3 High-Performing Practice Leaders Share 5 Tips and Secrets

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Practice Leaders agree and disagree on a lot of things. But when 3 high-performing practice leaders agree, it’s a learning moment. I enjoyed having an insightful panel discussion with Rich Moche of Mintz, Tom Schulte of Clifford Chance, and Philip Sellinger of Greenberg Traurig at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference in Chicago. We focused on how to drive performance. Each of the 3 panelists presented a different perspective—but the following common themes emerged:


The move into practice leadership means an exponential increase in situations with an apparent need for attention. The solution—prioritize. Don’t limit yourself to taking a hard look at the list of items competing for your precious attention. Scrutinize and decide what you absolutely must do and can’t delegate—and what needs to be done now. Now does not mean just short term—now can mean starting strategic initiatives as well.

Prioritizing can become a second nature skill, enabling practice leaders—and their practices—to be more focused and get substantially more done.


Delegation quickly follows prioritization in lessons learned. These practice leaders looked to see what they could delegate up, sideways, down, or to support staff in some way. Limiting yourself to downward delegation constrains the ability to leverage your time. Practice leaders are moving more towards using support and management staff to help get things done.

Embrace Other Professionals Within the Firm

Embracing other professionals is a key part of a practice leader’s strategy. This includes the Marketing/BD department as well as HR. But, the newest area of support is coming from practice managers. These individuals help with running the practice and ensuring associates are being utilized—both for associate careers and maximizing billable time. Some of these practice managers drive communications and act as the go-to person to try to resolve issues which may not need practice leader attention.

Learn Why Not What

As a relationship manager, partners want to know what their client really wants, needs—and how to make this happen. As a practice manager, your focus becomes: “Why did we win this work”? What can we learn from this to win more work? What did clients see as our strengths and why did we stand out? All the practice managers agreed—the only way to learn is to ask clients—whether they interview clients themselves or through 3rd parties.

Talk and Listen to Millennials

The generational divide is top of mind. Our panelists suggest the best strategy for understanding and getting the most out of your millennials is to talk to them—and listen to what they have to say. The millennials may or may not want to be lifers at your firm but—the more they are heard and believe their voice matters—the longer they will stick around. These practice managers also note millennials have a sense of how the business of law and delivery of legal services may be disrupted—as disruption is a routine part of their life.

Overall, these practice managers are optimistic about the future but don’t suggest it will be easy. Each is highly focused and has a clear idea on where their practices are headed—and what they want their practice to look like. Successful practices use different strategies than other practices. These tactics are among those defining the high performers.

The panel consisted of:

Richard H. Moche, a Member at Mintz Levin and Chair of its Public Finance, Real Estate, Bankruptcy, and Environmental Division

Philip Sellinger, who recently served as Co-chair of the Global Litigation Practice at Greenberg Traurig and currently serves as Managing Shareholder- New Jersey; and Regional Operating Shareholder

Thomas Schulte, Senior Counsel at Clifford Chance. Tom recently served as Head of the Americas Banking & Finance Practice and was a member of the Firm's Partnership Council, the supervisory board of the global firm.

I extend my deep appreciation to Rich, Tom, and Philip for their candor, time, and energy in sharing these thoughts with a captivated audience at the Practice Management 2.0 Conference held last week (October 4, 2018) at the Gleacher Center at the University of Chicago.


Top 7 Client Innovation and Technology Needs

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Two viewpoints dominate innovation—clients and law firms. The gap between the 2 is large. Clients say only half of all law firms are showing any sign of innovation. The law firms who are among the first to close this gap will win the innovation race, or at least take the lead.

BTI’s exclusive research with top legal decision makers uncovered 27 client needs and priorities—some demand technology, while a significant number don’t. We discuss 7 of these needs below:

  1. Online access to (and storage of) working and final documents
    Clients want their law firms to place their documents in a secure, easily accessible digital location. These clients want to see current work product and drafts but want history as well. They also want client-friendly naming conventions, clearly describing the content.

  2. Dashboards with budget status, timelines, and KPIs
    Clients routinely report financial performance for their department and selected matters to key individuals. The days of chasing law firms for this information are coming to an end. The innovative law firms are pushing this out to clients and provide near real-time access in user friendly formats—AKA—a dashboard.

  3. Remote access to work product through apps and cloud‐based systems
    Clients want simple to use apps to access the data on 1 and 2 above, just as they do in many aspects of their life.

  4. Online support
    Clients want to know where to call, knowing it’s not their lawyer, to get help using your website and accessing data.

  5. Contract development and management tools
    In what could be the first real client adoption of AI-based tools, clients see great benefits in using software to manage contract development and existing contract management.

  6. Process and workflow management strategies
    Clients tell us the real benefits in improving process and workflow are better quality, more clear communications, and shorter cycle times. The reduced billable hours and resulting savings are a strong 2nd place benefit.

  7. Artificial/Augmented Intelligence tools
    Top legal decision makers are looking for benefits in e-discovery and contract automation. Other tools such as AI-based legal research can bring benefits—but clients expect law firms to adopt these tools to improve quality and cycle time. The main message—top client needs are foundational—focusing on day-to-day activities and needs. AI becomes interesting when it hit daily operations.

The law firms standing out for innovation are talking to their clients, getting feedback, and putting innovation officers in direct contact with clients—as well as getting client feedback. These firms then build tools or change behaviors and apply these changes to the broader client base.

You can learn all the details behind the 27 client needs and priorities in BTI’s just released BTI Legal Innovation and Technology Outlook 2019: Clients Rank Their Needs and Law Firm Performance. This report also details 40 law firm actions and tactics clients see as the most innovative—in full detail. Learn more here.


(Based on more than 359 in‐depth telephone interviews conducted between February 20, 2017 and July 8, 2018)

The 52 Law Firms Clients Single Out as Best at Innovation

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Who knew. Law firms are innovative. Well, at least half of them are, according to top legal decision makers. Clients point to 338 law firms who bring a meaningful innovation or use of technology. But, most firms bring only select aspects of client needs and priorities. These firms are on the right path.

52 firms stand out as being able to put together the broadest, most impactful and robust innovation and technology strategies. These firms stand out as providing the most benefit as well as being the most innovative. Please join me in congratulating the following firms for their bold, client-centric, and practical innovation, which clients single out as best—in a completely unprompted manner:

You can learn exactly where your firm stands compared to the 52 above and 338 firms clients talk about in our just released report BTI Legal Innovation and Technology Outlook 2019: Clients Rank Their Needs and Law Firm Performance.

This is the only guide to rank firms on legal innovation and technology based solely on client input. You can also immediately discover: 

  • 27 specific client needs and priorities driving innovation and technology. Use this insight to immediately target clients’ most compelling needs and be seen as a market-leading innovator
  • 40 law firm actions and tactics clients see as the most innovative—in full detail

ORDER NOW and immediately receive your copy of this essential report to stay ahead of client needs, other law firms, and the market.


Based on more than 359 in‐depth telephone interviews conducted between February 20, 2017 and July 8, 2018