Editor's comment: The leadership test
Are law firms inherently bad at management? This argument was voiced at a panel debate I attended last week and it's certainly not the first time I have heard such sentiments. The essence of the claim is that even large commercial law firms come up badly when compared to most public companies or other industries. Yet I find myself unconvinced. Not because law firms are beacons of leadership, but because these claims are often made with little to back them up. In addition, I suspect that some are giving rather too much credit to the standard of management outside the legal profession. Having been a business journalist for 14 years I have come to the considered conclusion that there is nothing remotely unusual about poor management in Britain plc. Not only are plenty of companies badly run, the plain fact is that shareholder governance has at best had mixed results at delivering management excellence, including both rewarding genuine performance and punishing executive failure. Indeed, it strikes me that one of the greatest strengths in law firm governance is its avoidance of the separation between ownership and management that in so many cases has failed to deliver at plcs.
Management at law firms is better than many assume
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