To operate profitably in the business of law, attorneys are now perceived to have to understand the fundamentals of management. One of the key management skills is interacting effectively with clients. Another is developing business solutions versus dealing with legal problems in isolation. Last Spring, Jones Day Law Firm covered that ground nicely in its "Business-Focused Solutions" edition of its PRACTICE PERSPECTIVES: PRODUCT LIABILITY & TORT LITIGATION.
This model, laid out by Jones Day a year ago, has become mainstream. A dramatic drop in PPP will certainly accelerate change. As Dizik explains, law firms are now sponsoring in-house business development courses, sending leadership and high-potential employees to tailored management programs at institutions of higher learning and encouraging participation in joint J.D./M.B.A. programs.
However, the elephant in the room is the question: Will all this boost PPP? Corporate America is full of those with advanced management skills, including graduate degrees in business. That did not prevent the pickle it's in. GE has its own in-house executive development training program. This year it lost its AAA credit rating and its shareholders suffered stunning losses. Is there any correlation, never mind assuming a cause-effect relationship, between training in management and performance that generates profitability - and sustains it?
Yes, there are fundamentals that have to be mastered. Those range from being able to decipher the meaning behind the numbers on a balance sheet to grasping the link between costs and benefits. But those could be picked up by any bright, ambitious lawyer who is handed a few books before starting date. The bottom line, pun intended, is what the lawyer will do with that knowledge base.
Law firms might try to figure out: How can we recruit lawyers who also perform well as managers and how can we motivate those already on board to behave like businesspeople? Training might have little or nothing to do with it. In fact, such training might eventually prove to be counterproductive.