Leadership Development for Lawyers


In this blog, Richard McGonigle an in-house lawyer with over 20 years of experience, talks about his experience of leadership development and the profound impact it had on himself and his career.

Leadership Development for Lawyers

Prior to undertaking a leadership development programme, I saw myself as “Richard the lawyer”. I had legal subject matter expertise, I was part of a business, I did my job and stayed in my lane as a lawyer. That being said, I was always curious and had an interest and fascination to learn more about the organisations I worked with and understand my full potential and what I could truly contribute. My curiosity meant that when offered the opportunity to join a year-long leadership development programme I jumped at the chance. Undertaking this leadership development programme opened my eyes and (along with executive coaching, which I’ll focus on in my next blog) changed my career path, outlook and mindset hugely. 

I believe that all lawyers should be encouraged to seek out this kind of professional development, for themselves or their team members. Whether they’re in-house or a private practice lawyer, the insights, knowledge and experience gained from these kinds of programmes can only ever make you a better lawyer and for those that might be in a position where they want to change career path it will open up so many more opportunities.

I think it’s fair to say that many lawyers can become blinkered. When you are mainly dealing with other lawyers, who have the same kind of training and lived experience as you, it can, if you’re not aware of it, restrict your view the world. But to be of maximum service to your clients or the organisations you work with or within, a broader world view is going to be a positive. The leadership development programme that I joined grouped me with other people from different disciplines and locations across the business I was working in. We met one day a month for 12 months.  This in itself was significant for me. Interacting with and understanding others who had entirely different professional backgrounds and experience, completely opened my mind and made me consider and appreciate the bigger picture. This newfound awareness of what motivated others and how they perceived the world around them, improved me as a lawyer.

The leadership programme I completed covered topics including:

  • Managing change
  • Communication skills
  • Team working
  • Decision making and problem solving
  • Influencing
  • Delegation
  • Managing performance
  • Time management and prioritisation
  • Leadership
  • Continuous improvement

Not only was it a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills, but for me the experience was thought provoking and heightened my sense of self awareness. It helped me to understand how I am perceived by others and gave a sense of what I am capable of contributing and where I fit in. It taught me that it is OK to be strategically minded as well as action orientated.  And most importantly it provided me with a good opportunity to learn about the wider business and to network with colleagues that perhaps otherwise I would rarely have interacted with. The experience developed me as a lawyer, a business person and personally. 

As an in-house lawyer, when I instruct other lawyers to do work, I look for somebody who is able to speak candidly, and brings curiosity in their approach:  curiosity about my business, my challenges, how they can add value beyond the simple letter of the law.  This is what enables them to give me and my business good clear, practical advice that can be applied in the real world. Law schools, graduate schemes and law firms produce good technical lawyers, but the ones who stand out are the ones who see and understand the bigger picture.

A leadership development programme is a great place to start for any lawyer wanting to expand their world view and whether it be growing professionally in the role or organisation you are currently in or changing the direction of your career, you will absolutely develop for the better.  You will become more than just your subject matter expertise.

To learn more about our leadership development programmes, get in touch.

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