Building leadership skills through voice of the client.

Author:Weber, Jill

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Harvard Law School Executive Education's six-day "Leadership in Law Firms" program. The course, designed for senior law firm leaders, uses professional service firm case studies to help participants develop the skills necessary to become effective law firm leaders.

In a class of 60 law firm leaders, I was one of just four attendees who served in an administrative professional role. Many of the case studies focused on traditional law firm management issues--compensation, promotion to partnership, etc. On the final day, our curriculum featured a case study about Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. The case study highlighted the challenge the company faced when a key sales executive left Ecolab to join a competitor--a scenario comparable to the loss of a key rainmaker to another law firm. The professor asked participants to put themselves in the shoes of Ecolab's president: What is the first thing you would do to respond to the business challenge?

The attorneys offered their suggestions, all focused internally on the firm. I raised my hand: "I would call my top clients and schedule face-to-face meetings with them to keep their business." The professor said, "Exactly! Now role-play how that...

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