think large law firms are straining because [management] is still seen as a
part-time endeavour," said
regional managing partner
at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. "We need to allow people to have more non-practice
Luftspring, managing partner of Goodman and Carr LLP, agreed with the need for
full-time management, acknowledging that one is needed at his own firm. But he
questioned whether full-time managers have credibility among practising
need to be a successful practitioner to have the respect of your partners," he
said, explaining that was why he decided to continue practising when he became
and Chown, along with Graham Scott, managing partner at McMillan Binch
Mendelsohn LLP, were part of a panel on Leadership in Today's Law Firm,
presented at a Canadian Bar Association conference in Halifax recently. Irene Taylor, a management
consultant with Praxis Partners, moderated the discussion and began by asking
the panelists how to get young lawyers interested and engaged in leadership.
Luftspring and Chown agreed that early identification of potential leaders is
key but their opinions differed as to how to retain and nurture young
associates so that they remain with the firm long enough to move into
said potential leaders should be given training and told they will be
compensated for their leadership, while Luftspring said compensation is not an
he said, "If you've got good talent, take them into your confidence, engage
them, make sure your partners treat them appropriately and give them work at a
cautioned that there is a generation gap between young associates and senior
is the generation of entitlement. There are lots of kids coming up who figure
that within three years they will be senior partners and paid like senior
partners," he said, adding that they "lack maturity."
agreed that values held by senior partners are not shared with the younger
generation, but rather than dismissing them as wanting too much too fast, she
said, "This generation wants more communication, feedback, performance reviews,
training, and work-life balance."
a lawyer is in a leadership position within a firm, said Luftspring, he or she
must set measurable goals and be compensated accordingly.
them know this leader is responsible for these things," he said. "Lawyers are
task-driven. If you set goals, you have a better chance of success."
said the goals of a successful managing partner should include:
· Maintaining profitability by keeping the
most profitable partners in the firm,
· Being the visionary — deciding what you
do well and what you don't do well and exercising tough leadership,
· Being seen to be the leader of the firm
by visiting clients,
· Communicating with partners in person,
· Motivating the other partners and
associates by being the positive face of the firm.
last, he said, involves being a good listener and "a lot of cajoling."
added that there is also a ruthless component to good leadership. She said it
is the leader's job to "do something about under-performers — manage them out."
said it is the role of the leader to identify the three or four areas in which
the firm is a leader in the marketplace and to focus the resources of the firm
on those areas.
have a very successful competition practice. We've succeeded because of strong,
strong focus, and strong leadership behind that focus," he said.
must also have the courage to turn down work if it doesn't fall within the
firm's specialty, said Chown, but they must also ensure that all lawyers
employed in the firm have individual expertise that complements the firm's
specialty. She called this having "the right lawyer for the right work."
the panelists were asked how to deal with partners who want to move towards
retirement. The panelists quickly turned the discussion into one of dealing
with under-performing partners.
said that when a partner turns 60, he asks the partner to provide him with a
business plan to cover the next five years. He said he often notices when
partners start to slow down. The solution, he said, is to "get them on a
performance contract and make sure they are covering their overhead." He added
that often partners are looking for a solution and need to be confronted.
take less money," he said.
was harsher: "By the time someone is labelled as an under-performing partner,
key is to identify them quickly. He said it is often the managing partner who
has more trouble "ending the relationship" than the one he is looking to let
agreed. "We under-manage our partners." She said it is important to provide
partners with early access to career counseling.