Leaders who display compassion and understanding are often popular with their employees. Being a soft-hearted leader can bring benefits that include a more positive workplace culture and happier workers. 

However, to run a law firm is to run a business. The same qualities that can make a boss well-liked by employees can also do harm in areas that you might not have considered. 

Success in the legal field requires strong leadership. Are you a lawyer who leads with their head during litigation and negotiation but with their heart while running the office? If so, taking a moment to consider how your leadership style might be sabotaging your law firm will pay off in the long run. 

Being a strong leader doesn’t mean being unfeeling or uncaring. Instead, it means that you’re willing to set boundaries and enforce them, even when doing so leads to discomfort. 

No lawyer is a stranger to discomfort. Sometimes, working to increase your capacity for uncomfortable situations within your own office can lead to greater respect, a better work-life balance, and a reduction in stress for both yourself and everyone who works at your firm. 

1. Abandoning Policy

Policies are written to give structure and set expectations on topics that range from submission deadlines to attendance. One of the greatest issues soft-hearted leaders struggle with is abandoning policy. 

Policies often seem fair on paper. However, when someone makes a mistake and asks for an exception, it can be hard to hold them to the consequences or deny their request.

Often, bending or breaking policy can seem like a harmless act of kindness. However, doing so has the potential to hurt your firm in more ways than one. First, it tells your employees that the rules are more like suggestions. This means that everyone is more likely to take them less seriously. 

Second, making exceptions is likely to foster hidden resentments. Some employees might take your rules seriously and resent those who don’t follow them as closely. It also puts you at risk of appearing to show favoritism. When you pick and choose who the rules apply to, no one wins. 

2. Avoiding Conflict

For leaders who prioritize interpersonal relationships and how others feel, engaging in direct conflict can be a challenge. This often trickles down to impact other areas. 

For example, not wanting to confront a chronically late employee can cause you to abandon your policies. Other employees are likely to resent the fact that the late employee doesn’t seem to suffer any consequences for breaking the rules everyone else follows. 

A desire to avoid conflict can impact your firm’s business in numerous ways, especially if there are issues with how one person interacts with the rest of a team or if they’re doing poor-quality work. These issues can cause a ripple effect that harms your firm’s culture, client satisfaction, and even case outcomes. 

In any profession, a leader has to be willing to have difficult conversations. This is particularly important in the legal field since your clients’ lives are directly impacted by the results your firm obtains for them.

3. Overcommitting 

Saying no is often a challenge for soft-hearted leaders. Whether it’s taking on a new client, collaborating with a colleague, or lightening an employee’s workload when asked, it can be difficult to set certain boundaries. However, the cost of an inability to say no is often high. 

Refusing to recognize your limits can cause a law firm leader to over-commit. As a result, you spread yourself and your firm’s resources too thin. Employees and clients both suffer the effects of these actions, and everyone’s quality of life and work-life balance take a hit. 

Often, the ability to say no goes back to your willingness to tolerate discomfort. Regardless of the answer you may want to give, it’s important to consider requests pragmatically. Know when you have the time and resources to take on more and be willing to draw a line instead of overcommitting yourself. 

4. Lowering Expectations

If you’ve made it to the point in your career where you’re leading a law firm, you know a thing or two about delivering quality work. Over time, it can be easy to fall into the habit of cutting others slack when a more effective approach would be to raise the bar. 

The more experience you build, the more likely you are to notice inexperience in others. However, lowering your expectations ripples out to affect your job satisfaction, clients, and even your firm’s reputation. When employees miss deadlines or deliver subpar work, the most effective approach is to address the issue directly. 

Being willing to explain your standards and how they aren’t currently being met guides your employees toward meeting firm expectations while becoming better at their jobs and gaining experience in the process. 

5. Resisting Change

In any business, change can be difficult. Law firm leaders are often faced with tough decisions. Common changes a firm leader must handle include: 

  • Downsizing 
  • Bringing on new hires
  • Introducing new roles
  • Letting go of employees
  • Hiring a digital marketing service
  • Restructuring 
  • Introducing new technologies

It can be difficult to acknowledge that the way things were in the past isn’t sustainable for the future. However, resisting change is often what causes a firm to fall behind the competition, losing clients and revenue in the process.   

Get Help Achieving Balanced Leadership

Empathy and compassion are qualities that make the best leaders. At the same time, it’s essential to ensure these assets don’t become liabilities in terms of how you run your law firm. 

Take the time to reflect on your leadership style and where you can make improvements. When doing so, you’ll find that going outside your firm for assistance can be a valuable tactic. If your firm is struggling with overcommitment, subpar work, or navigating change, Woven Legal can help. 

As a legal staffing agency, we provide law firms with trained legal workers who understand that following policy and producing high-quality work is essential for a law firm to thrive. 

Whether you’d benefit from a paralegal, a legal assistant, or a client intake specialist, Woven Legal can pair you with an experienced legal professional who helps make running your firm easier than ever. 

Book a discovery call today. 



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