What does leadership mean to you?

What does leadership mean to you?

Think about a time when a leader really stood out for you. It could have been on a sports team, a teacher, public figure, manager, friend, or mentor. Do you remember why they stood out? Do you remember why you respected them so much?

Take a minute to write down the qualities that you admire or admired. Then write down how they made you feel. Did they inspire you do to better or your best? Did they teach your something valuable? Did they instill a feeling in you that you had potential and could achieve anything you wanted if you put your mind to it? Did they make you feel part  of the team? Did you feel they listened to you?

If you are in a leadership position, any position, take a look at your notes and then follow that approach with the people you are leading. And watch how they respond to you. You will be well on your way to taking your team, project, group or firm to an entirely new level.



Why is it so many professionals have a tough time delegating?

When done properly, delegating allows you to take your business to the next level. There is only one of you. Whether you are out on your own or working in a firm, you can only grow so much before you reach your capacity. The trouble is most people wait too long before they start to think about delegating, then it becomes even more stressful as they don’t have the time to properly get their team up to speed.

I see this all the time where the lawyer gets to a point where it seems more efficient to do the work yourself rather than teach a junior how to do it. It becomes a vicious cycle that you can never break out of.

Try this! When you are at about 60% of your capacity, start looking for help. That way, by the time you find the right person, or people, you will still have time to teach them, groom them, ensure they are following your strict adherence to client service.

The other thing that will help you remain in control is to ensure you have the systems and processes in place to replicate your approaches. Then it’s simply a matter of finding the right people and teaching them, providing regular feedback, and perhaps most importantly making sure your people know they can come to you for help at any time.

Looking to make Partner?

Going beyond business development and your ability to generate work, there are a couple of considerations you should think about if you’re looking to get on or speed up the ‘Partner Track’. The first consideration is to learn how to play well with others. Here I am referring to everyone with whom you come into contact on a daily basis; your assistant, paralegals, IT professionals, receptionists, firm management, marketing, library services, etc. Go out of your way to treat these people with the utmost respect and watch how in turn they will over perform and deliver for you. You will not become successful in your career without their support. So when they go out of their way for you, acknowledge their efforts. Take them out to lunch from time to time. Ask them how they would like to contribute. Find out how you can help them achieve their career goals by first understanding what they are. Treat them as you do your clients. In other words get to know them as much as possible.

Giving back to the firm

By this I am referring to what can you do outside your practice to provide value to your firm. Consider answering these questions as a place to start:

  • What committees can you be on and contribute to?
  • Are their opportunities for you to mentor a summer or articling student, or even an associate more junior then you?
  • What can you do outside the walls of your firm in the community to better position your firm?

 Follow this advice and you are more likely to become a partner at your firm.

In-house Coaching at the BIG Firms

Several years ago I predicted that at some point the larger firms in Canada would look to bring on full-time in-house business development coaches. It has recently come to my attention that it’s happening now. New positions are being created where coaches are working in-house with specific practice groups. Unlike other business development and marketing roles, these new positions are purely about coaching. They are there full-time to help the lawyers create a plan of action and then support them through implementation teaching them various skills along the way. If this isn’t a resounding statement in support of the value of coaching lawyers in business development, I don’t know what is.


A general rule of thumb I share with my clients is this. If your time is not focused on doing the work, generating the work, or managing your people and the work, then whatever tasks are taking up your time should be delegated to a non-fee earner. Do the Math. Look at your billable hour rate. Or look at what your time is worth if you work on contingency. Does it really make sense for you to be managing your IT, or Admin? Couldn’t you easily pay someone in the neighborhood of $25-$30 an hour to take over those tasks? Again, if you’re not doing the work, you’re not billing. If you’re not bringing in the work, you’re not growing your firm. And if you’re not managing the people and the work, there is more room for error.

The same goes for every other fee earner at your firm. If your law clerk is busy doing admin, that is non-billable time. You can’t expect your people to realistically hit or surpass their targets if they are engaged in work that is non-billable. You have a lot of money sitting on the table that could easily increase your bottom line. Always make sure your people are doing what is most valuable to your bottom line. Consider out-sourcing part of the lower-level work, or hire someone part-time if there isn’t enough for a full-time position. There is always a solution.