Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation

Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation

Professor Laura Empson and David Morley ask what makes partnerships so distinct from corporations in what they demand of the people who lead them

Immerse yourself in a strong and successful professional partnership, even for a short time, and it becomes clear that these are unique entities requiring a very distinct kind of leadership. Continue reading “Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation”

Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders

Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders

Successful professional people are notoriously reluctant to take on the mantle of leadership. Increasingly, there are excellent reasons why they should, say Professor Laura Empson and David Morley

 ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’

It’s a phrase that carries a useful message in the context of leadership – particularly in professional services. Because high-achieving professionals would, by and large, prefer to stick with what they’ve always done, very successfully. That is what makes them reluctant leaders. Continue reading “Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders”

Guest comment: Whatever happened to the heroes?

Guest comment: Whatever happened to the heroes?

Traditional leadership models suggest people hanker for a hero in time of crisis. That’s an unfamiliar and uncomfortable role for law firm leaders say Professor Laura Empson and David Morley

What do people look for in their leaders when crisis strikes – especially one as profoundly disconcerting, enduring and uncertain as the current Covid-19 pandemic? Continue reading “Guest comment: Whatever happened to the heroes?”

Talking sheds – A&O’s former chief on why the personal touch is critical in a crisis

Talking sheds – A&O’s former chief on why the personal touch is critical in a crisis

In March last year – as the Covid-19 crisis gathered pace – I wrote in Legal Business that if you’re a leader when an emergency happens, you need to act like one. I added that, as the leader, you are also communicator-in-chief.

Talking to leaders over the last few months, it’s striking how acting like a leader has meant adapting their style as this crisis has rolled on. A more approachable, informal and open approach that connects more personally with their people has become key. Continue reading “Talking sheds – A&O’s former chief on why the personal touch is critical in a crisis”

Guest post: Leadership in law in crises requires a human touch

Guest post: Leadership in law in crises requires a human touch

General counsel and other senior in-house lawyers should not be afraid to show their human side when leading their teams through crises and seeking to deliver on business objectives, prominent figures in the legal market have agreed.

There was consensus on the issue among panellists participating in an online event jointly hosted by Legal Business and Pinsent Masons as part of the GC Powerlist UK 2020, as they reflected on the challenges they and their in-house teams have faced during the coronavirus crisis. Continue reading “Guest post: Leadership in law in crises requires a human touch”

The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners

The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners

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”

‘Future-proofing’: DAC lifts profit and revenue for sixth consecutive year as Pollitt secures second leadership term

‘Future-proofing’: DAC lifts profit and revenue for sixth consecutive year as Pollitt secures second leadership term

DAC Beachcroft (DACB) has notched its sixth consecutive year of turnover and profit growth, the firm’s latest financial results show, while also announcing that managing partner David Pollitt has secured a second term at the helm following an uncontested leadership election.

Revenue at the firm grew 6% to £258m, up from £243m last year, while profit before tax increased 7% to £56m. Profit per equity partner also grew, up a modest 3% to £590,000. Meanwhile, the firm improved its net cash position to £8m, having put in place ‘significant liquidity retention measures in response to the Covid-19 crisis’. Continue reading “‘Future-proofing’: DAC lifts profit and revenue for sixth consecutive year as Pollitt secures second leadership term”

Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race

Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race

If there is one topic on which the legal profession manages to be both verbose and yet perennially avoid substantive debate it is race. That is unsurprising given the woeful progress that large commercial law firms have made in recruiting black lawyers and staff in any numbers over the last 20 years.

There is progress of a kind in that such topics would once have been ignored, while now law firms feel compelled to load their comms with diversity initiatives and host events around black history month. Yet tackling head-on why many major UK law firms have fewer than 1% of their staff from the black community goes strangely unremarked. Continue reading “Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race”