I used to say three things when asked for a view on the quality of leadership in the profession. Firstly, that it was pretty good (certainly better than commonly supposed). Secondly, the standard has generally improved (since the early 2000s). And, thirdly, the notion that law lags far behind most industries in management is nonsense (poor leadership being rife).
It was only when recently asked this by a new reporter – an experienced business correspondent but new to the profession – I realised that I could only now stand by the latter contention. After all, there is still much to be said for the disciplines of the owner-manager structure, even amid New Law disruption (and perhaps more than ever in an age that has revived the fashion for the cash-burn phase). But as someone who has met hundreds of managing and senior partners, my view is that this is a long way from the golden age of law firm leadership. Standards of operational polish have continued to improve – there is a reason that major law firms so rarely fail in the UK. That matters, but it is only part of the equation in an industry facing structural issues.