Digest 16

We are glad to announce that the V St. Petersburg International Legal Forum will take place on May 27-30, 2015. Registration is now officially open. We are back with the new issues of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum Digest and looking forward to continuing the dialogue with everyone who is interested in the Forum and legal matters important for both Russian and international legal community.

Please find attached the 16th issue of the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum Digest and let’s keep in touch!

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We invite you to have a look at the V St. Petersburg International Legal Forum programme!

News of the Forum

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  • V Forum’s Business programme

    The anniversary Forum’s business programme was fashioned in cooperation with leading representatives of legal community and businesses. Programme Committee expresses its gratitude for all of you who took part in defining the agenda and sent the detailed suggestions for the programme 2015. The preliminary programme is published on the Forum’s site. The topics to discuss comprise 7 tracks:

    1. International Law / Rule of Law

    2. Private Law

    3. Corporate Practice / International Trade / Protection of Competition

    4. Litigation and Arbitration Practice

    5. Smart Society

    6. Cultural Heritage/Public Interest/Environment/Standards of Legal Profession

    7. Investments/ Finance

  • V Forum’s Agenda

    Please have a look at the Forum's Agenda. The Plenary Session will convene on Wednesday, 27 May. The discussion sessions will be held on 28-29 May. All the business events will take place in the General Staff Building of the State Hermitage.

    On May 28 we invite the delegates of the Forum to the "Best Legal Departments of Russia 2015" award ceremony.

    Besides, the Forum is famous for its rich cultural programme: welcome reception at the first day of the Forum, cocktail evening “Legal Drink” on May 28 which will take place on the busiest bar street in St. Petersburg. In keeping with tradition, Forum will end with a festive gala dinner.

  • Unique opportunity to become the partner of the event

    The status of the Partner of the V St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is a weighty contribution to your company’s brand positioning on both Russian and international levels. We are ready to discuss different forms of partnership in the framework of the Forum 2015. If you have any queries, please contact us via sponsorship@spblegalforum.com.

    If you want to become an information partner of the event, please forward your suggestions to pr@spblegalforum.com.

    We can help you to arrange interviews with delegates of the Forum both during the event and throughout the year.

About rebranding of St. Petersburg International Legal Forum

“The obvious decision was to use the theme of Roman law”

Andrey Shelutto

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Before its 5th anniversary, St. Petersburg International Legal Forum changed its image. Andrey Shelutto explained the conception of rebranding of the SPBILF:

- Developing the new design for St. Petersburg International Legal Forum, we created the new means of representation, involving special temporal and spatial parameters, able to mirror the complexity of legal profession. At the same time, competence, skills and creativity are characteristic features of both lawyers and designers, and I do hope that this graphical message will be welcome and understood. Considering the complexity of the communicative process forming the basis of the Forum, I found non-flexible and non-developing logo to be not sufficient and used the graphical system which is simultaneously complex and minimalistic and allows adopting graphics for various tasks, as well as working with both documents and space of the website. In terms of conception the obvious decision was to use the theme of Roman law and legal sentences of the Roman Forum. These maxims, carved on the stone walls, inspired the posters of the Forum. The Roman theme is presented in bullets in the middle of line, dividing letters and words, the usage of modern equivalent of Roman majuscules, Roman pagination and Roman numerals. The LF abbreviation is made up not only from the first letters, but also from the letters in the middle of the expression LEGAL FORUM, while M in the word FORUM allows using thereafter the Roman numeral signifying the year of the St. Petersburg Forum: ММXV, MMXVI and so on. The past has a big importance, since St. Petersburg, as well as Rome, is a legal city identifying the issues of the current day and searching in great past the source for the present.

Andrey Shelutto graduated from the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, specialization – graphic and expositional design. He worked as a senior art editor in the publishing house of the Communist Party of Byelorussia Central Committee in the editorial office of posters. In 1992 he moved to Moscow by the invitation of IMA Press, in 1996 became a chief designer of NTV and NTV+. In 2004 he was appointed as an art director of the “Izvestia” newspaper where he has been working for 4 years. Andrey is the main designer of the III Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art, designer of the 100-anniversary Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, chief designer of Manifesta 10, art director of the Hermitage Museum XXI Century Foundation and the “Hermitage” magazine, designer of the navigation space in the General Stuff building, director of the Trottola gallery in Florence, director of the “Museum” project bureau, member of the FARO Arts Society. Designer of St. Petersburg International Legal Forum.

Leadership, Management and Herding Cats

“Lead by example if you want to succeed”

By Jim Calloway

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(Originally published in the Law Practice Magazine, Volume 40, Number 1, January/February 2014)

HOW DOES ONE LEAD a 21st-century law firm? How does one manage a 21st-century law firm? Leadership and management are often used interchangeably in discussing law firm administration, but there are differences that require different sets of skills.

The partnership was the traditional structure of law firm business operations. But after there are more than a few partners, management by committee becomes too cumbersome for the majority of matters. Many law firms now operate as a different business entity, with a president or CEO. Law firms still operating as a partnership are led by a managing partner or small management committee. Most law firms have some nonlawyer management staff.

WHY LAWYERS ARE DIFFICULT TO LEAD

Discussions of managing lawyers often include the cliché of herding cats. Cats are notoriously independent, as are lawyers. But lawyers are also trained to be outspoken, to construct arguments, to pick apart weakness in others’ positions, to be perfectionists and to attempt to gain as much advantage as possible in any negotiation. Delegation is often a challenge for lawyers because it is drummed into us, starting in law school, that a lawyer is still ultimately responsible for the failure of any delegated task. When you think about it, herding cats sounds easy when compared to leading lawyers.

I recently was privileged to hear an address by Gerry Riskin, founding member of the legal consultancy Edge International. He discussed the dynamics of group decision-making among lawyers, particularly when new proposals are under consideration. Riskin said that lawyers, because of their work, are critical and analytical, and tend to default to that pattern even when inappropriate. For example, at a partner meeting, if you could imagine words coming out of the mouth of one partner, by the time those words traveled 18 inches, another partner would whip out his verbal sword and slash the idea to bits. “We have already tried that. That will never work because …” The verbal gladiators would then sheath their weapons and stride back to their offices satisfied, thinking their work for the firm is done. No new ideas will be put into action today. For that matter, no new ideas will be tried. Partners must learn a different approach, whereby they seek the elements of wisdom from an idea and explore its advantageous opportunities.

A more objective observer might think the point of the meeting was to make some decisions, to engage in strategic planning or to try something new. Instead, the firm has decided by default to stay its course.

In truth, the proffered idea might have been a poor one. But a nonjudgmental discussion of the idea might have yielded something of value. The next idea from a brash associate might have been of immense value. But that one may never be heard by the group after the lawyers witnessed a demonstration of how new ideas are received. Our profession must innovate, and innovation is accompanied by mistakes and false starts.

Perhaps these law firm discussions would benefit from emulating the U.S. Supreme Court, where the most junior associate justice speaks first and the chief justice speaks last.

BEING A TRUE LEADER

Lessons in Leadership: Essential Skills for Lawyers by Thomas C. Grella was recently published by the ABA Law Practice Division. The book is divided into short and easy-to-consume lessons. But each lesson also includes references to suggested additional reading material. Included among the many references are books I would encourage a smart managing partner or law firm CEO to read: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by Jim Collins (Harper Collins, 2001) and First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals by Patrick J. McKenna and David H. Maister (Free Press, 2002). And Grella’s book is highly recommended as well.

Many books have been written on the intertwined topics of leadership, management, time management and personal productivity. The number of volumes validates the observation that it is easier to read about these skills than to accomplish them in practice.

The Wall Street Journal has published a free (and brief) how-to guide titled “What Is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?” that can be easily found on the Internet. Among the included comparisons, there are

  • the manager administers, the leader innovates;
  • the manager focuses on systems and structure, the leader focuses on people;
  • the manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line, the leader’s eye is on the horizon; and
  • the manager does things right, the leader does the right thing.

A law firm needs both types of visions to succeed. Our romantic image of leaders encompasses a certain greatness, with military leaders like George S. Patton, or national leaders like John F. Kennedy or Winston Churchill. But probably none of those people would have been great in law firm management.

Lawyers often want to push the edge of the envelope in following rules and interpreting regulations. But the leader doesn’t have that luxury and must lead by example. Law firms frequently have issues with lawyers submitting their billing records in a timely manner. The law firm leader must lead by example and submit his or her billing on time. At some point, he or she may have to become the “enforcer” on billing deadlines and will lack credibility if he or she has personally ignored the policy.

Law firms must have stringent cybersecurity policies to protect the confidentiality of client information. But it is often the senior partners who expect that the rules should not apply to them. For example, we hear things like “I don’t care if everyone else’s computer is secured, I want administrative rights.” Or “I don’t care what IT says; I’m still using that cloud service I like.” Or “I’m taking my iPhone to China—I need it.”

The true law firm leader will also lead by example in treating the nonlawyer staff with courtesy and politeness so that associates are not tempted to belittle staff.

The true law firm leader will be willing to learn about the technology that the firm must master to survive and be able to respond with factual explanations in response to complaints about “stupid policies from the IT department.” With any

significant law firm technology upgrade, one of the biggest predictors of success is whether the law firm leaders buy in or fail to participate. If some partners insist on doing things the way they have always done them, it is a certain bet that six months later everyone will have reverted to doing things the old way.

The true law firm leader will take time to listen—to the staff’s problems, to the young associate’s crazy new ideas and to the senior lawyer who bemoans that things are just not how they used to be. That leader will solve problems when possible and offer encouragement and direction when needed.

We are in a time of change. Change is hard.

A perfectly reasonable plan to revise the law firm compensation plan may be just what the law firm needs. But the result of such a plan will mean some get less pay and some get more. It is foreseeable and understandable that the group that will get less could band together to do everything possible to derail the process. The true leader will anticipate those reactions and try to look at things from everyone’s viewpoint. Everyone may not be satisfied, but everyone’s view can be considered.

Our two takeaways this month can be summed up succinctly. First, lead by example if you want to succeed. Second, the firm has hired a lot of smart people. It is not smart to stifle their ideas and creativity.

Jim Calloway is director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He publishes the blog Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips and produces, with Sharon Nelson, the monthly podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology for the LP Division

© 2014 Jim Calloway


Coming in the next issue:

The next issue of the Digest to be launched on 14 January will feature the article of Ron Friedmann dedicated to innovative approaches towards project management in a law firm, as well as the detailed review of the V SPBILF programme.