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Will You Ever Be Ready To Manage?

For senior lawyers, life is certainly more complicated than it used to be. A managing partner or a general counsel from the 1970s or even 80s might seriously contemplate a nervous breakdown or start checking out early retirement options if confronted by the seemingly endless to-do list of their modern counterparts. The problem, of course, is that 21st century life is just so fast-moving and complicated. If you aren't worrying about how to engage with your people (as opposed to taking them out for a three martini lunch) or building talent pipelines (whatever they are), then you are losing sleep over strategic workforce planning, expanding into territories you hadn't even heard of a few years ago or deploying artificial intelligence technology, which might eventually render all of your people (including you) archaic and redundant.

In this ever more worrying scenario, one has to wonder why so few lawyers approach the business of managing (as opposed to managing the law) with proper respect. Why is it, for example, that the classrooms of the world's top business schools are crowded with bankers, accountants, management consultants, engineers, etc while professional lawyers are decidedly thin on the ground? The time commitment may be one reason. Most full-time MBA programs in the US will take you out of the workplace for around two years, although their equivalents in Europe, for example, account for just half of that. And the cost isn't to be sneezed at either. While there are programs such as the distance learning one dedicated to lawyers at the Leicester Castle Business School in the UK, which will leave you with change from $12,000, a full-time course at one of the elite schools around the world could cost over $135,000 once things like accommodation, travel and living expenses are factored in. However, the real deterrent would appear to be the fact that most lawyers still regard their qualification as the qualification and that anything else is just a second best, if that.

This could be both professionally limiting and career damaging. Whatever you may think of it, there is no getting away from the fact that an MBA—at least one from a top school—is almost everywhere across the globe regarded as the most important and effective business qualification, and in major US-owned corporations, it is almost a given for members of the inner circles of power. Perhaps most importantly it can provide the technical know-how essential for any lawyer serious about institutional leadership. And in an increasingly competitive leadership arena, are these really skills that you can afford not to have?

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