It’s a battle out there

Could the competition in today’s frantically consolidating legal market get any more intense? Well, yes, probably, though the spate of merger talks here and abroad including Wragges and Lawrence Graham, CMS and Dundas, Speechly Bircham and Charles Russell and Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs today underlines a global market on an accelerating trajectory to scale.

Matt Byrne

But what’s the best way to cope for law firm leaders who have to deal with this level of change? Clearly, at least according to management consultancy Skarbek Associates, what’s required is a soldier to sort them out.

At a recent breakfast seminar on leadership skills the guest speaker was Major-General Chip Chapman, formerly of 2 Para and later the head of counter-terrorism in the Ministry of Defence. Chapman was appropriately blunt. In the military, he said, coming second was not an option. It meant you lost the battle and your life (2 Para soldiers were banned from displaying any second prize trophies to drive this point home). Consequently, all military systems were geared to generate and sustain high performance teams focused on the most efficient delivery possible.

The legal market might not be quite life and death, but firms facing change also required decisive leadership, Chapman said. The key when executing strategy and delivering projects was to have a clear criteria for success, a commitment to a common vision while avoiding ‘group-think’, and “a Churchillian approach” to leadership.

Sadly, not every managing partner can be as inspiring, enabling and empowering as Churchill, but it wouldn’t hurt to try.