Understanding Law Firms as Businesses

Understanding Law Firms as Businesses

Dr. Heidi Gardner
Fall 2014 course
M, T 1:00pm - 2:30pm in WCC Room 2004
3 classroom credits

This course aims to help law students understand the fundamental strategic, operational and human components of contemporary law firms so that they are better equipped to handle the demands of a rapidly changing legal marketplace. The class sessions include interactive lectures, business-school case discussions, and hands-on exercises designed to provide students with practical skills they can use throughout their careers.

This course contains four modules. The first covers firm strategy and client relationship management, exploring business development challenges from the perspective of aspiring “rainmakers,” firm leaders and clients. Topics include globalization, strategic positioning, and the rise of alternative models of legal service delivery. The second module focuses on talent management and human capital, including how law firms attract, hire, motivate, and promote professionals. We examine how firms tackle these challenges for both entry-level and more senior lawyers, and explore how these processes affect lawyers’ experiences including career progression, diversity, and work-life balance. The third module centers on collaboration and teamwork. Students gain hands-on experience leading and working in teams, and we explore the issues specifically in the context of practicing law. The final module focuses on succeeding and thriving as a professional, including strategies for career success and building personal brands.

This course is especially well-suited for students who have some experience working in an organization (law firm or other), although that is not strictly essential. It is also appropriate for students in the JD-MBA program who can expand on concepts.

Requirements include several team-based exercises, a research-based written assignment, and a final exam.

Note: In lieu of a casebook, students will be expected to pay a materials fee to HBS to cover the standard cost of cases we will read for the class.

Subject Areas: Business Organization, Commercial Law, and Finance, Procedure & Practice