11 Attributes of Leadership – What every lawyer building a law practice needs to know

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attributes of leadershipI know that I have probably mentioned this before, but if you haven’t already picked up a copy of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, you really need to. It is one of the all-time great business books, and the foundation of many of the current best-selling business books. There are so many sections that I could quote, but one that I recently came across which I felt was appropriate to building a law firm was the chapter on “Organized Planning”. In this chapter, Mr. Hill provides a list of the major attributes of leadership, and if you are building a law practice, are you not a leader?

I’ll share with you the list, and talk about each one as it applies to building a law practice. (Note – As I started to go through these, I quickly realized that an entire blog post could be written on each of these factors).

  1. Unwavering courage. I can see why this is listed #1. If you don’t have courage in what you are doing, how are your employees going to trust and follow you. Better yet, how will your clients?
  2. Self-control. If you are going to work for yourself, you must exhibit self-control. This means getting out of bed every morning and going to the office (even though no one is there to make sure you show up), and getting work done once you get there. I talked about this previously.
  3. A keen sense of justice. As lawyers, we need to know right from wrong. We need to be able to sift through the facts of a situation to try to figure out what really happened so that we can best help our client and tell their story (in the courtroom if need be).
  4. Definiteness of decision. Building a business, especially a law practice, is going to be a series of little “corrections”. But the master path needs to be the same. You need to decide what you are going to do, and then stick with it. Clients and employees will not respect or follow you if you are constantly switching direction.
  5. Definiteness of plans. I’ve talked about goal-setting a lot on this blog. Here is another post. You need to know where you are going, and develop a plan for how you are going to get there.
  6. The habit of doing more than paid for. This is just good business. In my practice, I like to under promise and over deliver. It is much better than the opposite strategy. If you are going to own and run a law practice, you need to anything and everything (within reason) that it takes to make sure your followers (i.e. clients and employees) get constant reinforcement of why they chose to work with you.
  7. A pleasing personality. I love this one. It is so 1930’s, but so appropriate today. What does a pleasing personality mean? By my definition, it would include taking a genuine interest in those around you and listening to what they need more than talking about yourself.
  8. Sympathy and understanding. This goes hand in hand with a “pleasing personality.” You don’t have sympathy and understanding for others without a pleasing personality, and you don’t get a pleasing personality unless you can sympathize and understand others.
  9. Mastery of detail. You don’t need to know everything there is about running a law firm. But you do need to know enough about what it means to run a successful law firm so that you can implement systems and train others on how to use those systems.
  10. Willingness to assume full responsibility. If your assistant makes a mistake that causes a problem with a client – ultimately the buck stops with you. You need to know and understand this. Never, ever blame something on your staff. You can talk to your staff about what went wrong, or where the breakdown in the system was, but always accept full responsibility for the mistake.
  11. Cooperation. You must be able to cooperate with your staff and your clients.

Embrace these attributes and make them habitual. You WILL see a difference in your attitude and your bottom line.

Have an interesting story to share about how you have worked towards building a successful law practice? Feel free to share it here in the comments section.

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