Empowering Law Firm Leaders: How to build a high-performing leadership team

Ian Hopkins 22-02-2024

Ian Hopkins, senior consultant at CPM21, shares his thoughts on how SME law firms can build a high-performing leadership team.

I joined Amy Bruce, head of marketing at Osprey Approach, for the second episode of the Empower Law Firm Leaders series, to share practice advice and guidance on future-proofing your law firm with an effective leadership team.

In the conversation we covered:

  • The importance of business-thinking
  • Current legal leadership challenges and how to overcome them
  • How to improve employee engagement
  • What makes a good leader

Ian’s three lessons for running a successful law firm

As a solicitor I’ve occupied just about every fee earning position and I’ve had hands on experience running a firm so my top three lessons for running a successful firm are:

Have a clear vision and strategy: “There has to be clarity in the vision and you must have goals and objectives in place. Once you have those in place, you need to check in regularly to make sure that progress is on track and to see if any adjustments need to be made.”

Instil a positive culture: “The SRA are right to be dealing with toxic cultures in the legal profession. Changing the culture of a business can’t be done overnight but there are four elements to creating a positive culture:

  • You first need to identify (and then follow) the values of your firm
  • Leaders need to be authentic and optimistic
  • Effectively communicate and share as much information as you can
  • Value all staff equally irrespective of their role.”

Deal with issues as they occur: “It’s crucial not to sweep things under the carpet. You need to have excellent feedback mechanisms to get early warning signs before things blow up. Once you’re aware of what is causing frustrations you have to act on it and fix it, no matter how difficult that may be.”

The secret to an effective leadership team

A good leadership team is important for creating a positive culture that motivates and inspires individuals to meet business goals. But it’s important to look to create leaders at all levels of the business. Don’t just think ‘leader’ in terms of the person at the top of the business. You really need to create leaders at all levels because that’s where you get the drive from to move the business forward.

A good leader not only has a clear vision, but can effectively communicate it to stakeholders and the wider team. The team need to feel empowered to deliver with clear goals and objectives. Key characteristics of a good leader are to be self-managed, accountable, and responsible for performance and results.

Four key challenges facing law firm leaders today

There is no shortage of challenges for law firms right now. Whilst some challenges may be size or sector specific, there are challenges which are common to all firms irrespective of size.

In the conversation we discuss the four of the key challenges that SME leaders currently face and how to overcome them:

  • The cost of regulation
  • Obtaining PII
  • Recruiting and retaining staff
  • Fierce competition

Long-term success in a law firm requires a strong leadership team

To get the best from your employees you need a strong leadership team to drive the business collectively towards the goal.

An effective leader must be an authentic role model, who lives the values of the firm and can successfully communicate their vision.

But an effective leader is only as effective as their team, which is why you need empowered leaders at all levels of the business. Having a clear vision and strategy at management level, so everyone is clear what they’re working towards, what success looks like, and how they contribute is the foundation for a high-performing, modern law firm.

Watch the full interview now to discover more advice and guidance on building an effective leadership team. You’ll also hear exclusive advice to all future law firm leaders on how to motivate a team and what you must plan for to avoid surprises.