Law Firm Leadership: Start Here! Make 24’ Your Best Year Ever

This article was provided by Gary Mitchell, a lawyer coach since 2005, taking a unique approach with his clients by focusing on the psychological aspect of the way they work. Having coached lawyers from coast to coast spanning numerous practice areas and at all stages in their careers, Gary continues to expand and hone his knowledge of the legal industry with every new client engagement.

So much has been said and written about law firm leadership, leadership for lawyers, and leadership within the legal industry. Although some very insightful and valuable information has been shared, I firmly believe it hasn’t been broken down into more easily digestible, and practical steps. The subject is vast and can seem overwhelming. Do you need more content, and more information to overwhelm your already crowded brain? I think not. So, I am going to break this down for you in the way I have found to be most successful for my clients to digest. That is step-by-step.

As we come to the end of another year, and look to the next, it is inevitable people are looking for tips, and even magic bullets for a better and more successful year ahead. I get the questions all the time, ‘What are your predictions for 2024? Where do you think the legal industry will go in 2024? What do you feel are the most critical things law firm leaders should focus on in 2024? I am not going to predict anything other than saying, that if you are a law firm leader and you are looking for ways to become more effective and drive the success of your firm forward in 2024, then what follows should be your very first step.

What follows works. It works for small firms and large alike. Because all Law firms, like all businesses, have one very important thing in common, people. And the people part of any business is quite often the most challenging part to master. What is a law firm without people? The people you serve or wish to serve, and the people who serve them. 

So here it is. Step One. Start Here. 

When working with Law Firm leaders, the first exercise I go through with them is to conduct a SWAT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). I do this because all things start at the top, in this case, you! What are your strengths? What are you best at? What is your most valuable and effective use of time? Then, look at the opposites. What are some of the things that you would prefer to get off your desk? Things you don’t enjoy, the tasks that you repeatedly procrastinate on, and if you’re honest with yourself, not the best at? 

This is the first step in building or re-building your best team. The old school of thought around the SWOT analysis was to focus on improving your weaknesses, which at the time made sense. But then along came Steve Jobs, who turned that theory upside down. His theory, and one he practiced precisely, was that it makes more sense to focus all your time and resources on your strengths and become a ‘master’ at them. That way your time is spent or invested on your highest potential. And then, systematically build your team by following that same logic, surrounding yourself with the best and brightest. 

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

What you are doing then is, starting with you, ensuring that everyone on your team is in a role that allows them to function at their highest level. No one knows everything. No one can do everything well or great. This will require some humility. It means you will have to be honest with yourself knowing you are not the best at everything. But here are some of the advantages.

  1. You have more time freed up to focus on the tasks that bring you the most fulfillment.
  2. These tasks also likely bring you the best results, more revenue, more growth, and more profitability.
  3. This approach supports greater retention, an area within the law with great room for improvement.
  4. This gives you a roadmap to the skills and attributes of the people you should be looking for in building the most effective team around you, the best possible team to serve your clients. 
  5. When you get the best people, and get them in their best roles, and you are focused on your best qualities, your firm will function at its highest potential. 

And when that happens, almost like magic, (there’s your magic pill), most if not all the issues and business challenges that you face will become softer, until eventually, they melt away. Better organization. Better communication. Better hiring practices. Better onboarding, ongoing support, and training. Better teams. Better service to your clients. Higher retention both of your people and your clients. And all of that adds up to increased growth and profitability. 

This may seem too simple, but it is, that is, simple in theory. Not so simple in practice. I cannot stress enough that my clients who have followed this logic have gone on to create and build firms well beyond their greatest expectations. Just remember, start with you. And then follow the same logic throughout the process of building your team. With every lawyer, and every support staff member. 

Start 24’ with a fresh look at the way you look at leadership. Start at the top. Start with you.

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