Leadership in Law Firms

In Leadership in Law Firms, Professor Ashish Nanda helps students explore careers in law and professional service firms

Professor Ashish Nanda‘s spring course, Leadership in Law Firms, uses case studies and guest speakers to help students understand how law firms and professional service firms work and explore how to succeed in a career at a professional service firm.  “More than 60% of HLS students begin their careers working in law firms and other professional service industries. This course helps educate students who think they might want to pursue such a career path,” explained Professor Nanda. “We use case studies to give them a real world idea of what it’s like to work as an associate, how to learn and succeed in such a context, and the career opportunities and choices they face. Students appreciate that they need not only depth of technical knowledge, but also an understanding of business and organization, and capabilities in leadership and management. They need an appreciation of both to succeed.”  Professor Nanda uses a combination of HLS cases and Harvard Business School cases to teach topics such as: business strategy in professional service firms (including market positioning, organic and inorganic growth strategy, and innovation in professional services), organizational strategy (including compensation and governance systems), people strategy (including motivation and development of professionals and effective teaming), leadership and change management, and career planning. The course includes role play simulations, exercises, and visits by case study protagonists to make the learning tangible, exciting, and relevant for students.

“We’ve updated the materials we use in the course to address emerging realities,” said Professor Nanda. “For instance, we address how to succeed in a challenging economic environment; one that is not growing at a fast rate and is much more competitive than it was a decade ago. We try and bring a more international perspective to the course, given the rapidly globalizing nature of the legal services industry. Third, careers, prospects, and personal ambitions of our students are changing, and we want to respond to the circumstances and aspirations of the current generation.”

The course includes new case studies (see below), which will be taught alongside relevant classics, such as Linklaters: Seeking Clear Blue Water and William Fox. The case studies typically take a longitudinal perspective that follows professionals and their enterprises over extended periods of time. This affords students the opportunity not only to determine the sources of performance at any given time, but also to identify the capabilities and processes that sustain success over time, and to learn how leaders of law (and other professional service) firms react to change. The cases are situated in the law firm setting, but also in other professional service settings (consulting, financial services, accounting, and medicine). For more information on the course and materials, contact Lisa Brem, lbrem@law.harvard.edu or Rachel Gibson, rgibson@law.harvard.edu.

Check out the new business related cases at the Case Studies website:

Slater & Gordon (A) and (B)

Workers’ Rights in the Hudson Valley (A) and (B)

Axiom (A): Getting Down to Business

Where to from Here?

Berwin Leighton Paisner (A): Crafting a Law Firm Merger

About Lisa Brem

Lisa Brem is the Case Studies Program Manager at Harvard Law School.
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