Law Firm Marketing – Choosing Your Managing Partner – Common Mistakes
The choice of the next managing partner has historically been a knee-jerk response in most companies. Usually the choice is between trying to fill the gap by promoting to the next best rain producer, or going with a staunch workhorse or a partner with particularly strong management and financial skills. Some choose a copycat of the previous managing partner. However, occupying the most important leadership position in your company is not a decision to be made lightly or frivolously.
Finding a new leader with the right combination of influence and charisma to reshape your company is a tremendous challenge that is vitally important to the future of the company. Don’t fall into the common trap of viewing the incoming managing partner simply as a replacement for the old one.
The copycat works to fill the big man’s shoes while maintaining the status quo. Here are some personality changes – a fold, a fold – and soon everyone believes that the “Big One” has risen. Or so it seems. But, replacing a managing partner with a copycat is bound to fail. Cloning of personalities is impossible, even in laboratory rats. The reality is that only the predecessor can be the predecessor, and that person has left the building. Pretending that your character is still alive through your successor is unhealthy and will polarize a company.
The super administrator
Perhaps the most distracting of administrative personalities is the super administrator. For this partner, great management means great management. Leadership is measured by appropriately allocating the expenses from the yellow book or the cost savings found in the recycling bin binders. Like an office manager on steroids, this personality works busily forming new committees, rewriting hiring policies, writing budgets, and relocating water coolers.
When companies choose a super administrator to lead them, everyone is initially relieved that someone has finally taken control of the details. But people soon realize that the changes being made are superficial and, in some cases, downright childish.
This type of managing partner tends to apply Band-Aids to company-wide problems, rather than getting to the root of the problem. Super managers rarely move the boat, and their own leadership style (or lack thereof) will not bring about the tough changes that are critical to business growth and prosperity.
Just because partners generate high levels of billing revenue and have a strong work ethic does not automatically mean that they have the skills and experience necessary to effectively lead and manage the business.
Managing partners who are workhorses can expect other members of the firm to follow suit. Unfortunately, while leading by example is admirable, it rarely has staying power. The “Be Like Mike” approach may temporarily stimulate increased work activity among attorneys and staff, but it rarely results in lasting change. Additionally, he often causes resentment from the new managing partner, as he sadly realizes that the firm’s attorneys are not following suit.
A partner shared this experience:
“I rose through the ranks in the footsteps of our best man. He was always the last to leave and the first to come in. I thought being like him would take me to the top. He did. But when I got there, the lawyers didn’t matter to me. follow in my footsteps or emulate my work ethic Most wanted to know “What’s in this for me?” before they broke their backs.
“A managing partner should spend time managing, leading, and marketing the business, but spending more time managing and less time with clients puts a productive senior timekeeper away from generating revenue. Businesses need to think seriously about the consequences of this type of situation. . “
It is a common misconception that a star rainmaker will be a star managing partner. In fact, many companies have found the opposite to be the case. There is little to support the claim that those who can make it rain will also be great managers; in fact, they are generally bad managers. They can be great communicators and sometimes even great relationship builders, but they often lack the patience and discipline necessary to face the challenges of building and taking their companies to new heights, and find it difficult to lead in the face of the adversity and rising above firm politics. While rainmakers understandably wield a lot of power, the reality is that the ultimate success of a company will hinge on an entirely different type of leader with an entirely different skill set.
Let’s take a look at rainmakers, as they are usually the replacement of choice.
The great rainmakers, simply and affectionately known as the “Greats,” have always been valuable assets. The question is whether they are great leaders and managers. It is true that companies have often experienced great growth from great rainmakers. Of almost mythical stature, some of these mega lawyers have raised their firms to great heights singlehandedly. In doing so, they became the heart and soul of the company’s personality.
However, in my discussions with attorneys about the character traits of their firm’s Rainmakers, a pattern emerged: Rainmakers don’t delegate well. They treasure knowledge. They are highly political, stubbornly independent by nature and rebellious by impulse.
Rainmakers resemble what business thinkers call “Phase One Entrepreneurs.” These are entry-level players. They do things, often imposing their will on others. They never say die. They are obsessive and have great tenacity, but at some point, the managerial and business skills necessary to take their organization to the next level are simply not compatible with their nature or desires. Ironically, the character qualities found in the best rainmakers are often strikingly different from those found in top managers.
In large companies, rainmakers who are also managing partners are famous for allowing the executive committee to run the business of the company, not because the action of the committee is superior, but because the rainmakers would rather not have to worry about those headaches. However, an executive committee can never replace the leadership and managerial strength necessary to take a company to a higher level.
A very prominent Los Angeles rainmaker described his role as managing partner:
“This company was built on my reputation, and to this day, it works on my reputation. The main role of the managing partner, as I see it, is to be able to keep the discontent factor of my other partners to an absolute minimum.”
For most rain growers, marketing means attracting new clients, preferably large ones with substantial and extensive legal needs. For companies with a rain manufacturer as a managing partner, the rain manufacturer is the marketing of the company. That is, until the rainmaker is gone.
When the “greats” leave
When the Greats leave, a great void is created. The greats leave behind not only their legacy, but also leaderless companies. Too often, the remaining partners leave the space they left unoccupied. The truth is, these kinds of powerful partners are difficult acts to follow, and their absence can seem as great and as real as their presence once did.
Uncertainty often follows the departure of such personalities. For most members, it is a very unsettling experience. The next in line, the replacements, often perceive their new positions after said transition as temporary waiting stations until the next best leader can be resurrected, hopefully in the image of the Great One.
Taking the helm, especially when a company is under stress, has destroyed otherwise promising careers. Some newly ordained managing partners decide to wait. They are managing partners by default and their only interest is to stay the course.
These guys hedge their bets, keep a caseload running, serve big clients and, if time allows, try to run the business. Like good soldiers, they keep their heads down and their ears open.
So what makes a great leader?
If your company is looking for a new leader, look for a team player who is honest, curious, imaginative, cooperative, communicative, and most of all, wants the company to rise to many levels. Remember, leadership is a state of mind. These intensely inquisitive people need to know what really helps their business grow and prosper and, just as important, what causes it to fail. They want to know what customers think about the company, what customers really experience when they visit the company and do business with it.
Perspective-driven leaders seek to discover new ways to serve customers and make them feel valued. They are painfully honest and realistic when it comes to evaluating performance, including yours. These leaders do not claim to have a monopoly on knowledge. They know that to fully understand an important challenge, they must turn to people who think in different ways; Thinking in a team is often more productive than thinking individually.
True leaders have personal visions that embody the vision of the company. They believe in the signature. They have the courage to make tough decisions, even showing toxic partners the door.
True leaders strengthen the company from the inside out, beginning by working with others to define its core values and then moving toward making those values an intrinsic part of everything the company does and every impression it makes.
They are great listeners; they don’t bark orders from behind their desks. True leaders find ways to develop strengths in the people they work with. They work through people, understanding and evoking their intelligence, creativity and participation. Especially for companies in the midst of big change, leaders must be able to manage through teams of people, delegating work and rewarding performance while fostering perseverance. Such leaders promote excellent performance at all levels. The most successful managing partners I have seen rarely dominate the group; rather they support the group by keeping it focused and focused on the task. These leaders depend on others to help them stay organized. Watch a trusted leader and secretary interact – can you tell who leads whom?
Exceptional leaders work hard to remove barriers in communication between their key people. They consider that their function is to smooth the processes. They are facilitators, not dominators. They think of ways to make others more effective and productive by making it easier for them to do their jobs. And when their effort results in success, these leaders rarely take credit for themselves, but instead give it to the group they belong to.
Finally, know that finding a partner with all of these traits is next to impossible, but it gives you a meaningful base from which to predict which of your partners is best suited to take the helm.