Published October 2018
This book is a treasure-trove of insight and wisdom. Every page is teeming with the benefits of 30 years of hard work – the lived experience of ‘been there, done that’ through many excitements and challenges. The role of managing partner in a law firm can be a lonely one at times. Few others will fully appreciate the nature or the pressure of the decisions and actions that have to be taken, sometimes with imperfect information and almost always against the clock. This book will be like having a coach and mentor by your side as a constant guide and companion.
For most rational, left-brained lawyers, the affirmation of the need for a clear purpose, vision and strategy will be welcome news. So too, the advice to focus individuals and the firm on what they are truly good at. And the drive for the proper pay-off and returns for personal and collective efforts will undoubtedly resonate. But there is something more important here, too. You cannot finish Lynne’s Laws without understanding the power of passion and a ‘good fit’: those positive, driving, motivating forces so often overlooked or under-valued in professional services businesses, but without which the working environment can be such a soulless, enervating place. The so-called ‘soft skills’ (that in fact underpin everything in organisations populated by infinitely varied, idiosyncratic, and temperamental human beings – however talented they might otherwise be) are shown here time and time again to have a purpose and a value that is disproportionate to their perceived worth.
The style throughout these pages is direct, personal and compelling. It is also generous in sharing the learning and reflections from three decades of building and sustaining organisational coherence and success through a period of profound change in legal practice. You cannot fail to be impressed by it, to learn from it and even, on occasion, to be moved by it.
Professor Stephen Mayson , DeAuthor of Making Sense of Law Firms and Law Firm Strategy: Competitive Advantage and Valuation
This is a fantastic resource for anyone involved in law firm management, whether just starting out on that lonely road, or an old timer like me. Lynne has obviously thought deeply and read widely on the subject over the years. She brilliantly distils the essence of what she has learned from this and from her practical experience to produce a very readable book, peppered with entertaining and informative anecdotes which really bring to life the lessons she has learned and is now passing on.
And in these changing times of incorporation, private equity and public listing, and constant rumours of the death of partnership, it is great to see that Lynne and I share a common belief that partnership is still the best business structure for law firms, and that our firms have thrived under it.
Lynne rightly says that in business planning you should pay attention more to your own strengths and the opportunities in the market than to your competitors, but if I did create a list of our top competitors, then it is a tribute to Lynne’s leadership that both of her firms would certainly be on it.
David Marshall, Managing Partner, Anthony Gold Solicitors
Using her two law firms as a 30-year case study, Lynne uncovers what it takes to create a truly great business – the passion, the rigour, the courage and self-belief. Using real examples she shares her wisdom and experience, her failures and successes, to tell the story of how her firm grew – and the invaluable lessons it taught her.
Lynne explores with striking clarity what she has learned about how all this works (or sometimes doesn’t!), and why it is so important.
She has created an invaluable handbook for others – a practical guide for how to build a great law firm, an ethical workplace, and a life that is meaningful and fun. And the things you need to do each and every day to keep it that way.
This book is a rich treasure of business theory brought to life with flesh-and-blood examples. If you haven’t got time for an MBA, you should certainly read this book.
Des O’Connell, Sherwood PSF Consulting (ex-managing partner of a City law firm)
This is a remarkable achievement. It combines a hugely readable personal story of the founder of a successful law firm with a detailed clear and very practical ‘how to do it manual’ full of transferable ideas for anyone who wants to learn about leadership.
Lynne’s passion and principles shine through and are allied with a healthy dose of pragmatism as well as lacking the hubris that sometimes mars other such monographs.
Lynne starts with a caveat – after all she is a lawyer – namely that her firm is relatively small – comprising than the ‘magic number’ of 150 people seen by anthropologists as the ideal maximum for a ‘tribe’. However it seems to me that those leading larger firms and ‘tribes’ within them could nonetheless learn a lot from ‘Lynne’s laws’ – although as she points out there are limits to how well any leader – however inspirational – can manage too much complexity and diversity within a single organisation. After all Lynne did split her original firm into two separate ones precisely because of this.
The contents list reads like one from any business school ‘syllabus’ on how to set up and sustain a successful professional services firm – including in a period of constant change. All the ‘laws’ are evidence based – ie supported by both research and experience; moreover unlike some ‘this is how I did it’ texts, Lynne explains in some detail how she went about putting them into practice (using stories of successes and mistakes in equal measure) and thereby makes them transferable beyond her own context. It seems to me that her advice is relevant to any business that depends for success on delivering the highest level of client service and creating a group of highly engaged and talented group of people who want to do just that. At the end of each chapter she asks a ‘few great questions’ as a good starting point for reflection and action (and a useful summary of the Law in question).
What stands out is the emphasis (time and attention) the author spent (and still spends in supporting her successors) in defining and communicating the firm’s fundamental purpose and values, and creating/refreshing the ‘vision’ of what success looks like; also on ensuring that these are genuinely and consistently shared demonstrated by its people and demonstrated in how they behave. Many organisations strive for this but few have the courage to follow through and to make the necessary investment to do so. A good example of this is one of Lynne’s fundamental recruitment ‘laws’ – namely always to recruit for attitude rather than primarily for skills (that can be trained) ; and also her insistence on moving out of the firm (including the partnership) people who turn out not to share the values or who are unwilling or unable to perform as required (always of course doing this in way that respects their humanity).
The main limitation of the ‘story’ ,as Lynne acknowledges, is that she was able to start with a blank sheet of paper and it is always more difficult to change an established organisation – even if many of the principles and processes described are transferable. This is especially true for a Firm that is reasonably ‘good’ but not yet ‘great’ – or which is facing the challenge of remaining great.in increasingly challenging markets (for both clients and people).
Moreover, like any Founder – Lynne has a degree of power (in the best sense of the word) to make things happen that few leaders enjoy – or not always in the eyes of all their stakeholders. Maybe the sequel will fill this gap – because Lynne says she is now looking forward to working as a mentor and coach to other leaders who want to build a sustainable organisation that is as great for clients as it is for the people who work in it.
Overall this is a fascinating read – full of stories and wise advice shared with serious intent and a touch of humour throughout.
Sally Woodward, Solicitor, Business and Leadership Coach, Founding Principal Sherwood PSF Consulting.
If anyone was going to write a book about being a managing partner, Lynne is the ideal candidate. She’s a powerhouse.
Her unbridled energy, infectious enthusiasm and likeable personality means that she relates to clients, staff and suppliers alike in the most positive way. And reading it from the perspective of an accountant who has been in practice (and running one) for many years, what she has to say in her book doesn’t just apply to law firms. The easily digestible information that Lynne has shared here is a must read for any managing partner of a professional services company or firm, anyone aspiring to lead such an organisation and anyone working in the professions. In fact, it’s just an enlightening read for any one of us working in commerce today.
Jeff Gitter, Senior Partner Lubbock Fine Chartered Accountants
All too often, books on leadership and success are written by managers, people who, by definition, mostly tend to be great at FOLLOWING the directives, strategies and systems set by the visionaries and leaders they work for.
That’s not to say that management isn’t an important or even VITAL skillset within the operating of any successful operation or business but it sometimes seems to me that there are already PLENTY of books out there aimed at efficiency, scale and other aspects of the management skillset yet far too few that get into the genuine nitty-gritty of what goes on in the mind of someone focused on the big-picture, helicopter-view of a business that marks out the the true leader and visionary.
What’s even rarer is to hear of this from someone who not only been successful in bringing their vision to life but who has also been able to codify and repeat multiple times with new businesses demonstrating both the soundness and the universality of the principles they use.
Lynne Burdon has done exactly that, creating several VERY successful companies despite doing things in a markedly different way than all of her competitors, showing that even something as established and often ‘stuffy’ as law practice can benefit from creativity, innovation and a breath of fresh air every now and then.
In the pages of this book, Lynne lifts back the curtain on the exact philosophies, principles and practices she employed over the years, the good, the bad AND the ugly and shares them in a practical, use-the-next-day manner that will get the reader thinking differently about how they can create an environment and culture where success can thrive naturally and without all of the control, limitation and restriction so common in organisations these days.
If you’ve been looking for a way to create more impact, more influence and more inspiration both within your business and the niche it serves, you’ll really enjoy some of the truth-bombs Lynne’s Laws will be dropping on you.