The upheavals of 2020 have given me more time than normal to reflect on something that I’ve spent a good deal of my career engaging with: leadership in major law firms. But while leadership in law is widely accepted as crucial to the success of major institutions, it is a subject that still attracts much confusion and lazy platitudes. So, for what it’s worth, I’ve put down some reflections drawn from two decades of gossiping, arguing, drinking and debating with the c-suites of large law firms. The following are my personal observations and assertions about the state and nature of leadership in this game we call law.
Leadership at the crossroads As Legal Business has remarked before, 2010 was a curate’s egg for leadership in large City law firms. While operational management continued to improve after the battle testing of the banking crisis, strategic leadership became increasingly uncertain when it came to making the big calls. This happened as the model that delivered effective leadership through the 1990s and 2000s at what were then still London-driven firms failed to adapt to the sprawling global partnerships that they have now become. With partnerships being increasingly unwilling to delegate big strategic decisions to leaders during the 2010s, the obvious question of the Covid-19 aftermath is whether managing partners will use the crisis to retake the helm. They’ll certainly try but it’s far from clear that this more robust approach will survive a return to something like normal. Continue reading “The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners”