Edge International Communiqué
Insights and Analysis from Edge International, the Leading Global Consultancy to the Legal Profession

October, 2012   
A Really Great Retreat

Five tips for staging a killer law firm partner retreat

By Ed Wesemann   


A lawyer recently said to me, "If I found out that I only had two days left to live, I'd want to spend it at my law firm's partner retreat. It's always the longest 48 hours of my life."  


Unfortunately law firms spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on retreats that many partners find to be a boring waste of time. The purpose for most firms' retreats is a combination of fulfilling their partnership agreements requirement for an annual meeting, providing an opportunity for lawyers in disparate practices and offices the chance to get to know each other and to provide training. There is no reason those objectives can't be met while holding a retreat that partners view as a "must attend" event.  


Here are some tips I've picked up as retreat best practices:

  1. Cut the annual meeting to 15 minutes. Get rid of the reports of the audit committee and the loss prevention officer. Unless there is some big contentious issue, just vote on the new partners and the executive committee slate and move on to more worthwhile things.
  2. Get rid of the State of the Firm address. Give partners a briefing book to read on the way to the retreat covering all the presentations that would have been made by committee chairs, practice group chairs, industry teams and the Managing Partner.   Everyone in attendance can read faster than they can listen. Don't worry; the same partners who don't read the materials in advance would have dozed through the presentations.
  3. Put partners together into small discussion groups. Replace presentations with randomly selected small group breakouts on strategic topics. That helps partners get to know each other and actively participate in the firm. But don't have the groups report back orally. Have a recorder write a couple paragraph report and post it on the firm's intranet.
  4. Do something memorable. For not much more than the cost of a golf tournament you could bring in a big name speaker -- a news anchor, famous author, government official, corporate CEO or futurist. Give partners something memorable to tell their spouses and friends about. If the speaker has written a book, make sure to buy copies and give them out to partners. Just assure that the speaker is interesting and can build enthusiasm.
  5. Ditch the golf tournament. No one is a more avid golfer than me, but for dollars spent, golf is a lousy retreat event. It takes up five valuable hours and is limited to just four people getting to know each other. Heck, most of the time partners end up self-selecting their teams to play with people they work with every day. Organize an outing for golfers who want to stay an extra day but find a better recreational event for the retreat.

There's nothing magic here. Just follow the simple golden rule: "Design an event that you would actually like to attend."


Cultural Assessment: The Proper Use of a Power Tool 


Effective leadership can shape and guide culture as a practical operational tool  


By Douglas B. Richardson  



As law firms of all shapes and colors work to adjust their structure, operations and practice to today's dramatically changed legal environment, Edge International is receiving an increased number of inquiries about our cultural assessment capabilities and, thereafter, our approach to working with firms to reinforce, reshape or even dramatically recast their organizational cultures.


A surprising number of these inquiries come not from out of the blue, but from out of the dark. That is, some firms thinking about a cultural assessment are not sure either about "Why this?" or "Why now?" or about the utility a cultural assessment can provide, or the uses to which its results may be put.


Some people regard the concept of "culture" as a vague and amorphous way of describing vague and amorphous touchy-feely Kumbaya-like things: team spirit, collegiality, the firm's kindness/gentleness quotient, commitment to diversity or general organizational well-being.


In fact, the implications of an organization's internal operating norms and external game face are a lot more concrete than that - and effective leadership can learn to shape and guide culture as a practical operational tool for promoting strictly economic desiderata, such as revenue production, productivity, retention, and, of course, profitability.


Put simply, a cultural assessment should be thought of as a power tool targeted to some specific purpose. Stripped to basics, it is an evaluation of two operational correlates: morale and incentives, as they play out in terms of current real-time events. These two factors both shape and are shaped by the firm's culture; in real life they are represented less by abstract values than by informal but powerful norms - the winds you find blowing at the interface between historical legacy, current economic pressures, group dynamics and personal incentives (including, front and center, compensation). Norms also are what you see and what you get in response to various leadership and management influences or initiatives. That's why leaders commission cultural assessments.


Whether one is taking a simple whole-firm perspective or making slice-and-dice comparisons of such "subcultural" variables as level, practice group, office, geographical location, gender, or history with the firm, a good cultural assessment paints a multi-hued picture of the factors that drive desirable attitudes and behaviors. Or, conversely, of the forces that trigger undesirable and dysfunctional forces.


The question of what defines "desirable" attitudes and behaviors is answered by looking hard at the context in which a cultural assessment is to be conducted. Perhaps the impetus is to find out whether a firm's members are likely to follow if leadership takes the firm in a new or risky strategic direction. Perhaps it is in connection with a potential merger as a measure both of how much buy-in the idea enjoys and of the priorities of the firm's members (which, of course, can be compared with those of the potential partner to test the likelihood of the always-elusive "alignment"). Cultural assessments also can serve as a moist finger in the wind to detect the early winds of change or seeds of discontent, or they can act as a diagnostic in firms torn by discord, acrimony, turf wars, power struggles, confusion about succession and unfocused or uncommitted leadership.


The bottom line is that a cultural assessment is like a ruler, and any firm about to spend considerable time and money on applying that ruler must have a clear sense of what they are measuring and what they will do with the information the assessment provides. Put differently, a cultural assessment should never be an abstract information-gathering "exercise." It is best used as a strategic and tactical support tool, a measure of the energy, commitment, resiliency, and collaboration that can be brought to bear on any leadership priority.

 Contact the author, Douglas B. Richardson  


Making LPM Training Work


"One-size fits all" ends up fitting no one. 

By Pamela Woldow




The global Legal Project Management trend is morphing from LPM 1.0 to LPM 2.0. Law firms and legal departments are moving from the "What Is LPM and Why Should We Care?" stage to a nuts-and-bolts focus on "How Do We Implement LPM and Make It Work?" Firms now are moving past basic LPM concepts to teaching all their lawyers "granular" hands-on LPM application skills.


Particularly for larger firms, orchestrating training for everyone can be a major logistical (and financial) challenge: How can we achieve full immersion quickly? How do we decide who gets trained first? How can we flatten the learning curve and reduce lawyer resistance? How do we keep a tight rein on the costs of rollout and implementation?


In this technology-driven age, some firms are thinking about trying video-conferenced LPM training approaches. The apparent benefits seem obvious: expert trainers can leverage their time better. Program design and implementation costs are lower. Participant headcount can be ramped up to speed for LPM institutionalization. Everyone can receive the same material, presented in a uniform way.


However, six years of global LPM training experience has taught us that if you want faster development of LPM skills, in-person training that is tailored to the area in which lawyers actually work is critically important. Generic or "one-and-done" training just doesn't work. "One-size fits all" ends up fitting no one.


To borrow the British term, LPM training must be "bespoke." Workshop materials that focus on real-life legal projects, phases and tasks engage the participants better and lead to quicker mastery of LPM tools and techniques. Conversely, training that does not include real-time face-to-face interaction and discussion of practical applications results in lethargic LPM adoption, resulting in large scale LPM initiatives that go nowhere. In fact, several firms that tried video LPM training found that it failed disastrously -- no one listened, no one tried to implement LPM methods, and clients who were promised that "we've implemented LPM" angrily pressed the "BS" button. These firms were compelled to repeat their LPM roll-outs using more interactive and tailored approaches. Much time and money was wasted.


LPM 3.0 will surely come at some point, no doubt bringing a better set of best practices for rolling out LPM quickly and effectively to large groups of learners. In the meantime, firms need LPM training approaches that yield a return on investment and provide immediate value. For the time being, that means:

  • Bespoke training materials designed after intensive information-gathering about the trainees' practice, clients, client demands, typical engagements and current service delivery approaches.
  • An intensely interactive training approach geared toward real-time application of LPM methods to real-life scenarios.
  • A continuing feedback loop with the team being trained and availability of follow-up coaching to support individuals and teams as they "drill down" into LPM application to their work.


 Contact the author, Pam Woldow  

Archived Edge International Communiqués 
In This Issue
A Really Great Retreat
Cultural Assessment: The Proper Use of A Power Tool
Making LPM Training Work
  Gerry Riskin

Gerry Riskin 





Ed Wesemann

Jordan Furlong 


Pam Woldow
Doug Richardson 

John Plank 

 John Plank








New York,

Ft. Lauderdale, 

Mike White
Atlanta, GA

Of Counsel 

Legal League Consulting, LLC  
Dehli and Mumbai,
At The Podium: Upcoming Appearances by Edge Partners    





Jordan Furlong Oct 11
Keynote Address
Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System
Denver CO     


Pam Woldow October 18
Legal Project Management: Unprecedented Opportunities & Current Challenges
Association of Legal Administrators (ALA), Region 1
Mashantucket, CT


Pam Woldow  October 26
Legal Project Management: The Game Changer
TLOMA - The Law Office Management Association
Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville, Ontario, Canada  



Jordan Furlong Nov 02
Keynote Address
Oregon State Bar House of Delegates Annual Meeting
Portland OR


Pam Woldow  Nov 19
Legal Project Management: The Global Shift in Legal Services
LawAsia Annual Conference
The Westin Resort, Nusa Dua, Bali




Edge Blogs

Jordan Furlong's  



Ed Wesemann's: Creating Dominance


Pam Woldow's At The Intersection


Gerry Riskin's Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices

Nick Jarrett-Kerr's NJK

Edge Inter
national is a global consultancy that provides strategic advice and tactical guidance to law firms and law departments worldwide. Read more about us or contact one of our partners