Recruiting Lawyers to Lead
By Gary L. Sasso
President & CEO, Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, PA
In professional services firms, leaders must have credibility with their partners. This means they are typically drawn from their ranks. That’s okay, but how can we recruit the right lawyers to lead? Here are some thoughts:
- Leaders emerge over time. They are the ones who care the most about the success of the firm, not their own position or power. They are the ones who raise their hand over and over, saying “Have we thought about this?” “How about that?” “I’ll be glad to help with this.”
- They need and get on-on-the-job training by handling multiple leadership roles over many years, typically decades, shouldering increasing responsibility along the way.
- They rarely ask for a title or need one.
- They love practicing law, and they are highly successful at it. (Yes, life is full of paradoxes.)
- They genuinely like and care about everyone in the law firm – all attorneys and staff – without regard to position or rank.
- When we are talking about the managing partner role in particular, we have to be talking about a partner sufficiently senior (typically in their early 50s) and secure so that he or she is prepared substantially to hand off his or her practice without an exit strategy, except as may be necessary to retain or grow critical client relationships for the benefit of the firm.
- The managing partner simply cannot compete with any other partner in the firm on any level – for clients, work, or credit. And if the managing partner can’t provide greater economic value to the firm as its leader than as a revenue producer, then the firm should choose a different leader.
If you may be interested in leadership, how will you know when you are ready? Others will tell you when it’s the last thing on your mind.