The Lawyer as Leader: How to Own your Career and Lead in Law Firms
This special report is a practical, experience-based guide to personal development at every stage of a lawyer’s career. The author draws on over 30 years as an international commercial lawyer and senior partner in a Magic Circle firm to offer a roadmap for moving from a “What’s expected of me?” mindset to self-leadership and leadership of others.
The report’s main theme is that retaking autonomy and control can transform engagement and fulfilment in a legal career. Topics covered include career planning, confidence, fulfilment, wellbeing and work-life balance, building an internal support network and “trusted adviser” client relationships, communication and feedback, project management, commerciality and understanding value from the client’s perspective. It also contains a section on pre-retirement planning.
The special report is above all practical and contains a wealth of tools and templates developed by the author for career planning, self appraisal and project management.
Table of Contents
|Table of Contents||3|
|I. Creating the environment for successful development||11|
|1. Inside the lawyer’s mind||11|
|II. Where are commercial law firms heading?||15|
|1. The bigger picture||15|
|2. Money and lateral hires||15|
|3. Globalisation and mergers||17|
|4. Now, and then what?||18|
|III. Lawyers as leaders||23|
|2. Leaders or rainmakers?||24|
|3. Effective legal teams||27|
|4. Communication, feedback and critical conversations||31|
|5. Building your connections||35|
|6. Business awareness||40|
|7. Managing deals for value||42|
|8. Working effectively across borders||47|
|IV. Self-leadership: getting the career you want||53|
|1. Career possibilities – inside, outside, rock star||53|
|2. Why make a plan?||55|
|3. What should a good plan look like?||55|
|4. What does it take to make partner?||58|
|V. Coaching yourself and others through change||61|
|1. Visiting the oracle||61|
|3. Anchors and drivers||63|
|4. Values and simple guiding principles||63|
|6. Readiness for change||65|
|7. Emotional intelligence||67|
|8. Walking in another’s shoes||70|
|9. Mapping the environment||72|
|10. Knowing goals and managing expectations||74|
|11. Weighing up change||75|
|VI. Change in a lawyer’s career||83|
|1. Types of change and their challenges||83|
|2. The stages in a lawyer’s career||85|
|1. Energy budgets||93|
|2. Mindfulness and microbreaks||94|
|3. Sleep, diet and exercise||95|
|4. Fear and loathing in law firms – a plea for psychological safety||95|
|Appendix 1: Self-appraisal||97|
|Appendix 2: Partner/senior associate career planning template||99|
|Appendix 3: Project management||111|
|About the author||119|
There are lots of ‘how-to-succeed-in-business’ books out there, but as far as the legal profession is concerned, this special report from Globe Law and Business is outstanding.
Law after all, is a business as well as a profession, as even the most traditionally minded lawyers are bound to admit.
Commercial law firms are becoming more challenging environments, says author Antonin Besse. Having had a lengthy career as a senior partner at Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, he knows whereof he speaks, all-the-more so because he is also an executive coach who works closely with such institutions as the Said Business School at Oxford. His advice is intensely practical and do-able; hard-headed, yet humane.
We consider that the reasonably ambitious, self-motivated practitioner, whether barrister or solicitor, will love it.
As the title indicates, you as a lawyer can lead in a law firm. You take charge of your own career and career development. Forward planning is vital, although lots of lawyers devote little time to it, embroiled as they usually are in devising solutions to client problems. However, says the author, ‘it’s no longer an option simply to think that ‘a partnership would be nice, or to have no stronger guiding principle than “let’s see what happens.”
As most lawyers tend to regard themselves less as team players than autonomous beings, a considerable amount of advice is offered here on essential leadership skills, including business awareness, team building, network development and the profitable management of client matters.
Further comment is given on such issues as wellbeing and work-life balance, which interestingly, were taboo subjects during the earlier stages of the author’s career. Not talked about then, except in whispers, they are key considerations now.
All this sounds like good news, except for a note of caution from the author who still thinks that all too often, the profit-driven commercial law firm partnership remains focused on ‘business, billings and the bottom line.’
A new social contract is called for, he insists, as he advocates ground-floor initiatives primarily from ‘associates and younger partners’ to bring it about, particularly those who find themselves inspired to ‘say what they think, articulate what they expect and be clear and forthright into the bargain’.
Fortunately, this report is crammed full of sensible, clear-eyed guidance as to the means by which all this can be achieved. Note in the appendices, for example, the detailed templates and charts for self-appraisal, career planning and project management.
Eminently readable and based on long experience, this special report is applicable to — and certainly useful for — any lawyer in any stage of a legal career, from early days to pre-retirement.
The date of publication of this special paperback report is cited as at 30th April 2019.
Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Robson Taylor
This Special Report focusses on self-ownership, self-development and self-management. This makes it wonderfully empowering, because it gives the readers the insight, the information and the skills to take responsibility for their own pro-active development, rather than being buffeted by random pressures generated by a “Let’s see what happens” (page 8) attitude. It aims to change the question from “What’s expected of me?” to “… proactively shaping the career you want”.
The PEP Partnership LLP
Antonin Besse brings an insider’s insights to the subject of leadership and self-leadership in law firms thanks to an impressive legal career – he spent over three decades as an international lawyer and 22 years as a partner with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP, qualified and practising in both the UK and France – as well as his experience as a legal learning and development specialist and executive coach. His clients include leading law firms, financial institutions and public sector organisations. He works closely with Saïd Business School. He is also co-founder of Interview Advantage Ltd, which prepares undergraduates for the world of work. His other activities include cabinetmaking and understanding as much about cosmology and quantum physics as it is possible for a recovering lawyer to do. Antonin is French, and lives in Oxford.