Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Managing Partners Can Learn From President Obama

President Obama’s inaugural address has been applauded around the world. And, I believe, deservedly so. As I studied the words of the speech, it struck me that not only did the speech capture the mood of the United States and world generally; it also captured the mood of the legal profession too. This could easily have been an address from a visionary Managing Partner to his colleagues upon his election.

Similar themes: ‘in the midst of a crisis’, ‘a sapping of confidence’, ‘an inevitable decline’ and ‘a future generation that must lower its sights’. While recognising these challenges, President Obama went on to offer hope pointing out that previous challenges in history were overcome by the ‘risk-takers, the doers and the makers of things.’ In outlining his ambitious plans for his presidency, he acknowledged that there were ‘some who question the scale of our ambitions....what cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them ..that stale arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.’ Sound familiar?

If President Obama were a Managing Partner, his call to action might also be very similar (allowing for one or two word changes): ‘What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, - a recognition, on the part of every lawyer, that we have duties to ourselves, to the firm and to our clients, duties that we would not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task. This is the price and promise of partnership.”

Managing Partners take note.