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)

Norma Rae (1979), 20th Century Fox.  Photo from The Hollywood Archives, Alamy.

Higher profits come at a cost.  Be careful what you wish for.


As a multiple-decade veteran of Big Law, I vividly remember the many debates about whether practicing law was a profession or a business.  I was often leading these discussions as the firm-wide managing partner of operations of a global law firm.  How could a firm with over 1,000 lawyers, over $1 billion in revenue, and over 20 offices be anything but a business?

In an attempt to gain the latest insights on strategy, finance, human resources, outsourcing, and IT, I eagerly read every issue of Harvard Business Review.  I remember years ago having to overcome the partners’ resistance to being paid only by direct deposit and to increasing the partner-to-secretary ratio beyond 1-to-1.  Now that I am gone from Big Law and managing a law-school legal clinic where I am still practicing law (but with startups and other micro businesses), I frequently question whether being so focused on productivity and efficiency in my former life was worth the price.  Perhaps giving up a few ticks in profits per partner (PPP) would have made my firm a better place.

In this Labor Day essay, I’ll offer some second thoughts on the business of law,
Continue Reading Labor Day reflections, including some second thoughts, on the business of law (327)


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)

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)

“You’ve got your work cut out for you” by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

“There are only two ways for a manager to improve the output of an employee: motivation and training.”

— Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things (2014) at 110.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune of having dinner with David Burgess, the Publishing Director of The Legal 500, a global research company that compiles detailed rankings of law firms based on jurisdiction and practice area.
Continue Reading Lawyers and teamwork, Part I: Motivation (188)