leader of lawyers. As the 2006-2007 Section Chair, it is my hope and desire that I can serve as well as my predecessor, Carl Roberts. Whether you are a managing partner or firm administrator, a solo with staff, an associate sharing a legal assistant or the parent of children, you are a leader, too. You can learn more from the following books: Servant Leadership by Robert K. Greenleaf, The Servant Leader by James A. Autry, and The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings and John Stahl-Wert.

I believe we have assembled a great team of Section leaders for the year ahead, folks with true passion for service in each of LPM’s core areas—marketing, management, technology and finance. The Section seeks to provide its constituency with valuable content in each of these areas and, thereby, have a direct and positive impact on members’ lives and practices.

In The Leadership Challenge, Alan Keith of Lucas Digital is quoted as stating: “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” It is my hope, as Section Chair, that we will collectively make extraordinary things happen this year. I look forward to the opportunity and the challenge.