Law Practice Management

Lawyers in failed firms overestimated the importance of being smart, law dean says

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Few law firms have failed because they were made up of lousy lawyers.

In fact, bad lawyering is rarely the cause of a law firm folding, according to University of California at Hastings College of the Law chancellor and dean Frank Wu.

Writing at the Huffington Post’s blog, Wu says law firms may fail because of too much debt or too much space, too little revenue or collegiality, a misguided geographic expansion, or overpromises made to lateral hires.

What is remarkable, he says, is that many failed firms were made up of superlative “lawyer’s lawyers” with excellent credentials and envied clients. Observers wonder how a law firm made up of the best lawyers can fail.

“And that makes my argument,” Wu writes. “Smart people overestimate the importance of being a smart person. To be the best lawyer, or the best collection of lawyers, is not enough; it doesn’t even guarantee you stay in the game.

“It is necessary to be great businesspeople, too. Or to affiliate with great businesspeople, which means recognizing that the technical skills needed to be a great lawyer might (or might not) correlate with the other skills needed to thrive.”

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