Many lawyers, accountants and business consultants advise closely held and family businesses. A critical time for these counselors occurs when the founder and sole owner starts to consider the role and responsibilities of the next generation, particularly if some of those adult children are employees of the business.
When I was practicing as a securities lawyer in Washington D.C., I can’t say I did a very deliberate job with my business development. Luckily for me, my natural strength and inclination was in business development and marketing. That’s why things worked out for me all those years when I practiced. But If I only knew then what I know now.
In my last year as a general counsel of a large public company, we were embroiled in a complicated international transaction that required tax advice under time pressure. I reached out to our corporate law firm and asked for a call to recommend options the following day.
Not long ago, I attended one of the typical “future of the legal industry” conferences in Denmark.
All the usual speakers were there: A chief information officer from a large law firm talked about experiences with implementing a solution about two years ago; a consultant talked about breaking down silos…
The legal profession is full of leaders. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of lawyers in leadership positions. They are interviewed in legal publications and featured on law firm websites where they are asked questions like: “What made you so successful?” or “What makes you such a great leader?”
If a business school was designing a case study of unconscious bias in the courtroom, a recent series of events in Massachusetts might offer the perfect scenario for analysis. The topic: how the defense of a protester responding to a “straight pride” parade resulted in the arrest and shackling of a female defense lawyer for speaking in court.
The first attorney I met in earnest was David Emer. He was a litigation associate at the corporate firm Nutter, McClennen & Fish in Boston. At the time, I didn't know what that meant. Up to that point, the privileges I lucked into had insulated me from the realities of the legal system. The idea that I might ever find myself in a position to need an attorney had never crossed my mind.
Did you miss the class on leadership in law school? There probably wasn't one. And at most law schools, leadership lessons are, at best, an afterthought. Yet, from virtually the day we pass the bar exam, lawyers must lead teams: first staff, then younger lawyers, then case teams, and ultimately, perhaps, entire law firms or offices, large or small.