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管理

好律师为什么当不了好领导

Deena Shanker 2013年01月17日

尽管律师事务所的薪酬出了名地高,但这个行业的人员流动率同样高得惊人,而管理不善是背后很重要的一个原因。律所的管理者很多都是优秀的律师出身,但管理需要的是完全不同的一套技能,好律师不见得能胜任。有鉴于此,一些法学院开始推出专门面向律所的管理课程。

    2012年底,知名律师事务所Cravath, Swaine & Moore公布了年终奖,为全美律所行业设立了标杆。今年的年终奖为10,000-60,000美元,较前两年有显著提升。很多律所迅速跟进,包括世达律师事务所(Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom)、Simpson Thacher和Sullivan & Cromwell。法律界的很多管理者坚信,高额奖金是吸引和留住一流人才的必要手段,但律师的流动率告诉我们不是这么回事。

    律所素有向律师支付高额薪水和奖金的传统,但律所人员的频繁流动也广为人知。全美法律专业人士委员会基金会(National Association for Legal Professionals Foundation,简称:NALP基金会)的数据显示,2010年,在职律师人数为251-500名的律所中有19%的律师离职,律所提供的头号离职原因很含糊,都是“工作质量不达标”。(在职律师人数不超过100名的律所平均人员流失率为20%。)可与之相比的是《财富》杂志(Fortune)“最适宜工作的100家公司”的这一比率仅为2-3%(当然,这些最佳雇主中鲜有律所)。这些律所哪里做得不对?

    律师离职有很多原因。管理不善是原因之一。Schulte Roth & Zabel的一位中层律师称:“人们离职时的普遍感慨是谢天谢地,我终于不必应对这些无理要求了。因为归根结底,让人烦恼的是总是会遇到或担心遇到各种各样的无理要求。”

    The People's Therapist、Life In Big Law等业内博客已成为律师们倾诉苦恼的平台,诉苦的内容从最后一分钟被要求取消休假,到决不能对老板说“不”,应有尽有。密歇根州最近的一宗法律诉讼或许能让这些律师们感到心有戚戚。密歇根州律所Canfield的前合伙人迪恩•阿尔托贝利表示,合伙人们也有苦恼。在上个月提交的一项诉讼中,阿尔托贝利指控称,他被推崇“畏惧文化”的经理们排挤出了公司。

    考虑到每家律所投资在新聘用律师身上的费用,合伙人加强对律师工作满意度的关注合情合理。但律所咨询公司Edge International的创始合伙人盖瑞•瑞斯金指出,“大多数律所无视”人员损耗成本。瑞斯金说:“这样的损耗成本不可接受,但律所行业一直在承担这样的成本。”

    除了薪水和奖金,律所耗费数千美元招募和培训每位律师,通常还要支付律师资格考试的考前课程、搬家费用和持续的法律教育费用。一旦这位律师离开律所,这些投资也就随之被带走了。加拿大卡尔加里哈斯卡尼商学院(Haskayne School of Business)教授彼得•雪拉说,这种高流动模式或许是一种恶性循环。他说,既然合伙人认为招来的律师会在几年内离职,就不愿花时间来好好地管理或培养任何一位特定的律师,结果导致这些律师更快地离开。

    大多数律所是由从未接受过正式管理培训的律师们管理的。瑞斯金认为,即便是最好的律师,也可能是最糟的领导。“不能用律师技能来管理企业,”他说,合伙人需要“认识到这一点,管理之道与法律业务完全不同”。

    In late 2012, top law firmCravath, Swaine & Moore announced its year-end bonuses, setting the bar for law firms around the country. Ranging from $10,000 to $60,000, the bonuses took a significant leap from those of the last two years. A number of other firms quickly followed suit, including Skadden Arps Meagher & Flom, Simpson Thacher, and Sullivan & Cromwell. But while many leaders in the legal world insist that big bonuses are necessary to attract and retain top talent, lawyer turnover rates tell a different story.

    Despite a history of paying high salaries and large bonuses to their attorneys, law firms suffer from notoriously busy revolving doors. According to the National Association for Legal Professionals Foundation, in 2010, firms with 251 to 500 attorneys lost 19% of their associates, with the top reason for departure listed vaguely by firms as "work quality standards were not met." (Those with 100 attorneys or fewer lost an average of 20% of their associates.) Compare that turnover rate to the 2-3% at Fortune's 100 Best Companies To Work For (granted, a few of those companies are law firms). What are law firms doing wrong?

    Associates leave for many reasons. Poor management is one factor. As one mid-level associate at Schulte Roth & Zabel said, "The general sentiment when people leave is, 'thank god I don't have to deal with this abuse anymore.' Because at the end of the day, it's constant abuse or fear of abuse."

    Blogs like The People's Therapist and Life In Big Law have become popular platforms for associates to vent their frustrations, commiserating over everything from forced last-minute vacation cancellations to the perceived inability to ever say no to a supervisor. A recent Michigan lawsuit may provide some cold comfort to these associates. According to Dean Altobelli, a former partner at Michigan firm Miller Canfield, partners feel the pain, too. In a suit filed last month, Altobelli claimed that he was forced out of the firm by managers who promoted "a culture of fear and intimidation."

    Considering the money law firms invest in every newly hired attorney, it would make sense for partners to pay closer attention to lawyer satisfaction. But according to Gerry Riskin, founding partner of law firm consultancy Edge International, "most firms are oblivious" to attrition costs. "That expense is unacceptable, yet firms have been accepting it," Riskin says.

    Aside from salaries and bonuses, law firms spend thousands of dollars recruiting and training each associate, often paying for bar exam preparation courses, moving expenses, and continuing legal education. So when a lawyer walks out the door, that investment walks out with him. The high turnover model may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, according to Peter Sherer, a professor at the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary, Canada. It's possible, he says, that partners don't want to devote the time to properly manage or develop any particular associate because they expect that associate to leave within the next couple of years, which in turn, may lead to those lawyers leaving faster.

    Most law firms are led by attorneys who have never been formally trained to manage others. According to Riskin, even the best lawyer can turn out to be a terrible leader. "You can't manage using lawyer skills," he says, adding that partners need "to accept that the approach to management is entirely different than the practice of law."

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