Being Both the Leader and the Follower at a Small Firm

The leader/follower relationships at my internship site are definitely interesting. As a small firm there is much less of a hierarchy than any large businesses would have. The owner and namesake of the law firm has a national presence and is well known through the legal world. This seems to make him the given leader, but from what I have observed, my supervisor seems to take on more leadership roles. Since his boss is often dealing with clients in Michigan and LA (he is BAR certified in three states), as well as Chicago, my supervisor needs to step up in order to create some stability in the Chicago office.

Because of a unique structure, I believe my internship site’s structure is different than most. COVID-19 seemed to have a massive effect on the way their office was run. Often times my supervisor and the other attorney would work together in meetings and such. Post COVID, depositions and client meetings are online, so only one person needs to be present. There is no need for any teams or departments due to the size of the firm, which is another reason that a leader follower relationship may be different than other places. I believe that although my supervisor does spearhead most things, he would see himself as equal with the other attorney. Upon reflection, this could be potentially problematic. Without someone feeling like a real leader, there could be stepping on toes, lack of trust, confusion, and other problems. This in turn could affect the way decisions are made. Being separated from the situation due to the virtual nature of the internship makes this too hard to know for sure.

People do have the option to influence others at my firm. I believe even I have a role in influencing my supervisor, who then relays my ideas to the owner of the firm. He is a world-renowned lawyer, and I am shaping him, even if it is very slightly. This is what makes for great leader follower relationships, in my opinion. It is about being receptive to everyone’s ideas and letting everyone play both roles. This would probably not be possible at a big firm, but I get the pleasure of experiencing it now.

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