Good lawyers. Good leaders. Are they mutually exclusive?

Mark Beese, law firm marketingLawyers are skeptical, autonomous, introverted, resistant to new ideas, urgent and easily discouraged by setbacks, says marketing consultant Mark Beese. Leaders, on the other hand, tend to be trusting, team-oriented, social, open to new ideas, strategic and resilient.


The characteristics that traditionally make a good practicing lawyer, however, are quite different from the characteristics that make a good leader – or a good follower. Mark, who is president of Denver-based Leadership for Lawyers, says it's time to change that tradition.

Law firms can overcome these personality and structural obstacles to develop the leadership they desperately need in challenging times. They can they train skeptical, autonomous lawyers to participate on teams – not only as leaders, but also as followers of other lawyers professional marketers who bring essential business expertise to the table.

“Most lawyers find behavioral change to be difficult – even painful,” said Beese. “However, in our current environment, change is essential for survival. The ingrained law firm culture discourages effective leadership -- and progress. The lawyer personality, the law firm structure and the weak precedent for leadership must all be addressed.”

What kind of culture encourages leadership? According to research, leaders are adaptable, build and mend relationships, build effective teams, facilitate change, coach, collaborate, drive innovation and leverage differences to achieve positive results. They are credible, decisive and influential.

“These behaviors differ greatly from many ‘traditional’ lawyer behaviors,” said Beese. “They will not change unless the firm culture changes to reward these new behaviors.

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