In September and October 2011, our firm
conducted a worldwide survey about law firm leadership, as part of our ongoing support
of the Law Firm Management Committee of the International Bar Association. 374 lawyers participated,
more than half of whom are or have been managing partners of law firms.
My partner, Lisa Walker Johnson, reported
the results on 1 November 2011, at the IBA Annual Conference in Dubai, United Arab
The survey asked respondents to evaluate
importance of 23 leadership behaviors. These are the actions that provide motivation
for others in the sophisticated and demanding environment of a law firm. Respondents
were also asked to identify the five leadership behaviors that were most important
in the past and current success of their law firms, as well as the five that would
be most important in the next ten years.
There were several intriguing findings
from the survey:
- There was a high degree of agreement among all respondents about the behaviors that were most important to the success
of a law firm, with no significant variation by geographic region.
- There were subtle differences, however, in the perceptions
of men and women about the priority of the critical
leadership behaviors. Men and women agreed that building client relationships
was among the top three critical leadership behaviors. However, a much higher
percentage of women viewed this behavior as critical as did the male respondents.
They also agreed that ensuring that the firm makes money was a critical behavior,
but the response of men on this point was significantly stronger than that
- There were also some dramatic differences between managing
partners and respondents who had never been managing partners about which behaviors needed to change the most in the
future. This might suggest that managing partners and others in the firm need
to have better communication about the need for behavioral changes among the
Actions are very important in effective
leadership. The most compelling form of leadership, in law firms as in every other
human group, is by example. However, the findings of the worldwide leadership survey
also remind us that words are important, too. An ongoing discussion of the firm's
priorities for change and the changed leadership behaviors that they might require
could make the difference between success and disappointing results.
here to download a PDF summary of the major findings and implications of the
2011 Walker Clark - IBA Law Firm Management Committee worldwide leadership survey.
here to learn more about Walker Clark leadership development services to the
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