A checklist that, if done in order, actually works.


How do you ensure task completion when important projects need to get implemented, when partners seem to have agreed to participate and do their bit, but when you are not really certain that you are going to get committed follow through?

It’s been an old joke within law firms that if a partner has a deadline for producing some task by this coming Friday, when are they most likely to start on it?  And you know the punchline.

Whether it’s in a practice or industry group setting, around the table with the members of your Strategic Planning Committee, or wherever you happened to be working with your fellow colleagues, this seems to be one of the most common challenges and greatest frustrations that I hear about from leaders at every level within firms.  And perhaps worse, the most common excuse seems to be, “I had a client emergency arise.”  And of course, a client excuse trumps everything!
Continue Reading Ensuring follow-through on partner promises (329)


Examples of ‘Rules of Engagement’ that produce results.


[Editor’s note:  Legal Evolution is pleased to announce that Patrick McKenna has agreed to join Legal Evolution as a regular contributor.  Patrick fills a large gap in our coverage—the daunting challenges of leading and managing in a law firm.  As illustrated by Patrick’s earlier posts, see Post 305 (the perils of shared leadership) and Post 318 (most common pitfalls of law firm leadership training), there is no good substitute for experience and observation. Thus, we are very grateful that Patrick has agreed to share his 40+ years of wisdom. For an introduction to Patrick’s career and writing, see Post 304. wdh]


Whether working with a practice/industry team, an executive committee/elected board, or the members of some firm’s strategic planning working group, I continue to be struck by the dysfunctional behavior that is often present.  For example, how does one deal with the situation where all of your fellow Executive Committee members engage in a lengthy meeting to discuss a challenging, somewhat controversial situation and finally make a decision — only then to discover that following the conclusion of this meeting, a couple of your colleagues were quietly telling partners in the hallways what the group had decided to do, but that they were not in favor of that particular course of action?
Continue Reading The highest performing teams have rules (323)


One of BigLaw’s biggest pain points is fixable.


There are few people out there with bad intentions, but there are firm leaders with bad habits.  I recently spent an hour on a call with the managing partner of an AmLaw 200 firm who was seeking my advice on succession planning and specifically with their practice and industry group leaders, many of whom were very senior and had been in the role for well over a decade.  I began our discussion by asking five very basic questions:

  1. Do these group leaders have a formal, written job description?  Answer: “No.”
  2. Do these leaders have a clear understanding of precisely how many non-billable hours they are expected to spend leading and managing the people on their teams?  Answer: “No.”
  3. Have you provided these team leaders with any organized leadership training within the past three years, to help them enhance their individual performance?  Answer: “No.”
  4. Have these leaders been provided with any written expectations (e.g., you must, as a group, meet at least once per month) of what your firm’s leadership is expecting them to do with their teams?  Answer: “No.”
  5. Do you, as the firm leader, meet with all of your team leaders to have them share and discuss their particular problems and successes with each other, at least once quarterly?  Answer: “No.”


Continue Reading Where leadership training falls short (318)


The perceived pluses are numerous and easy to spot. In contrast, the risks are more subtle and potentially fatal.


Interestingly, there is a pronounced trend toward firms adopting a shared leadership model, with perhaps the most recent example being the elite litigation firm of Quinn Emanuel.  See Karen Sloan, “Litigation giant Quinn Emanuel beefs up leadership, elevating DC, NY partners,” Reuters, May 13, 2022 (noting that 900+ lawyer firm “has shaken up its leadership model, installing two prominent litigators as co-managing partners and shifting namesake Los Angeles-based founder John Quinn from sole managing partner to the newly created role of chairman”).

If your firm has potential office, group (e.g. “our Global Litigation Practice”), or firm leadership candidates who would be great in the role but are reluctant to give up any of their client responsibilities, the notion of having co-leaders may be an attractive alternative.

Some will advance a number of highly rational arguments for having two co-leaders:
Continue Reading Sharing law firm leadership: NOT for the faint of heart (305)


When data drives growth, that’s a Hollywood ending. So where are the Moneyball sequels?


The graphic above tracks demographic representation across 12 law firms working for BASF Corporation, 2016 to 2021. On average, shares of BASF work grew +11% for diverse ethnicity partners and +46% for associates. For women, shares grew +24% for partners and +28% for associates. Additionally (not pictured), ethnicity and gender representation in firmwide leadership grew +10%.

What explains this blockbuster growth? To me, it’s the courageous leaders using data to achieve a shared mission.
Continue Reading Leading courageously with data (302)


Standard processes deliver efficiency and risk management. Personal touch ensures effectiveness.  In our business, we need both. 


While the legal and technology professions may seem diametrically opposite in many ways, certain functional elements of the roles executed by lawyers and technologists are, perhaps surprisingly, similar. 

One example is how both professions have standards or methodologies for stepping through defined processes.  Like most conventions, these structured practices are in place for very good reasons, having been tested over time to deliver results that are predictable within a narrow band of risk. Of course, whether a lawyer or technologist, the skilled technician also understands that there will be circumstances that occasionally warrant a personal touch. 
Continue Reading Standard processes and the occasional personal touch: the common ground of lawyers and technologists (294)


An emerging role in legal tech companies that ties together sales, marketing, and customer success.


At Legal Evolution, we often return to the above “five stages of evolution” graphic as a reminder that the legal industry has entered a period of profound tumult and uncertainty.

The tumult is driven by the cost, quality, and service delivery advantages of systematized & packaged legal solutions, which has set off a gold rush in legal tech. See Post 255 (Zach Abramowitz tracking legal tech investment).  The uncertainty is driven by the need for new business models combined with the lack of established, sales channels that enable end-users to buy with confidence.  Cf Post 279 (Jae Um observing that legal vertical is composed of multiple markets that are both fluid and segmented in nonobvious ways).

Well, what about solutions—is anything on the horizon?
Continue Reading How Chief Revenue Officers are making legal tech better (284)

Source: Jeff Carr

A framework for making the legal delivery system better


Hello – I’m Jeff Carr and I am not a lawyer.  Now, I was licensed to practice law in Texas and the District of Columbia and was responsible for the delivery of legal services at two Fortune 500 companies. And I’ve been doing this legal delivery thing for almost 40 years, albeit most of that time spent being pretty lonely out on the radical fringe.  Perhaps this is because, at my core, I’m a business person.  A member of the company’s executive team.  A manager.  And yes, at times, a consigliere.  But despite a JD on my resume, I don’t do interesting questions of law.

I am writing this essay because two colleagues whom I like and respect — Jason Barnwell and Bill Henderson — badgered me to do so, see Post 281, claiming that the legal profession stands to benefit from my experience and perspective.  Although this sounds very lofty, I’m willing to give it a shot.
Continue Reading Four waves of change in #LawLand (282)


Millennials were already skeptical of the law firm model. Then the pandemic hit, reinforcing the legal profession’s worst tendencies. A walk through the data.


Law firm leaders generally underestimated the magnitude, duration, and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other experienced but untrained decision-makers, many law firm leaders were excessively optimistic about their firm’s prospects and conceptually limited in defining their firm’s risks.

Even the law firms that met or exceeded their financial aspirations now face a force stronger and more threatening to their business model than COVID-19: disaffected, disenchanted, and disappointed Millennial attorneys constituting nearly one-half of all attorneys in the 400 largest law firms. Thus, lawyers are very much a part of an upheaval in the nation’s workforce that Gallup calls the “The Great Discontent” and “The Great Resignation.”
Continue Reading Millennial attorneys, COVID-19, and innovation (260)