Delivering efficient and meaningful management is a widespread issue in the legal community—especially in law firms—and viable solutions can be elusive. In part because of client demands, administrative burdens, employee expectations and the lack of compensation for partners taking on nonbillable managerial roles, many partners avoid management altogether. This makes it difficult for firms to find the right people to take on such roles. But good management makes a firm more competitive, increases employee engagement and thereby decreases attrition.

Law firms tend to find managers in one of two ways, either by plucking rainmakers from their practice or having partners step up when no one else will. Selecting rainmakers relies on the faulty premise that because an attorney is good at developing clients or business, that equates to solid management skills (or a desire to manage). This thinking can often lead to disengaged leaders, a lopsided value system, a lousy workplace culture and cynical partners, associates and staff. Even worse, many partners assume management roles simply because no one else will do so. These partners often lack formal management training or experience, forcing the new managers to learn by doing. This, in turn, leads to frustration—for managers and for those being managed.

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