From the Chair

From the 1957 inception of the American Bar Association’s Select Committee on the Economics of Law Practice, the predecessor of our Law Practice Division, issues of law practice management have been at the forefront of our mission and programming. This year, however, the division leadership has expanded on that core area to focus on the critical issue of lawyer leadership.

The legal profession has provided a majority of American presidents and, more recently, almost half of the U.S. Congress.  In the business world, lawyers constitute at least 10 percent of the S&P 500 companies’ CEOs.  In addition to serving in customary roles as judges, prosecutors, corporate counsel and law firm managing partners, members of the bar also serve in leadership roles as governors, state legislators, and leaders in government and nonprofit organizations.  Every day, we see lawyers chairing community and charitable boards – lawyers leading in every aspect of our day to day life. But what are we doing as a profession to prepare them – to develop our lawyer leaders of tomorrow?

Although lawyers are highly intelligent and astute professionals, they are inherently ill-adapted to leadership and management roles.  Dr. Larry Richard, principal at Lawyer Brain LLC, recently presented at ABA LEAD LAW 2015 and wrote on “The Mind of the Lawyer Leader” in the September/October 2015 issue of Law Practice, the division magazine.  Dr. Richard noted that, on average, lawyers score significantly higher than the rest of the population in six key behavioral traits. They are highly skeptical, autonomous, antisocial and resistant to new ideas, have a high sense of urgency and are easily discouraged by setbacks. This places them at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to leadership and managerial tasks.

In today’s rapidly changing law practice environment, lawyers are faced with unprecedented challenges. In leading their practice, their firms, working with clients and their respective communities, lawyers are ill-equipped.  To address the need for lawyer leadership training, the ABA Law Practice Division began by establishing its Lawyer Leadership and Management Committee, with Mark Beese, president of Leadership for Lawyers, LLC, as chair. Mark has an excellent article in this edition of Law Practice Today, “The Law Firm as a Learning Organization.”

The Law Practice Division’s Lawyer Leadership & Management Committee provides a forum for practical information, discussion and programs relevant to the leadership and management of law firms and legal organizations.  It also provides leadership information and training to lawyers to be better leaders, by equipping them with the vision, knowledge and skills necessary to serve as leaders in the profession and in the community as a whole, as well as raising awareness of the broad range of issues and challenges facing leadership and management in the practice of law. This year’s plan for the committee includes programs on issues such as managing Millennials, influence and persuasion, resiliency and grit, managing change and innovation, self leadership and building effective teams.

This year, the Law Practice Division initiated the inaugural ABA LEAD LAW, an annual lawyer leadership development experience designed specifically to equip lawyers and legal professionals with new perspectives and practical tools in lawyer leadership.  ABA LEAD LAW, which was conceived and chaired by Tom Grella, is built on a belief that leadership is the foundation in every role a lawyer serves in professional life.  The program equips its participants in developing the capacity to lead their practice and their firm, as well as their communities, involving a combination of skill, insight, discipline and courage.

Tom is also the author of the LP publication, “Lessons in Leadership: Essential Skills for Lawyers” one of a number of excellent books published by the ABA Law Practice Division that educate and enlighten lawyers as to fundamental skills in leadership and management.  Other Law Practice Division publications dedicated to issues on lawyer leadership and management include:

Not to be outdone, Law Practice magazine dedicated its September/October 2015 issue to Lawyer Leadership, with articles by Division Secretary Katy Goshtasbi on “Adaptive Leadership,” a new way of viewing and exercising leadership as lawyers; Mark Beese on “Four Necessary Leadership Skills;” Stewart Levine on “The Power of Leading an Engagement Effective;” and  as mentioned earlier in this article by Dr. Larry Richard on “The Mind of the Lawyer Leader.”

John Mitchell, our division chair-elect, has dedicated his career to helping professional service firms develop their leaders and engage their talent.  John is building upon the tremendous relationship that the Law Practice Division has with the ABA Young Lawyers Division by developing a young lawyer leadership and business development program.  YLD has identified leadership and business development as two of the most important skills young lawyers need to be successful within an ever changing practice.  Building upon the expertise and experience of members of the Law Practice Division, the program will include a series of in-person workshops that will take place during the ABA’s quarterly meetings.  A series of live and recorded webinars will supplement the in-person programming.  The goal is to develop a strong program that will ultimately become an ongoing series that will help develop successful young lawyers for many years to come.

Together, the ABA Law Practice Division is providing the most comprehensive set of lawyer leadership tools that have ever been offered in any one setting.  The division is fast becoming the go-to partner for lawyers to develop, enhance and grow their leadership skills.  As division chair, I encourage you to take advantage of these exceptional programs to benefit your individual practice and your leadership of your firm and community.  There is no limit to what you can accomplish by engaging with the ABA Law Practice Division and learning new skills in lawyer leadership.  Together we can!

About the Author

Tom Bolt is the founder and managing attorney of BoltNagi PC in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and is the chair of the ABA Law Practice Division.

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