The Changing Nature of Leadership in Law Firms

New York State Bar Journal, Vol. 80, No. 7, September 2008

6 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2008

See all articles by Roland S. Smith

Roland S. Smith

Center for Creative Leadership (Greensboro)

Paul Bennett Marrow

New York Law School

Date Written: August, 28 2008


Within the past fifteen years law firms have been buffeted by such dramatic changes that their very viability is in jeopardy; changes including heightened competitive risks, a tumultuous global economy, increased competition for top law school graduates, the changing expectations of junior attorneys, more critical client oversight of costs, an accelerating pattern of cross firm movement by attorneys and much more. This suggests that the traditional - meaning hierarchical - culture of law firms is breaking down. To address the current challenges and sustain themselves, some leading edge law firms have turned to leadership theory and training.

This paper describes recent research carried out to support a program to address the needs of several of these law firms. The results confirm the conclusion that leadership training and development enhances the effectiveness and impact of senior partners and up-and-coming talent within law firms. It also suggests a trend for leadership being embraced as a lever to transform the very nature and culture of the firms themselves.

The research methodology used focuses on the identification of the competencies needed for effective leadership in the law firm environment and the tools and processes used to develop leadership. It confirmed that in a professional environment technical excellence and intellect are critical for success as a lawyer but that emotional intelligence is the differentiating factor for successful leadership.

Keywords: law firm management, leadership, competencies, leadership training, behavioral

JEL Classification: L20, L29, L79, L80, M12, M14, M19, M51, M54, M59

Suggested Citation

Smith, Roland S. and Marrow, Paul Bennett, The Changing Nature of Leadership in Law Firms (August, 28 2008). New York State Bar Journal, Vol. 80, No. 7, September 2008, Available at SSRN:

Roland S. Smith

Center for Creative Leadership (Greensboro) ( email )

One Leadership Place
Greensboro, NC 27438-6300
United States

Paul Bennett Marrow (Contact Author)

New York Law School ( email )

185 West Broadway
New York, NY 10013
United States

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