Issue No. 1, January 2003
want to have a workplace where lawyers learn, thrive, and produce great
results. I am pleased to introduce this first issue of Management Solutions©,
an e-newsletter for people interested in creating such a workplace. Management
Solutions will be sent to you from time to time to highlight some
current issues and innovative practices derived from my consulting work
with law firms and other professional services organizations. It will
inform you of important developments and resources in lawyer management,
development, and retention, and it will present practical solutions to
concerns voiced by lawyers and their employers.
that you will find this e-newsletter to be informative and useful in carrying
out your own efforts, and welcome your questions, suggestions, and feedback.
Solutions will be sent to you without any obligation on your part.
Feel free to forward it to colleagues and encourage them to subscribe
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of This Issue
to find my new book, Lawyers' Professional Development: The Legal
Employer's Comprehensive Guide
Effectively Does Your Firm Promote Associates' Professional Development?
How Effectively Does Your Firm Support Retention And Advancement
Of Women Lawyers?
Planning: Do It Now!
Management Problems: Restoring Morale Among the Highest Producers- A
on Innovative Practice: A Mentoring Team for Business Development.
Tips and Resources
BOOK: Lawyers' Professional Development: The Legal Employer's Comprehensive
My new book
offers a wealth of practical information about performance evaluations,
training, mentoring, and much, much more. It was published in December
2002 and is now available from NALP at 212-835-1001 or www.nalp.org,
and from Amazon.com at www.amazon.com.
Please visit my website, www.IdaAbbott.com,
where you can view the Table of Contents and see the broad range of subjects
that the book addresses. I am gratified that the response has been extremely
favorable and readers are finding the book to be a valuable and practical
resource for managing all aspects of professional development.
to time, Management Solutions will publish tools to help you manage people
more effectively. This issue includes two diagnostic tools to help you
assess your efforts to promote associates' professional development and
to support the retention and advancement of women lawyers. Feel free to
download these Diagnostics at my website, www.IdaAbbott.com
and use them to assess your firm's efforts in these areas. If your responses
suggest that the firm needs to improve in any areas, I would be happy
to assist you in making your efforts more effective.
1: How Effectively Does Your Firm Promote Associates' Professional Development?
Law firms want their associates to reach and maintain the highest levels
of excellence. They know that continuous learning and development are
essential for high performance, but may not know the various areas in
which to focus their efforts. I created this Diagnostic to help employers
identify the key elements necessary for associates to learn, progress,
and perform at their peak.
2: How Effectively Does Your Firm Support Retention And Advancement
Of Women Lawyers? This Diagnostic was designed to help employers
develop strategies to further the retention, advancement, and career
development of women lawyers. Although women make up about a third of
the legal profession and 42 % of associates at major firms, the number
of women partners in those firms remains low (16.30%) and the number
of women in firm management and leadership roles is even smaller. Recent
studies by the Washington and New York state bar associations confirm
that women lawyers continue to face obstacles to success in the legal
profession - and that employers who are committed to women's professional
success can remove those barriers.
of the important things to keep in mind in developing strategies to expand
career opportunities for women is that well-designed initiatives for women
will ultimately benefit all lawyers.
PLANNING: Do It Now!
organizations, law firms depend on effective leaders. But few law firms
conscientiously identify and groom potential leaders. Succession planning
can help a firm prepare the next generation so that when a current leader
retires, steps down, or leaves (especially if the withdrawal is unexpected),
there is a smooth and seamless transition to new leadership. When new
leaders can step right in, disruption is minimized, lawyers' performance
and morale remain high, and clients remain confident about the firm's
governance and continuity.
potential leaders is essential to succession planning, and forward-thinking
firms include leadership development as part of their overall professional
development program. They understand the attributes or abilities necessary
to be effective leaders, i.e., to envision, determine, and articulate
the firm's strategic business goals, and to direct, guide, and inspire
others to achieve those goals. They identify lawyers who possess these
attributes and are motivated to lead, and provide the training, mentoring,
coaching, and experience needed to turn them into top-notch law firm leaders.
a program to promote leadership development and succession planning, keep
the following suggestions in mind:
the core competencies of leadership in your firm. What are the talents,
skills, attributes, and behaviors that a leader in your firm should
demonstrate? Because leadership development is a long process, consider
the competencies that will be necessary to carry out the firm's long-term
plan, not just its current business goals. Also keep in mind the fundamental
values and culture of the firm, and whether the lawyers you identify
as potential leaders embrace them. Lateral lawyers may need extra time
and support to become sufficiently acculturated for colleagues to accept
them as leaders.
leadership needs. Estimate your firm's upcoming leadership needs. When
and in what areas will the firm need new leaders? Consider when partners
will be retiring or completing their terms, resulting in vacancies in
firm management, practice groups, or committees. Also take future partnership
needs into account, and include promising associates in leadership development
initiatives as part of their path toward partnership. Assess these needs
against the backdrop of the firm's long-term plans and the kinds of
leaders who can best help the firm achieve its goals.
development requires many learning techniques. Formal leadership development
should include many different approaches to learning, including stretch
assignments, training, mentoring, and coaching. Stretch assignments
test potential leaders by placing them in difficult, real-world situations.
Training can include instruction in finance, management, operations,
communication, marketing, and strategy, as well as principles of leadership.
Through mentoring and coaching, experienced leaders can provide suggestions,
challenges, feedback, support, and guidance to potential leaders, including
their own successors.
Restoring Morale Among the Highest Producers
- A Case Study.
A law firm
was facing a serious morale problem among associates in one of its most
profitable practice groups. In particular, the five senior associates
who billed the most hours and were perceived as star performers were extremely
unhappy. They told the Practice Group Chair that while they liked the
firm and the practice group, they were overworked, exhausted, and thinking
of leaving - which would have been a terrible loss to the firm.
with the Practice Group, I uncovered two major management problems that
were the source of these associates' frustration:
was no organized system for work assignments. Partners made their own
work assignments at will and tended to choose associates they already
knew and trusted. Consequently, they directed more work to the five
senior associates than they could handle, while other capable associates
in the group were underutilized. The marked disparity in billable hours
- these five associates worked hundreds of hours more than the others
- led to frustration among all associates, both those who billed high
hours and those whose development and status suffered because they worked
organized work poorly and provided inadequate supervision. Many associate
complaints derived from partners' poor management and supervision. For
example, associates reported that delegating partners gave them insufficient
information about work assignments; regularly assigned work at the last
minute (work that could have been assigned much earlier); and were unavailable
for - or intolerant of - associates' questions. This resulted in duplicative
or unnecessary work, inordinate stress, a substantial waste of time,
and many preventable write-offs.
group successfully addressed these management problems through three initiatives:
instituted a work management system in which a partner, assisted by
a well-respected paralegal with many years experience in the group,
monitored associate work assignments. They kept track of associates'
current and anticipated projects; made sure that all associates were
being appropriately utilized; helped even out the workload among the
associates; and assisted associates who had too much or too little work
or faced unreasonable time expectations from supervising partners.
provided management skills training for all lawyers. The training curriculum
included case management, delegation, supervision, and feedback skills.
Partners and senior associates attended advanced workshops and seminars,
and management programs were also provided for junior associates.
monitored partners' improvement in these management areas by seeking
anonymous feedback from associates and letting partners know the results.
ON INNOVATIVE PRACTICE:
A Mentoring Team for Business Development.
of its Professional Development Program, the San Francisco office of Shook,
Hardy & Bacon recently initiated a novel year-long group mentoring
pilot project in which five partners act as mentors to 5 first- to sixth-year
associates. The mentors are proven rainmakers who need support for their
business development efforts; the associates want to become rainmakers
but need guidance as well as exposure to potential clients. Together,
each group of lawyers provides what the other needs: mentors get help
and support to pursue business development opportunities, and associates
receive personal instruction and the chance to be directly involved in
the mentors' business development efforts. If new business results from
their joint efforts, associates who participated in recruiting that business
are given the opportunity to work on the new matter and cultivate their
relationship with the client.
group began to meet, they first addressed why and how to draft a business
plan. Each group member then drafted a plan, and at the next session,
the group discussed each plan, determined each member's business development
interests and strengths, and set some business development goals for the
group. The 10-lawyer group meets every 4-6 weeks for two hours. At each
meeting, one of the mentors leads a seminar on one aspect of business
development; participants report back on what they accomplished toward
the goals that were previously set; and each person commits to another
action item to achieve before the next group meeting.
to the benefits that accrue to the program participants, the firm will
enjoy the fruits of their current business development efforts as well
as the prospect of future business from expert and experienced associates.
TIPS AND RESOURCES.
Tip For Better Performance Management:
has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." Abraham
want feedback so they can adjust and improve their performance to meet
their employer's expectations. The problem with feedback is that it
looks back on what has already happened, and the past cannot be changed.
Critiquing past performance helps people understand what they need to
change, but it doesn't tell them how, which can be dispiriting. On the
other hand, envisioning future situations and how best to deal with
them provides a dynamic learning opportunity, and opens a wide range
of possibilities for positive action. So teach lawyers to engage in
"feedforward," the process of making suggestions for better
future performance and providing ongoing support. Marshall Goldsmith,
the expert on leadership development who coined this term, points out
that focusing people on future success can actually increase their chances
of achieving that success.
Recommended Management Resources:
are two helpful resources for managers and professional development
Development Quarterly, published by Gaye Mara and Professional
Development Services of Alexandria, VA. (www.profdev.com).
This quarterly journal publishes articles and research on various
aspects of professional development and continuing legal education.
It also lists many continuing legal education programs, especially
those in the Washington, DC area.
From Classes to Competencies, Lockstep to Levels, by Peter B.
Sloan, Recruiting and Career Development Partner of Blackwell Sanders
Peper Martin in Kansas City, MO. (www.blackwellsanders.com)
The book describes how this firm completely changed its associate
advancement system from the traditional lockstep approach to a tiered
system of four levels, with advancement based on articulated competencies.
Forms and templates are included.
Ida Abbott Consulting