Before you get behind the wheel of the law firm, you should think about whether you need to actually do it. After all, you can obtain the status of the head manager and full independence through partnership, managerial position or individual practice. In addition, prior to becoming Managing Partner, it is preferably to acquire the relevant experience. This will provide an understanding of youself and your aspirations. This will help to feel your own style of management and building relationships. It won’t let you forget how the company and profession is perceived at the different stages of career.
I got behind the wheel of AGA Partners in 2005, having experience of a law firm Intern, Paralegal in classical law offices, Senior Associate at one of the best and most well-known law firms at the time, self-employed lawyer – free hunter, and Department Director of a large national company. In addition, I had a chance to work as in-house lawyer for about a month, but after realizing that this is not really my thing I left before the end of the probationary period. Overall, my professional experience comprised 9 years. In 28 years, I established my own company.
The first thing to understand is that the company is exactly what you need. You need to understand that you are ready. This should be your lifework, your mission. And from that moment the firm becomes a part of your life. Everything that happens here (your relations with the staff, partners and customers), defines you as well as behavior with family and friends determines you. The responsibility that you take of the firm, should satisfy and shouldn’t not cause any doubts. It's like having a child – no matter how difficult it can be, dropping it is not an option. Without this all the way forward is just impossible. By the way, I believe that there is no difference, whether you establish a company or accept it. It all depends on you when the wheel is in your hands. After all, you are the only person responsible for everything.
The second thing that I suppose Managing Partner should always remember is a formula of " first people, then business." This is my personal approach to work. For me it is important with whom I work, how we do this, for whom we work. And I cannot imagine our company without healthy, friendly, warm atmosphere in the office. Honesty and transparency in relationships are very important. We have developed horizontal communication where everyone can freely communicate with anyone, there is no military hierarchy. Another point is that we will never work with a client who misbehave with any of our people.
The third thing is – learn, Managing Partner, learn! There is plenty of information on business management, but not only this. You can use literature, consultants, trainings, any new knowledge, even art! You should be open to the world, feel it’s pulse. There will be no ideas, innovations, and breakthroughs without this. You should let these information flows pass through youself and rethink them. It is highly unlikely that someone will give you a magic recipe that will help immediately develop a company or just teach you everything and solve problems. However, if you reside in the information field, the brain becomes much faster and more inventive.
The fourth is that you should decide where and how you go. Choose the aims, strategy and tactics. Interestingly, it may all diametrically change over time. Life experience, Partners’ and lawyers’ willingness impose some imprint on the process. However, it should be fully controlled and extremely balanced. It is Managing Partner’s responsibility, because the wheel is in your hands and it’s you who turn it.
The fifth is that you should honestly answer the question of who you want to be (manager or leader). Who is a leader? That’s a good question. Leader is a jaded word that has become a banal cliche, but there is no more aptly word than that.
The leader’s philosophy differs from the philosophy of the head. The first difference is that the leadership must be proven. It is worth fighting for, and you can lose it by distancing yourself from those you work with, surrounding yourself with retinue, losing visual acuity. I can not tell which system is better – head or leader. But I can state that loss of movers and shakers is inevitable in “the head” system. However, such system is the part of our social and legal traditions. We know a lot of successful companies with this structure.
Overall, I can say by paraphrasing Lev Tolstoy that every happy company is happy in its own way. I saw completely different management models whereby legal business makes a profit, if we put profit a criterion of success, because another universal criterion is hard to reconcile. One thing that remains unchanged is the responsibility for everything.
If we have already used an analogy with the wheel, so it's like driving a car. You can both know the rules and don’t know. You can abide by the rules, and you can be easy-going about such a trifle. You can race and cut off everybody collecting sincere and not very good wishes or epithets from other drivers. At a certain distance such a driver can be ahead of others, but he risks both his license and vehicle. You can also ask godfather to give you flashers and loudspeaker, and demand to be given way. Most will do it, as all know who the godfather is. However, godfathers change. And the trouble is that they change suddenly. It is also possible to drive without regaining consciousness for years, and if the police catch you and take away the license you can just buy it again.
There are plenty of options. The main thing is to realize that you are not alone in your car. If everybody agrees, then drive the way you want. That's what is a team of associates.