Outside Directorship

As corporate governance principles have evolved, a short list of generally recognized “best practices” has emerged, which find application across the spectrum of business organizations, from major public companies to startups and non-profits. One key entry on that short list is the desirability of having a place on the Board for one or more outside or independent directors. We can and do serve in that role for law firms.

Law firms tend to be lightly managed enterprises as compared to other types of business, organized primarily along the horizontal dimension with highly distributed decision-making, an extremely flat hierarchy. Moreover, leadership at the front lines of client service is often driven by the experience, instincts, and habits of individual partners without common guidelines or standards being applied across the firm to provide a consistent, distinctly recognizable client experience. This has historic roots, is understandable in terms of lawyers’ intellectual and emotional preferences, and on a day-to-day basis can make a great deal of sense once one stipulates to the assumptions of the familiar law firm business model.

However, it tends to impede or undercut strategic clarity, steady perseverance in pursuit of long-term firm-wide objectives, and presenting the outside world a unified and consistent firm identity and brand position. This in turn elevates the required role of the Board in articulating and being the living advocate of those long-term priorities for the firm as a whole. (Depending on your firm’s nomenclature, substitute “Management” or “Executive” Committee, etc.—we abstract from the entity’s exact title.)

That’s why we believe, and many or our client firms agree, that law firm Boards benefit especially from regular input from an independent outside director—an expert individual who can bring an industry-wide perspective unencumbered by self-interest in any particular initiative that will favor or disfavor (say) a practice area, office, or component of the compensation plan.

We find service in such roles very rewarding for all concerned.

Publications

Contact

Bruce MacEwen, President
Email
direct: +1.212.866.4800
mobile: .+1.212.866.2630
New York

Janet Stanton, Partner
Email
direct: +1.212.866.4270
New York

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