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Firm management should be addressing these issues because ultimately what’s at stake is profitability. If partners are distracted and upset by infighting or cash-flow problems, the entire firm suffers the potential consequences of lost revenue, lower morale, and poor client service. New partners train for their new positions for from six to 10 years. They should be learning, along with legal skills, how the firm operates, what partners are doing behind the scenes, and how to adapt to all the changes that this promotion carries with it. Firms should give new (as well as prospective) partners the information they need by holding regular briefings to share financial and governance information; by encouraging questions (and giving straight answers); by using performance evaluations to make clear what’s expected in nonbillable areas (marketing, management, and training); by reviewing the system of recognition and reward; and by generally fostering an environment of openness. All legal staff, even fairly junior associates, should be educated about the economic realities of law firm business and how it must operate in order to survive and thrive. Ideally, the informational briefings should begin in the senior associate years — as part of the firm’s ongoing training — rather than waiting until the new partners have plunged into their new roles with uncertainties and unanswered questions. But it’s never too late to start this educational process. Depending on the size of the firm, the briefings and discussions can be done in a group format or on an individual basis. They may be conducted by one or more members of the management team and specialists within the firm. When management is uncomfortable dealing with the most sensitive and complex issues, it is difficult to be open and objective. In these firms, outside experts in law firm business development, financial matters, organizational development, and conflict resolution can be valuable intermediaries. These outside specialists serve as educators, coaches, and conflict-resolvers. They can clarify and help implement plans and policies. This must be done, of course, with the full cooperation of management and inside specialists in administration, legal personnel, and marketing. We believe that firms can do a much better job of preparing their next generation of owners, producers, and managers. Regardless of the economy, talented people are valuable assets. Firms need to support them fully for their investment to pay off.

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