I recently took part in a fascinating webinar on People Strategies run by the IE Law School as part of their Lawyers’ Management Programme. Lawyers from all over the world were logged in to the discussion.
One of the most striking moments was when we were invited to take part in a poll. The question posed was: Are your lawyers entrepreneurial and innovative?
Before I tell you what happened, consider what would you say about your firm?
The answer we got on the poll shocked me – 15% said yes and 85% said no!
Well it’s got me thinking. The first important question to consider is should lawyers be entrepreneurial and innovative?
The answer may depend on what we mean by these words. It seems to me that there’s some overlap in the meaning – after all most successful entrepreneurs are known for their skills in breaking the mould and being innovative. They generate new ideas and overcome obstacles to get the ideas to bear fruit.
But the entrepreneur has something else as well. They have a good business head and can see potential business gains by matching resources and capabilities with opportunities and gaps in the market. They are typically more outgoing and perhaps more comfortable with risk. They seem to naturally assess the scale and probabilities of the risks and find elegant ways of controlling them or working their way around them.
Surely firms should expect this entrepreneurial capability in their partners. Isn’t it because partners have this entrepreneurial talent (amongst other attributes) that they earn so much more than other lawyers who might just be delivering great product?
So my conclusion to this first question is this: Lawyers might not all need to be entrepreneurial and innovative – but firms and clients should expect their partners to be!
The next big question is this: Given how much focus lawyers have to put on mitigating and controlling risk, can lawyers be entrepreneurial and innovative? This is surely a tough ask. It’s like lawyers need to wear two different hats. A black sombre hat for their legal work when they need to be particularly cautious and a bright baseball hat when they need to be creative and find opportunities for their business development or ways around problems for their clients.
My conclusion to this second question is this: Lots of other jobs require their senior people to be multi-talented. I don’t see why senior lawyers shouldn’t be required to be innovative and entrepreneurial in some situations as well as cautious and risk averse in different circumstances.
Is this harsh? Given what the average lawyer charges for their services, I don’t think so. Clients should shop around until they get this service.
But you tell me. Am I wrong? Have I missed something?