LEXPERT Business of Law: Student Recruitment Special

Ed Waitzer - in the News

Student Recruitment Special

In a complex business world, lawyers must get better at understanding their clients’ needs from an interdisciplinary perspective

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Management Skills

Think like a lawyer and you may be a very good lawyer. Think like your client, and you may be a great one.

Having management skills can make a huge difference to a lawyer’s career, and a joint law-MBA degree is an excellent way to start to acquire that kind of knowledge, says Ed Waitzer, a Partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP and a Director of the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Waitzer says there are four elements to management skills useful for lawyers. The first involves being able to direct a large team. “When I’m doing a transactional work I’m often managing a team of 20 or 30 lawyers. I’m managing the interaction between the lawyers and the bankers and the PR people and management of the company. So on transactional work, part of the skill is management. I suspect it’s the same thing in complex litigation.”

Management skills are also important, he says, because part of being a good advisor “is learning to manage difficult people.”

A lawyer will also need business and people management skills if he or she hopes to become involved in running a law firm one day, he says. If you end up steering a firm like Stikeman, which he did for 10 years, “it’s a reasonable-sized business — a couple of thousand employees, hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, offices in lots of locations, liabilities, client relationships, conflicts, technology, all that kind of stuff.”

Another reason management knowledge is important is that today’s law student may be tomorrow’s CEO. “Many lawyers end up gravitating towards clients, so it’s not surprising that a disproportionate number of CEOs have legal training because they’re the ones who have exercised judgment on behalf of the organization, given counsel, became the trusted advisor, and then moved sideways into the organization.”

Do law schools do enough to teach law students management skills? In his view, no, especially when it comes to teaching teamwork. Law schools put a premium on individual performance so they’re highly competitive, he says, compared with business schools, which are all about teamwork. At Stikeman, teamwork is so important that the firm actually looks to recruit law students with outstanding achievement in team sports, “because that’s a way of compensating for what they learned in law school. Because what does being a great hockey player, for example, tell you? It tells you somebody is highly disciplined and knows how to work in teams.”


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