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Law firm puts associates though MBA paces

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In an effort to better educate its staff on communicating to business clients, the law firm of Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP put its staff through a year-long crash course on business.

The “mini-MBA” program included lectures from business professionals from a variety of sectors. According to Parker Poe, the course followed traditional business school curricula and was streamed live to all of the firms offices across North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

“Lawyers are notoriously bad at being lawyers and not understanding anyone else’s point of view,” said Michael Kozlarek, managing partner at Parker Poe’s Greenville office. “If you sit down to dinner with a lawyer, the only person who is right is the lawyer.

“This really tries to get lawyers and our senior staff to think like our business clients because they don’t think like lawyers.”

The courses included:

  • Economics of Law with Timothy Corcoran, principal with the Corcoran Consulting Group;
  • Project Management: Driving Efficiency, Value and Competitive Advantages with Catherine Alman MacDonagh, founder and CEO of Legal Lean Sigma Institute;
  • The Ethics of Technology in Today’s Legal Climate with Will Hornsby, staff counsel at the American Bar Association;
  • Organizational Behavior: Being a Team Player in a Business Environment with Tyrone “Mugsy” Bogues, former NBA player;
  • Buying Legal Services with Corcoran and MacDonagh, and
  • Leadership Development Workshop with Mark Beese, president of Leadership for Lawyers LLC.

Kozlarek said the intent of the program was not to give the legal staff 20 years of experience as a CFO, but a more in-depth understanding of business and “to broaden our horizons as lawyers.”

The year-long program was derived from Parker Poe’s first business development program, “The Path,” which was developed in 2015 as a means to enhance client development between lawyers, paralegals and senior staff with business clients.

“The program was really intended to educate us, in a truncated fashion, in a meaningful year-long program to think like the business people we interact with or represent every day,” Kozlarek said.

Parker Poe said more than 100 attorneys participated in each session of the voluntary program, which Kozlarek said was “pretty amazing.”

“Our goal was to focus on the language of business and bring in top thought leaders and subject matter experts to impart these learnings, and it was a success,” said Kristen Leis, chief marketing and business development officer for Parker Poe, in a statement.

The success of the program may lead to Parker Poe turning the tables and inviting business clients in for a course on the legal system.

“We have done, over the last three years, an internally-focused program with external implications,” Kozlarek said. “I do suspect we may be looking to talk to some of the more established clients and see if they are interested in learning more about how lawyers operate.”

Kozlarek said he suspected the firm would attempt a similar structured course for its staff in 2017, but didn’t know what the content may be.

He said, personally, going through the course gave him a better understanding of what business clients expect and how to communicate with those clients more effectively.

“It can be very challenging because we are our own little universe and we all look at things differently,” Kozlarek said. “Trying to find ways to truly interact with all of these folks and not just in a social way is really what we are trying to accomplish.”

Reach Matthew Clark at 864-720-1222.

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