7 Reasons why Developing Leaders in Law Firms is Difficult

This is a blog post by Pennington Hennessy which you can find here:


Alan Hodgart recently spoke to a group of Law Firm Learning & Development Professionals about the challenges facing law firms – particularly leadership.  His analysis was sound but he offered few practical ways for addressing them.

I can think of 7 reasons why developing leaders in law firms is more difficult than in many other fields.

  1. A typical partner’s psychometric profile is very different to that of a senior corporate executive.
  2. Lawyers are atypical leaders, for whom traditional models require adaption.
  3. Lawyers rarely want to lead.  Most law firm leaders would be happy if they reverted to client-facing work.
  4. There are few role models, and leadership is “caught” as much as “taught”.
  5. Leadership development is left late (30 years +) compared to the corporate model.
  6. The rewards for leadership in a law firm are not always obvious.
  7. Few lawyers have corporate experience outside the legal function, so they haven’t experienced people who just want to lead.

The solutions are harder to find, but possible.  Key aspects are:

  1. Developing leaders, not training them.
  2. Leaders are grown, not made, so it requires a joined-up, firm-wide effort to develop leaders.
  3. New leaders learn by leading.



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