Why Lawyers Need Leadership Training

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Lawyers are called upon to lead everyday.  Where do they get leadership training? There are a few law schools that are starting to provide leadership training, but they are few and far between.  I urge every bar association and CLE provider in the US and abroad to provide leadership training, whether you use my book, Leadership for Lawyers, (American Bar Association, 2008), or not.  Contact me about this at herb@sbizgroup.com, 303.910.7961 or by commenting on this blog post.  Herb Rubenstein

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LSAT Test Numbers Down 16%

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The number of LSAT takers is going down and it looks like the legal profession is contracting.  We believe now is the time where lawyers need leadership training more than ever in order to become competitive, become more effective with clients, better manage their legal organizations, and improve their satisfaction with their career.

Please learn more about this surging effort to train lawyers in leadership development with our book, Leadership for Lawyers, published by the American Bar Association.

Herb Rubenstein

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Leadership Training for Judges

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The State of Louisiana has a new training program on leadership development for judges.  We commend this work and believe that if all judges had leadership training it could improve the administration of justice in the United States.  Judges are leaders.  They lead their staffs and they lead in the courtroom.

However, very few judges receive formal leadership training.  The leadership training would include learning about leadership best practices, leadership styles, leadership theory, understanding others’ leadership styles, active listening, and setting expectations with all those whom you lead.

Let us know your thinking on whether judges should receive leadership training.  If you hear of other leadership training programs for judges in addition to the one in Louisiana, please let us know.  If you are a judge and want to learn more about what leadership training could do for you and your colleagues on the bench, let us know.

With court dockets becoming more and more crowded, with litigants being more demanding, and with the law becoming ever more complex, judges could benefit more from leadership training now than ever before.

 

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Leadership Skills for In-House Counsel

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Ben Heineman, Jr., General Counsel and VP of General Electric, writes eloquently about the need for in-house counsel to be great leaders.  He states that integrity is essential, but it is not the type of integrity that is a solitary effort.  Mr. Heineman knows that the job of in-house counsel is to insure that everyone in the organization acts with integrity.  In-house counsel stand as the “conscience” of the organization, and yet, they are often not highly regarded by the other “C” level officials of an organization.  In-house counsel offices must function brilliantly or they serve as a stumbling block to getting the work done in the organization. Long waits for contracts to be approved by legal counsel is a leadership failure that often accompanies the work of the in-house counsel’s office.  In the in-house counsel office the lawyers must be leaders who understand both the business and the law.  They must be committed to speed while they know that if they put a comma in the wrong place in a contract, it can cost their company a million dollars or more.  Improving the leadership skills of lawyers in the in-house counsel office is the only way to put these lawyers on par with the other senior managers of a large firm.

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Leadership Skills in Government and Regulatory Practice

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The body of law in a government or regulatory practice can be both complex and govern even the smallest minutiae of your case and your representation.  You need to be able to attend and understand the smallest detail and the biggest picture, all at once.  Often you have little power against an opponent with resources that are vastly greater than yours.  Your job may be not only to get the most out of the resources available to your side, but also see to it that your opponent does not unleash all of the resources that they have available on their side that would bury you and your client.  This area of practice is about obtaining justice for your individual client or the government agency that you represent.  Leaders will know that e-discovery mastery in this area will be an essential skill.  As you improve your leadership skills you will be able to understand the motivations of all of the varied stakeholders that may affect your client’s or agency’s position.  Leadership skills are essential for government lawyers and those in the private sector who have a regulatory practice.

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Leadership Skills That Improve Advocacy

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Lawyers speak for others.  But, we actually do not get paid to speak for others. We get paid to have people listen to us and agree with us.  Advocacy is the essential leadership skill.  You need to know your subject matter. You need to know your audience and how they think.  You need to know which facts help your case and which hurt it.  You need to know how what you say will be received by your audience because you do not get a second chance.  You need to secure and maintain the confidence of your client, the opposing counsel, the Court, and the jury.  And you need to know all of the legal procedural and substantive law that impacts your matter.  This takes leadership skills and improving your leadership skills will improve your ability to be an effective advocate.

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Leading Your Profession In Your Area Of Practice

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How many lawyers want to become true leaders in their areas of practice, either nationally or in the State where they primarily practice? The sad answer is “not enough.”  To become a true leader in your area or areas of practice you need to do more that be an excellent practitioner.  You need to help set and improve the standard of practice in that area.  You need to write, speak, and mentor other lawyers, and yes, that takes time.  However, what only some lawyers realize, it also yields great rewards.  I believe that if many, not few, lawyers sought to be leaders in their practice areas, the quality of legal practice in their area would increase and civility would increase, a key goal of courses on professionalism.

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Leadership Skills and Conducting Legal Research

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Lawyers are often terrible at delegation.  In survey after survey of lawyers by THE LEEEGH, they openly admit it.  Either they don’t delegate anything to anyone else, because they don’t trust their work will equal the quality of their own work, or the delegate a project to someone without giving them the guidance or training or direction necessary for that person to accomplish the job successfully.  Lawyers often fail to have others help do their legal research because they simply cannot manage others or supervise or mentor others.  Leadership training can help lawyers successfully delegate key tasks and create teams so clients can benefit from multiple people working on their matter rather than the lone wolf that many lawyers lacking sufficient leadership skills have become.

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Leadership Skills and Law Firm Administration

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Management gurus have long said that ‘leaders do the right thing; managers do it right.”  The great leadership and strategic management scholar, Henry Mintzberg, who previously subscribed to this thought, now says that managers are leaders and there is not a lot of difference between leadership and management.  Why would becoming a better leader improve your ability to improve law firm and legal offices administration?  The answer is complex, but made simple, leaders get people on the same page and creating this alignment in your law firm or legal office can pay great dividends.  Leaders also get the most out of people and move those who do not want to contribute successfully to improving the administration of your law firm or legal office out of the way.  Leaders hold others accountable, just as they hold themselves accountable.  Leaders set high, but achievable goals, and don’t accept excuses if these goals are not met.  Taking leadership development courses can improve how law organizations that employ lawyers can be better run, provide better client services, and provide more income to the lawyers who work in the organization.

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Leadership Skills for Improving Client Services

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The quality of client services has increased with the introduction of better legal research methods, more access to electronic articles, and the ability of lawyers to keep up with changes in the law better than they ever have before.  A case of some import can be decided on Tuesday afternoon in Seattle, Washington, and the decision from that case can used in a legal argument in Alexandria, Virginia the next day, on Wednesday morning.  (I was involved in exactly that situation in the US District Court in Alexandria a few years back). But, improving client services requires more than knowing the law in a timely manner.  It includes being able to understand the client’s true goals and motivations for the suit, which the client often cannot articulate.  Improving client services requires developing excellent “active listening skills” when it comes to listening to your client, to the other side, the judge, the evidence, and the movement in the body of law that governs your case.  The better leader you are, all other things being equal, the better client services you will be able to provide.  Improving your leadership skills can help you become a better lawyer and manager and positively impact all of the places where lawyers work.

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