Making an impact
A customized Executive Education program strengthens leadership skills at a global law firm
By Ray Boyer
Eight years ago, Los Angeles-based law firm O'Melveny & Myers outlined three core values to guide its international workforce: excellence, leadership and citizenship.
But in 2006, management recognized that O’Melveny’s partners and administrators needed to accelerate their leadership development to embrace new opportunities — and overcome new challenges — that were emerging in the shifting global landscape.
Furthermore, with 14 offices in six countries, O'Melveny's values needed to 'tie us together as a single firm, yet be integrated with local cultures,' said Warren Christopher, the former chair of O'Melveny who served as U.S. secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton. 'At its heart, this was a leadership issue.'
With these goals in mind, O'Melveny partnered with the Kellogg School's Executive Education program to develop a customized training program. The O'Melveny & Myers Leadership Institute is designed to teach the firm's partners, lawyers and senior business managers advanced skills in strategy, client relationships, innovation, leadership communications and values-based decision-making. Since June 2008, six groups from O'Melveny have traveled to Kellogg's Evanston campus to complete the intensive, week-long program.
Typical of custom programming at Kellogg, the Leadership Institute was developed through close collaboration with the firm, Kellogg faculty and Joseph Hannigan, associate director of Executive Education. During the program's design phase, faculty members were paired with partners at O'Melveny to ensure that the program's curriculum targeted the firm's goals and was relevant to its partners and senior staff.
'Forward-thinking firms like O'Melveny & Myers understand the value that a custom-designed leadership development program can deliver,' says Eric Fridman, assistant dean of Executive Education. 'Executed well, these kinds of programs can literally transform organizations through better strategic alignment and customer focus.'
'Custom programming is all about making an impact,' adds Hannigan. 'Bring together a group of intelligent, committed people, stimulate them with instruction relevant to the challenges they are facing … and what you get are fresh ideas and different members of the family all moving in the same direction, newly energized.'
By all accounts, members of the O'Melveny 'family' have left the Leadership Institute with a sense of unity and energy around the firm's goals.
'I now have a stronger sense of camaraderie with all of [my colleagues],' said Deborah Festa, a partner in the Los Angeles office. 'Although we work in different practice groups and geographies around the world — each with its own distinctive business culture — we share the same objectives and important core values that unify us as a firm.'
Bruce Boulware, former COO of the firm, adds that the Leadership Institute 'has provided our partners and senior managers with leadership learning in the context of our markets and other issues. The Institute is critical to our ongoing commitment to connect strategy and people through effective leadership.'
Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., chair of O'Melveny and former White House counsel to President Ronald Reagan, has been pleased by the growth he has witnessed at the firm. 'The Leadership Institute has helped us focus on our leadership structure and prioritize our skills as leaders,' he says. 'This is an effort from which we will benefit for many years to come.'
'Bring together a group of intelligent, committed people, stimulate them with instruction relevant to the challenges they are facing … and what you get are fresh ideas and different members of the family all moving in the same direction, newly energized.' — Joseph Hannigan, associate director of Executive Education