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Take a Look: Josh Kubicki Discusses the ‘Intrapreneur’ Dilemma

Posted by LMA International on Mar 15, 2017 10:00:00 AM

An Interview with 2017 P3 Keynote Josh Kubicki

Kubicki.pngThe fifth annual P3 – The Practice Innovation Conference promises even more interactive and in-depth education. We sat down with Josh Kubicki, chief strategy officer at Seyfarth Shaw, for an exclusive interview about his upcoming keynote. Get to know Josh, and register to join your peers at the conference.

1. What are the most important business lessons you learned while developing the Legal Transformation Institute?

As an entrepreneur, the biggest lesson I learned is the power of focus.  It is so challenging to remain focused when potential clients and business partners ask you to do something outside of your core area.  First you want to say yes to most clients and opportunities and of course when you are starting out, you want the money too.  But I learned that the more you stray from your core skills and capabilities, the risk of mediocrity increases and so does the amount of work it takes to deliver.  This seems intuitive but when you are working within the business/management consulting arena, every opportunity presents itself in a novel and unique manner.  It takes work to figure out what the actual problem is that needs to be solved.  Once this is done, it is easier to determine if it is a problem you can solve or not.

2. What is an ‘intrapreneur” and how are you developing this concept?

There are various ways to define an intrapreneur. I usually say something akin to: an intrapreneur is a courageous corporate citizen who sees an opportunity to better their company and takes action while not allowing the bureaucracy to get in the way. This person is initiating change within or experimenting with the business and service models of an organization.  I also tend to state that the hardiest intrapreneurs are the ones that have no clear mandate to do this; meaning that it is not part of their job description.  Contrast this with people or teams that have a clear mandate such as “skunk works” teams or formal innovation teams.  While these people may still be intrapreneurs, the essence (and this is not a question of nobility) of Intrapreneurship is working within organizations without the support systems in place.  The reality is that most organizations are not designed to allow Intrapreneurship to flourish; they are set up to advance status quo.  Intrapreneurs work hard to better their organizations all the while avoiding or combating the corporate antibodies to change.

The concept of intrapreneurship is not new.  In terms of developing and adapting it for the legal arena, this effort was born out my realization a few years ago that my whole professional career can be characterized as being an intrapreneur.  From the days when I was part of an in-house team where I was embedded in the business units to my time running my own consulting firm applying business design within the legal markets to my role as CSO at Seyfarth – these experiences have been steeped in intrapreneurism.  I have been on the business side of the law for most of my career creating new things, iterating old and being a rebel at times.  I tend to think that I have one of the more well-rounded perspectives given my experiences and roles. This is not to say it has all been glorious or without failures.

3. What is your #1 key to creating and managing a high-performance team?

Engagement.  Without engagement, a high-performance team will lose focus, energy and drive.  The challenge is what type of engagement.  Every top or potential top performer demands a certain flavor of engagement.  Some need personal attention, some need clear and crisp directives.  The job of the leader is to discover and then provide the right type of engagement.  Also, the team must learn to engage with itself, meaning the leader cannot be the center hub for all interactions.  The team needs to build an appreciation for everyone’s talents and capacity and work to manage those things collectively and respectfully. My team will tell you the one thing that I always preach is “your number one job is to tee your peer up for success.”  When this happens, a high-performance team emerges as personal agendas are set aside and everyone is working to the success of the project, the team and the firm.

4. How does the “intrapreneur” relate to experts working within the three Ps? Why is it important to be an ”intrapreneur” at this time in the industry?

Law firms and legal services are approaching an inflection point. While the words “disruption” and “transformation” are often hyperbole and overused, the simple fact is that there are increasing traces of evidence that the market is accelerating towards this inflection point.  P3-related intrapreneurs are already hard at work preparing their organizations for this coming change, whether their organizations want to realize it or not.  Unfortunately, many do not or mistakenly undervalue the effort.  That is fine and is the nature of being an intrapreneur.  To take license with the unattractive nomenclature of law firms, non-business professionals, such as lawyers, are uncomfortable with core and competitive business concepts such as cost accounting, performance measurement (not the HR kind), client segmentation, and idea validation.  These, and other approaches to developing a competitive and agile organization, fly in the face of the long-held belief of lawyers that lawyers know all and can do all.  The simple fact is lawyers cannot run firms by themselves just as accountants inside a corporation are ill-equipped to run the whole corporation.  It takes a broad spectrum of expertise and focus to operate and compete as a large organization.  P3 intrapreneurs are creating these skills and competencies that law firms will have to rely on more and more in order to achieve growth.  

For in-house intrapraneurs, there is a different challenge.  Many times the fact that an inhouse legal team has a P3 related role is evidence of their openness to change and innovation.  But being inside a corporation brings a whole other type of bureaucracy and infrastructure.  Look at some of the emerging legal operations roles – there is a wide spectrum of responsibilities, authority and focus.  Regardless, inhouse intrapreneurs have an amazing view of the legal supply chain.  They also are “the client” and therefore can shape and influence their vendors and providers.  This is an enormous opportunity.

5. At the conference, we talk a lot about practice innovation. What has been your proudest experience in driving innovative change within an organization?

The proudest for me was watching one of my clients, a small law firm, win an award from one of their largest clients, in front of all of that clients’ other outside counsel (some 100 or so).  I had worked with this firm to pivot its business model away from the homogenous general practice posture to a highly focused specialty firm.  In the process, we adjusted its operational environment, service model, HR model and business development philosophy.  While they made many gains in terms of clients, witnessing the open recognition they received with the award was validation for them and for me beyond the business results.  The award was the blue ocean award that recognized the effort and delivery of a new high-impact approach to delivering client value.

6. If you were to give a young professional just starting out advice on the business of law, what would that advice be?

Be resilient. The unfortunate fact is that the business side of the legal market is undervalued and misunderstood by most law firms.  This not only creates political challenges but also more tangible challenges such as poor measurement data and poor strategy discipline.  Anyone focusing on the business of law within a law firm or even legal department is at a disadvantage because most of the traditional stakeholders are lawyers who are accustomed to measure time and are highly suspect of anything they themselves do not know much about.  Resiliency is an intrapreneur’s most sacred trait.

7. In 140 characters or less, convince readers to come to your keynote.

If you have ever felt like running head first into a wall while trying to change your organization, don't miss the Intraprener's Dilemma.  --> TWEET THIS <--

Register for P3 – The Practice Innovation Conference, May 16–17, 2017, at the Radisson Blu Aqua in Chicago.

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