Introducing the May 2023 Issue

From The Practice May/June 2023
A letter from the editors

This issue, anchored by Center on the Legal Profession senior fellow Robert Couture, explores the importance of leadership in strategy. Deploying a similar methodology to his 2017 article on “Post-Recessions Strategies” which examined law firm strategy over time using revenue per lawyer and number of lawyers, in this issue Couture links strategy to leadership. Couture explains his reasoning as follows:

Using 2016 data from the American Lawyer, firms were positioned on an “axis of differentiation” that quantified the sophistication of the work they were doing and measured their ability to impact the marketplace based on their size. In this piece, as in my 2017 article, the amount a client is willing to pay for work acts as a proxy to understand the sophistication of that work. Six years later, it is instructive to look at where firms were then and where they are today after a multiyear period of very high demand growth for legal services.

To do so, Couture interviews the managing partners of three major law firms: Paul Weiss, Davis Polk, and Kirkland & Ellis, in order to understand how they drive strategy throughout their organizations. He also speaks with the Seyfarth Shaw chair-elect to understand her perspectives on strategy as she prepares to take over. In this issue, we also look at the emerging role of the chief strategy officer, a mainstay of the corporate landscape that has now come to the legal profession. We then explore how executive education programs are teaching practicing lawyers about strategy, both to help them understand client business as well as provide them with a foundation for firm leadership. As Rebecca Coyne, assistant dean for executive education at Harvard Law School, says in “Animating Strategy for Lawyers,” “Strategy is an amorphous concept.” This issue unpacks that idea further, looking at how lawyers understand and implement it. We conclude this issue with a conversation with the chief legal officer of McKinsey, who speaks about how his background in law firms, government, in-house, and consulting has given him a particular view of strategy.