Enter your email address to subscribe to our blog:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Add to Google
Add to My AOL
Subscribe in Bloglines



The mistakes and misconceptions fall into 4 categories:

  • Timing

          Not starting early enough to identify and groom successors

          Not allowing sufficient time for overlap and transfer of responsibilities

  • Role behavior analysis

         Looking for a clone

         Not involving younger generations in creating a vision

         Considering the biggest business generators to be the best leadership material

         Undervaluing interpersonal skills and coaching for new leaders and successors

         Lack of transparency

  • Client involvement

        When the role is a client/customer-facing role:

          Not soliciting client views on what makes good leaders and managers

          Not asking what the client wants most in a relationship

          Not involving the client in the transitioning process

  • Not being inclusive

          Not inviting input from all generations of stakeholders

          Not making criteria known

          Undervaluing diversity in all its aspects

©  Phyllis Weiss Haserot  2007.  Revised 2015.

    pwhaserot@pdcounsel.com    www.pdcounsel.com 


If you are thinking about transitioning into banking or work with that industry, the 43-page new dress code from Swiss bank UBS AG should get your attention. (It immediately drove pursuit of dress code stories by ABC and MSNBC,  judging from media queries I received the day after Elena Berton’s story “Dress to Impress, UBS Tells Its Staff” appeared on the front page of the Wall Street Journal Money & Finance (!) section, Dec. 15, 2011.)

The level of detail for the dress code UBS is testing with Swiss retail banking staff is astounding. The intent is to impress customers using very precise specifications on garments, including their quality, grooming and hygiene to re-establish confidence in the brand. Further this is intended to mend relations with clients. Pardon my skepticism regarding these lofty and important objectives. Isn’t the strategy a bit superficial considering what we think we know about what it takes to re-establish and mend client relations?

In case you are curious about the code, here are some examples of the specifications according to the article:

  • Suits only in dark grey, black and navy blue (conveying competence, sobriety, formalism)



Though it wasn’t at all the theme of his economist-oriented remarks, below are some of my thoughts inspired by Bruce MacEwen’s (Adam Smith Esq.) talk on the legal profession to the Legal Marketing Association/Metro New York chapter on April 15th.


 I believe effective changes of the law and other professional services firm business model need to come from a meeting of the minds of clients, current (mostly Baby Boomer) decision-makers and the next generations following them who function with a different set of formative influences and world views. Willingness of law schools to modify their curriculum to align better with real world practice realities would be a great help to both students and employers.


Some nuggets extracted from MacEwen’s talk:

  • Clients care about value, not hours expended.
  • One-third of the legal department purchasing decision is based on diversity.
  • There is a trend toward legal departments asking their outside firms to collaborate with each other.
  • Some general counsel are willing to experiment with the billing system with no punishment for ”messing up.”
  • Trust is missing in many inside/outside counsel relationships and is necessary for positive change in the system.

Little of the above is news in 2010 to an audience of law marketers and most applies to other professional services as well.


Ways in which professionals under 35 would like to change the model:

  • Diversity is expected, and firms should capitalize on it by encouraging and supporting diversity in not only demographics but in diverse thinking as well.
  • They want a multiplicity of career paths, off- and on-ramping.; flexibility.
  • They want transparency and trust in leadership and management.

 Some crucial questions:

  • How to increase trust at all levels? The still growing free-agency model works against trust and loyalty.
  • How do off- and on-rampers and their employers assure up-to-date skills?
  • Will a growing economy bring complacency again?
  • And MacEwen’s question: If a firm’s strategy is no longer growth, what is it? And what does no-growth or slow-growth mean for the careers of young professionals in the huge Millennial/Gen Y generation?

 Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com


Is age diversity causing a disconnect between you or your colleagues and your clients? In tough times firms scrutinize many significant aspects of practice they (unfortunately) overlook in better times. The impact of generational differences should be prominently on that list of items.

Firms should be careful to look at their succession planning through a generational lens as well.

Tensions among the generations in the workplace have been felt for a while - and firms have done little to achieve better harmony. But when it affects client relationships - as it very clearly can and often does - then it gets attention!

For more on what to look for, see my blog post on Legal Current.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com


Rhode Island-based consultant Linda LaBrie (www.labrieconsulting.com ), who specializes in conducting client satisfaction interviews, thinks that among the greatest benefits to firms from implementing these interviews is the critical and extremely sensitive process of succession planning. In a post on the Legal Marketing Association's listserve, LaBrie wrote: "Even within the most 'collegial, teamwork oriented' firm environments, there exist too many reasons client relationship managers don't wish to nurture new successors or (even worse) are not aware that leadership transitions are underway within client organizations. Not managing this reality may be the greatest negative impact on the future health and well-being of thousands of existing client/firm relationships."

Taking her thoughts further, I would add that not only can the firm get a sense of when existing relationships are  or are not working, but also the feedback from client interviews can guide firms in choosing successors who will likely be aligned with the client's desired way of working and personal style.

The client should be brought into the transitioning process early on so that senior partner, heir apparent and client can effect a gradual and smooth transition focused on client needs in the present and future.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com


Many of the stories I hear are about generational differences in the workplace within an organization. They are usually stories of frustration, often humorous, sometimes overly critical and despairing. As important as these situations are, let's look for a moment at differences that can either destroy client relationships or energize and enhance them.

Even before Gen Y/Millennials hit the workplace, partners and others were worrying about Generation X, fearing that they didn't know how to properly relate to clients of an older generation. In a client relationship, there may be less behavioral flexibility tolerated than within a firm.

Gen Y needs a greater awareness of what Baby Boomers and Traditionalists (including clients)  consider appropriate behavior, ways of communicating, and service levels. The more senior lawyers in the firm need to speak respectfully with the younger generations to explain the "why" behind expecting certain ways of behaving, even when they think their expectations should be obvious and common sense. It may not be common sense to young people who grew up in a different social environment with different rules (or lack of them). It is crucial to develop a sense of trust and transparency among the generations to give and take constructive criticism and best serve clients so that they will stay in the fold.

To foster effective transitions, firms need to create an environment which is attractive to the younger as well as the older generations. It can be built around what people of all generations want: to be respected, recognized, and remembered. They also want to be coached, consulted (on actions that will affect them) and connected to their organization and it mission. The mission of a professional firm is first and foremost to serve its clients.

What do you think? Please share some of your stories.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot       www.pdcounsel.com


I’ve been participating in a discussion – part rebellion – against the use of the term “soft skills” since the phrase connotes to many people something less valuable than the so-called hard skills. We are talking about substituting the phrase “success skills,” since they are crucial for success.

The derivation of the terms can be traced back to the ability to quantify results in hard numbers. Those called soft skills are harder to quantify. They are also harder for most people to learn and apply. So-called soft skills are human performance skills and relationship skills. Both hard and soft skills are actually success skills.

More and more those human performance skills and creative thinking are the success differentiators. They can’t be learned by rote memory or by searching the Internet. They are the client skills that can’t be outsourced.

For the next generation, it’s the soft/success/ human performance skills – call them what you like – that are essential for effective leadership and client transitions.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot     www.pdcounsel.com

Blog developed by eLawMarketing