For this week’s feature post (305), Legal Evolution is pleased to welcome guest contributor Patrick J. McKenna, renowned lecturer, strategist, and advisor to law firms.  Patrick is the author of several books on the challenges of firm leadership, including the classic First Among Equals: How To Manage A Group of Professionals (2002) with David Maister, and most recently Industry Specialization: Making Competitors Irrelevant (2022).  In addition, his decades of experience led to his being the subject of a Harvard Law School Case Study entitled Innovations In Legal Consulting (2011).  Up until the advent of Covid, Patrick co-led a one-day masterclass, First 100 Days for The New Firm Leader, which graduated over 80 leaders from AmLaw 100, 200, accounting and consulting firms hailing from four countries.

Theory and data are profoundly powerful tools.  Patrick certainly agrees.  But what happens if the available theories and data are insufficient to adequately explain one’s environment?  Well, your best bet is experience in whatever form you can find it.
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Source: Randall Kiser, DecisionSet

American law firms are threatened by acute needs and limited capabilities in three domains: leadership, meaning, and service.


Media attention shifts rapidly from law firm profitability to gender bias and from technology to new lateral partners. Yet, if we pull back to conduct a deeper analysis, what we observe is a law firm sector grappling with three interrelated threats that are seldom the focus of sustained attention:  insufficient leadership, attorneys’ lack of meaning and purpose in their work, and client service. As shown in the above graphic, these three domains are the linchpins of law firm performance and sustainability.
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Innovation hype is alienating too many practicing lawyers. This is because we forgot that lawyers innovate in the realm of substantive law.  It’s time to fix that.


Last year I was at a conference on law firm innovation organized by the Ark Group. To close things out, the event’s chairperson, Patrick McKenna, walked attendees