Are Partners spending enough time managing?
Professional practice is hierarchical but its organisational structure is flatter than most companies.
Over the last few years there have been various attempts to expand and develop the organisational structure: Associates have become Senior Associates, Senior Counsel have been introduced and Consultants have become common place. And, yes, there have been a few non-lawyers promoted to partner.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is that partners don’t make enough time to personally get the best out of their teams, even in relatively small units. The disconnect is often made worse where partners continue to have size-able chargeable hours and individual targets.
Some partners do try to make time for proper supervision, mentoring and development but rarely do they succeed. If anything they tend to operate on the premise of development by abdication. If they can find someone else to undertake the job they will.
A lot is made of partners being or becoming consummate rain-makers, but not nearly enough about their competency as a man (woman) manager.
How often, save in the case of a (rare) complaint, do you meet up with your (partner) boss – formally or informally – and complain to him or her about their lack of hands on management and the feeling that your career is being allowed to drift?
Yes, you might moan and complain to your fellow workers, and by some process of osmosis, some of that might just get back to the partner in charge of your department but is that really want you want to depend on?
Law firms need to consider that as the market picks up there will be quite a number of fee earners who walk with their feet and move on to pastures new. In my experience, most moves that occur are much more likely to occur as result of the actions or more likely inaction of a first line boss (usually a partner) than the firm itself. Let’s face it one legal service is very likely to be the same at another firm.
This is not a self-serving post to encourage firms to spend more on external training for their staff – although that would make a massive difference over the long haul – no this is a plea to all those people who have the privilege to manage people (or even one person) to make sure that they commit to the exercise with all their passion, soul and energy. Please don’t see it as a chore. Everything should be focused on getting the very best out of each and every person, so that they achieve their full potential.
If partners feel that they are not equipped because their own training was sorely lacking then now is the time to sort things out. But don’t be too embarrassed to admit your shortcomings.
EXCELLENCE in professional practice starts with the individual focusing on his or her ability to get better and it should never be taken as a sign of weakness.
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