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Edmund Butler: What I wish I’d known before I Started


Edmund Butler, founding partner, LK Shields. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography.

Edmund Butler, founding partner, LK Shields. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography.

Edmund Butler, founding partner, LK Shields. Photo: Conor McCabe Photography.

A professional services firm in 2014 operates in a competitive and demanding environment that is constantly changing. Yet the opportunities are immense. The daily give and take with colleagues, clients and competitors is challenging, invigorating and also fun, but never boring. So, what lessons have I learned since LK Shields opened its doors in 1988?

Listen first and then ask questions

Take time to do this and you'll find out what people really want or need. They are often unclear themselves. With a full understanding of their needs, you have a better chance of meeting those needs successfully and efficiently. Only take on a task if you're willing to treat it like it is deserving of special care and attention. When you have traditional values of hard work and high standards, supported by modern efficiencies and a good team, you have a winning combination.

Change is constant

Beware of the comfort zone that is often a short-term fools' paradise. Dramatic change is difficult to implement successfully but smaller changes are more likely to succeed and can cumulatively lead to significant and positive change. Change requires the belief of all concerned, but most will see the benefits of change, even if they must be nudged forward.

Without growth and the prospect of growth, your colleagues and target employees won't see opportunity for themselves

Clients won't see your capability to meet their growth and change. Growth in a planned and measured way, based on existing activity, is an achievable and sustainable objective. Always plan to grow some more than is needed, because the unexpected contraction also inevitably occurs. Growth for its own sake is often of little value and can create problems. Learn to identify the phases of a business in growth and know that different phases need different approaches and skills.


Share the challenges and the opportunities. Setting the bar high for yourself or colleagues seldom disappoints. Others thrive on the challenge and the satisfaction of achievement. Leaders emerge by demonstrating the capability to lead, so they must be given space and encouragement. Learn from errors. Take tough decisions. Listen to your instinct, but also to your colleagues and advisers.

Trust and promote

Building teams has opened many doors that we simply wouldn't have been able to even approach without the team. Trust and promote your team members, but understand that delegation is not abdication.

Get it right the first time and do it now, not later!

  • Edmund Butler is founding partner, LK Shields law firm

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