Law firm management is viewed differently now than 15 years ago. Gary Senior, Managing Partner of Baker & McKenzie in London, says (in Simon Slater’s Bright Ideas chapter) of law firm management: “Partners have moved their stance on leadership and law firm management from reticence to recognition to acceptance to requirement! People now expect direction and guidance. Firms have gone from being unmanaged (and unmanageable) to being managed professionally.”
Global expansion has underscored the importance of law firm management. Sir Nigel Knowles, Joint Chief Executive of DLA Piper, said of the firm’s Middle East growth, “It takes strong leadership and courage. Global law firm leaders are now acting just like leaders in other spheres of commerce. There’s been a coming of age in terms of law firm management.” Peter Kalis, Chairman and Global Managing Partner of K&L Gates, believes that the law firm management challenge of our times is: “Align your business with the businesses of clients and potential clients in an era of intense globalization and consolidation, or risk the peril of obsolescence.”
According to Alan Jenkins, Chairman of Eversheds, effective global law firm management requires understanding the importance of culture. “It is an integral part of building a successful firm in which the rich diversity of talent amongst the lawyers and staff finds its natural outlets regardless of ethnic origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.” Jenkins’ law firm management pointers include: recruit for attitude; treat cultural awareness as an integral part of the way to do things; train people, and having law firm management set the example.
Despina Kartson, Chief Marketing Officer of Latham & Watkins, comments in her Bright Ideas chapter on values and successful global law firm expansion, that one of the management traditions at Latham is to move people from existing offices to new offices. “The transport the cultural elements, translate the concepts to the local environment, and the roots are thus reinforced.” In her essay in Bright Ideas, Helena Samaha comments: “Most law firms have not done a great job of integrating project management and the oversight of multi-jurisdictional work into their current business models, and it does not easily fit into the traditional law firm management, recognition and reward systems.”
Jolene Overbeck and Mary K Young write about the crucial element of strategic planning in global law firm management. “For global firms a strategic plan is essential because the challenges and opportunities have many more dimensions: more markets, more clients, more talent, more leaders and more practices.” One of the choices they believe must be made is “what types of leadership and law firm management structures are necessary to implement the firm’s plans across geography, practices and functions.”
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