Recent Publications
Publication Excerpts
Succession Planning: A Review of the...
Book review: The Highest Goal
Book Review
Law Firm Culture: What Doesn't Kill...
Six Degrees of Separation
Top 40 Corporate Counsel: Under 40
Lexpert 1999-2000
Lexpert 2001
Lexpert 2002-2003
Lexpert 2004
Lexpert 2005
Succession Planning (Feature) - Feb 2005

A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE on succession planning yielded nothing new. A reread of William Rothwell’s Effective Succession Planning: Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within (New York, 2001), a leading text, and a slew of Harvard Business Review and other such articles, left me with the feeling of having read the same thing over and over again. All of the literature was full of strategic planning language, buzz words, models, flow-charts and lists of all types.

Who was to argue? Everyone knows that succession planning is fundamental to ensuring the continuity of the corporate crown jewels, i.e., leadership, vision, talent, et cetera. There is a science of how to do it. Right? Wrong.
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Book Review: The Highest Goal (Book Review) - Feb 2005

Lawyers are not perfect. However, the hundreds of assessments completed by top-ranked lawyers over the past couple of years for various Lexpert cover stories do reveal one common strength: they are highly goal- and achievement-oriented. Why then would a book such as The Highest Goal be of any value to most lawyers?

The answer is simple. Lawyers are goal-oriented and achievement-focused. But, for the most part, they are overly focused on extrinsic achievement and other people’s goals (OPG). Much like playing with other people’s money (OPM), achieving other people’s goals just does not bring the same degree of satisfaction. When it comes down to personal and intrinsic goals, many lawyers are similar to the shoemaker’s children, shoeless and failing to attain their most important goal which, if realized, would bring greater meaning and fulfillment.
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Law Firm Culture: What Doesn’t Kill You... (Feature) - Mar 2005

“NOTHING FAILS LIKE SUCCESS.” This is how Richard Tanner Pascale begins his ground-breaking Managing on the Edge: Companies That Use Conflict to Stay Ahead (New York, 1990). “Winning organizations,” Pascale suggests, “are locked in the embrace of a potentially deadly paradox. This is because great strengths are inevitably the root of weakness.”

Pascale argues that successful companies become fixated on the business model that made them successful. Achieving further success is accomplished by way of incremental improvement to the existing model, i.e., closed-loop-thinking, to the almost total exclusion of innovative out-of-the-box thinking. The corporate culture of the organization becomes “closed”.
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  Six Degrees of Separation: Canada/US Corporate Negotiations (Feature) - Apr 2005

Six Degrees Of Separation is the title of a play and screenplay written by John Guare. The plot is derived from the true story of a con man who bluffed his way into New York high society by claiming to be the son of a famous actor.

Six degrees of separation is also a global human interconnection theory first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called Chains. In the 1950s, Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT and Manfred Kochen of IBM set out to prove the theory mathematically, although they were unable to solve the problem to their own satisfaction.
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Mentoring: The Sixth Discipline (Feature) - May 2005

BUSINESS BOOKS COME AND GO. But every once in a while there is one that resonates with such uncommon sense that it becomes a classic. One such book is The Fifth Discipline (New York, 1990) authored by Peter M. Senge. At the beginning of his text, Senge quotes Arie de Geus, then head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell, as follows: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Exactly. And here is the central issue. How do we “learn faster” than our competitors?

Throughout 371 pages Senge hits hard with ideas, facts and a unique combination of professional experience, insight and intuition. “Learning disabilities are tragic in children, but they are fatal in organizations,” he writes. “Because of them few organizations live even half as long as a person—most die before they reach the age of 40. But mastery,” he goes on to explain, “can also mean a special level of proficiency. A master craftsman does not dominate pottery or weaving.
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  Generation What? (Feature) - Jun 2005

I should be so lucky. Having read The Globe and Mail story entitled “Professionals demanding a work-life balance—and backing it up” (March 17, 2005) prior to writing this article, I was left with one overriding impression: “Big problem. What are law firms going to do?” The Globe story was based on a survey by Toronto-based Catalyst Canada of more than 1,400 Canadian lawyers highlighting generational and value differences within the profession.

It is important to note that this occurred to me before my research and interviews took place; before I interviewed such leading economic/social scientists as Michael Adams, Robert Barnard and Richard Florida; and before I read, and re-read, Bobos in Paradise (David Brooks, 2000), Chips and Pop (Robert Barnard, 1998), The Rise of the Creative Class (Richard Florida, 2002), Sex in the Snow (Michael Adams, 1997) and Fire and Ice (Michael Adams, 2003). Finally, and perhaps most significantly, before I received the generous offer of Environics Analytics to use PRIZMCE, their newest market/social segmentation tool, to generate a test geo-demographic profile of a relatively small number of successful lawyers. The 65-lawyer Toronto office of Bennett Jones LLP kindly participated.

What can I say? My thinking changed about 180 degrees and, at the end of all of this, I was left with a very different impression. It was now along the lines of “I should be so lucky to be any one of these lawyers.”
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  Talent Retention Strategies - Jul 2005

“COUDERT NY FLIES in rescue team as entire UK partnership quits. Orrick lands eleven partners in massive cross-border London and Moscow raids.” This front-page story in the May 23, 2005 issue of The Lawyer, a UK publication, represents every managing partner’s worst nightmare, i.e., the defection en masse of key talent critical to the success of the firm. In this case eight London partners, including managing partner Dean Poster, and three Moscow partners at Coudert Brothers LLP jumped ship for US-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Coudert is currently fighting to retain 20 remaining London associates, now being similarly courted by Orrick.

The Coudert story sounds dramatic, but in many ways it is less significant than The Globe and Mail (March 17, 2005) feature story describing the recent Catalyst study of over 1,400 Canadian lawyers. Catalyst reported that 62 per cent of the female associates and 47 per cent of male associates surveyed expect to leave their firms in the next five years. Now there is a retention issue.

The purpose of this article is not to belabor the obvious. The retention of talent critical to a law firm’s success is becoming a tougher challenge. Most of us know this. Many firms are engaged in deep discussion regarding the issue. It seemed, therefore, timely to collect some of the best thinking in respect to talent retention. Accordingly, this article provides an overview of the factors that are making retention an increasingly dangerous threat to the well being of firms. It then sets out some of the best thinking on how to address the issue.
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Creativity - Sep 2005

Let’s face it, creative is not the first word that comes to mind when someone mentions lawyers. Artists, musicians and even software engineers are seen as more logical choices when talking about creativity. Readers may thus understand that upon review of the standard biographies of the lawyers to be interviewed for this article, the first reaction of this writer was a mental flashback to a scene from the 1989 comedy When Harry Met Sally.
In this scene Harry (Billy Crystal) is suggesting to a rather uptight Sally (Meg Ryan) that she has never experienced great sex. Harry’s provocative remark sets off the following exchange:

Harry: With whom did you have this great sex?
Sally: (indignantly) I am not going to tell you that!
Harry: Fine, don’t tell me.
Sally: Shel Gordon.
Harry: (incredulously) Shel? Sheldon? No, no, you didn’t have great sex with…Sheldon.
Sally: I did too.
Harry: No, you didn’t! A Sheldon can do your income taxes. If you need a root canal,
Sheldon’s your man. But humping and
pumping is not Sheldon’s strong suit. It’s the name.

It’s Not the Name or Look

Like Harry, some of us never move on from stereotyped views of who is sexy or cool and who is not. The same is true with respect to our perception of who is creative and who is not. Given a choice between a guitar toting youth in blue jeans and a businessman or woman in a grey flannel suit, most of us will assume the kid with the guitar to be the more creative.
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Top 40 Corporate Counsel: Under 40 (Feature) - Nov/Dec 2005

Always have been and always will be a winning combination. And this group of 40 in-house corporate counsel, 40 years of age and under, has it all. Much like Yo-Yo Ma or Vanessa-Mae, they combine classical or historic interpretation with a contemporary approach. They defy stereotypes, rewriting in a fundamental sense their role and career descriptions and adapting to an increasingly slippery and complex corporate and regulatory slope.

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