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Patrick McKenna

CEO at McKenna Associates Inc

Edmonton, Canada

An internationally recognized authority on professional service firm management, Patrick has, since 1983, worked with the top leaders of premier firms around the globe to discuss, challenge and escalate their thinking on how to manage and compete effectively.

He authored a pioneering text on law firm marketing, Practice Development: Creating a Marketing Mindset (Butterworths, 1989), recognized by an international journal as being “among the top ten books that any professional services marketer should have.” His subsequent works include Herding Cats: A Handbook for Managing Partners (IBMP, 1995); and Beyond Knowing: 16 Cage-Rattling Questions To Jump-Start Your Practice Team (IBMP, 2000).

In 2006, McKenna’s e-book First 100 Days: Transitioning A New Managing Partner (NXTBook) earned glowing reviews and culminated in Patrick conducting a one-day masterclass for new firm leaders, usually held at the University of Chicago. Thus far over 80 new leaders from legal, accounting and consulting firms have graduated from the program.

A prolific writer on firm leadership, his book (with David Maister), First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals, (The Free Press, 2002) topped business bestseller lists in the United States, Canada and Australia; was translated into nine languages; is currently in its sixth printing; and received an award for being one of the best business books of 2002. The book Management Skills (John Wiley, 2005) named McKenna among the “leading thinkers in the field“ together with Peter Drucker; and in 2008, In The Company of Leaders included his work amongst other notable luminaries like Marshall Goldsmith. His Serving At The Pleasure of My Partners (Thomson Reuters) was released in 2011 and Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future First (LBW Publishing) came out in 2019.

His articles have appeared in over 50 leading professional journals, newsletters, and online sources and he has contributed chapters to 38 international books and monographs.

Available For: Authoring, Consulting, Influencing, Speaking
Travels From: International

Patrick McKennaPoints

Points based upon Thinkers360 patent-pending algorithm.

Thought Leader Profile

Portfolio Mix

Company Information

Company Type: Company

Areas of Expertise

Digital Disruption 30.94
Innovation 52.29
Leadership 36.34
Management 45.76
Marketing 30.13
Change Management 43.04
Business Strategy 31.19
Culture 34.36
Risk Management 30.70
Health and Safety 33.33
Healthtech 35.74
Open Innovation 33.15
AI 30.65
Digital Transformation 30.27
Legal & IP 35.25

Industry Experience

High Tech & Electronics
Professional Services


8 Article/Blogs
The Art Of Leadership
fivehundred magazine
November 01, 2019
This article is intended to outline for new firm leaders the eight challenges that they often do not expect when first taking the reins and certainly don't talk about amongst their peers.

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Tags: Change Management, Leadership, Risk Management

Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future First
July 10, 2019
Download your copy of my new 240-page eBook - Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future First –

If you want your firm to WIN in today’s highly competitive environment you need to possess an unwavering and intentional focus on tomorrow. This book is intended to help you advance your innovative, entrepreneurial, and strategic thinking to develop a thirst for pulling the future forward on behalf of your firm and it’s various competitive practices.

See publication

Tags: Innovation, Business Strategy, Legal & IP

e-Sports Practice
Legal Executive Institute
March 28, 2019
eSports has become a specialized micro-niche of opportunity over the last few years. The stunning rise in the popularity of particular teams of video gamers competing against one another in front of a live and broadcast audience is becoming big business.

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Tags: Business Strategy, Innovation, Marketing

Digital Transformation - Part 2
Legal Executive Institute
February 27, 2019
The US market, the largest and most mature as to digital transformation, is also one of the fastest growing and was the first to go all out in this area. And while law firms have been slow to identify this micro-niche as a lucrative area of focus, the consulting profession has not.

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Tags: Digital Transformation, Innovation, Leadership

Digital Transformation - Part 1
Legal Executive Institute
February 20, 2019
Today, successful companies realize the costs of failing to innovate in a business landscape that is seeing incumbents displaced at an increasingly rapid speed. Intel, which has more than 100,000 employees, holds quarterly innovation days where employees can report the digital threats and opportunities they see in the distance.

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Tags: Digital Transformation, Innovation, Leadership

How Conventional Strategizing Can Be A Waste of Time
Legal Business World
June 09, 2018
Many firms that have been involved in conventional strategic planning are failing to improve their ability to differentiate themselves, their competitiveness or their relative growth, in spite of the investment of time and effort in the planning exercise. One needs to recognize that the typical strategic planning exercise now conducted and infused with massive quantitative data misses the essence of the concept of strategy and what is necessary for being innovative and differentiated.

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Tags: Innovation, Management, Leadership

Developing Your Growth Strategy: Seeking Clear Blue Waters
Legal Business World
June 09, 2018
One of the little ironies I’ve observed over the years is firm-wide strategic plans that get drafted and finalized without any allowance for input from the various business units that comprise your firm. In other words, what I’m proposing here is that what you, as firm leader, are managing is NOT one homogeneous firm but rather a portfolio of very different business units – such that what may be required to develop, market and grow a very successful and profitable Health Care Group will be very different from that required for a highly successful Labor and Employment practice. Like many clichés, this one turns out to be true – a successful firm strategy is largely built around having strong practice groups, positioned in growing market (micro) niches, developing a distinctive presence, doing higher value work.

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Tags: Innovation, Management, Leadership

Leading to the Future: Evolution of Blockchain and Its Impact on Your Clients
Legal Executive Institute
April 26, 2018
It was only back in mid-2015, while speaking at a couple of legal conferences (including one on Client Growth Strategies), that I would ask, “Show of hands, how many of you have heard of blockchain?” only to confront an audience that had no idea what I was talking about. Fortunately, I would speculate that most of these same folks have now heard of blockchain and have some notion of what the label refers to… but do they really?

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Tags: Blockchain, Innovation, Fintech

4 Books
The Art Of Leadership Succession: How To Select Your Next Firm Leader
LBW Publishing
April 15, 2019

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Tags: Change Management, Culture, Leadership

When It Comes Time To Instigate Change
Legal Business World Publications
March 20, 2019
Every few years a new theme emerges in law firm management. There was a time and perhaps it still exists where we witnessed resistant attorneys being forced to take the marketing of professional services seriously. We have all since observed initiatives like total quality management, branding programs, alternate billing methods, and project management assume center stage. Meanwhile, many of our skeptical and often times, senior partners have chosen to sit on the sidelines.

So why is it that these professionals are so skeptical?

From understanding the “Challenges of Implementing Your Initiatives” and “Helping Your Partners See The Need to Change” to “Helping Your Partners Take Action” and
“Nurturing Your Partners To Follow-Though” this 50-page eBook provides advice and counsel on how to convert best intentions into best practices.

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Tags: Innovation, Leadership, Change Management

Leadership Lessons From The Trenches
Legal Business World
June 20, 2018
This 120-page book is a compilation of some 34 concise, leadership tips containing pithy, pragmatic and sometimes, provocative advice on everything from how the best leaders get exactly what they expect to being a good coach to your colleagues (contained in Part One: In The Trenches With Colleagues) – and – from how to signal what you value as a leader to why those supposed ‘best practices’ are not always best (in Part Two: In The Trenches With Your Team).

These meanderings were inspired by those I’ve had the honor of working with, were fun to write and so I hope equally rewarding to read; but more importantly provide some guidance on how you can make your leadership journey more meaningful for those you serve and more personally gratifying for yourself.

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Tags: Innovation, Leadership, Management

First Among Equals: How to Manage a Group of Professionals
Free Press
April 04, 2005
Professional service gurus David Maister and Patrick McKenna have created a practical handbook on how to lead professional colleagues or peers when you lack formal authority. Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge calls it “a timely, easy to read work leavened with action plans and examples.”

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Tags: Innovation, Management

3 Conference Publications
Legal Micro-Niche: Anti-Aging & Regenerative Medicine.
Legal Executive Institute
November 08, 2019
A Chinese scientist who announced that the first set of CRISPR-engineered female twins had been delivered; stem cells that can now grow eye retinas; a collagen bioprinter that should soon provide 3D printed lungs; the global longevity industry is primed to reach $17 trillion this year and on track to crack $27 trillion within the next five years.

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Tags: Healthtech, Health and Safety, Legal & IP

Lucrative Micro-Niche: Synthetic Biology
Legal Executive Institute
September 18, 2019
Biology is already changing the way we live, eat, manufacture, and treat human health. In the next few years, synthetic biology — a $40 billion industry — will be the premier technology of the 21st century that will be used to solve real-world problems facing millions.

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Tags: Business Strategy, Digital Disruption, Open Innovation

Lucrative Micro-Niche: Deep Learning
Legal Executive Institute
July 10, 2019
The amount of data we generate every day is staggering — currently estimated at over 2.6 quintillion bytes. 2.6 quintillion! It’s a number so large that 2.6 quintillion pennies would, if laid flat, cover the entire Earth… five times. And that number is only growing with the increasing number of devices being made available and being used. If data is the new oil, what new products can we make? That’s where deep learning comes in.

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Tags: AI, Digital Disruption, Innovation

1 eBook
Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future First
LBW Publishing
July 10, 2019
Download your copy of my new 240-page eBook - If you want your firm to WIN in today’s highly competitive environment you need to possess an unwavering and intentional focus on tomorrow. This book is intended to help you advance your innovative, entrepreneurial, and strategic thinking to develop a thirst for pulling the future forward on behalf of your firm and it’s various competitive practices.

See publication

Tags: Innovation, Leadership, Business Strategy

1 Influencer Award
Strategy Innovation: Getting To The Future First
Legal Business World
July 15, 2019

See publication

Tags: Business Strategy, Innovation, Leadership


1 Article/Blog
Are You Interested In Getting To The Future . . . FIRST?
February 03, 2020
If you want to win in today’s highly competitive environment, you need to possess an unwavering and intentional focus on tomorrow. Think about this:

The future is no longer a timeframe; the future is a mindset!

The greatest handicap with the conventional planning process is that it works from today forward and implicitly assumes, whatever the assertions to the contrary, that the future will be more or less like the present. The leading minds know that the future will not be an echo of the present. Getting to the future first requires that you be deliberately farsighted.

One of the acid tests you might reflect upon is – “does our current strategic plan have our firm differentiating itself in some meaningful way, show us doing anything different from the three or four significant competitors in our marketplace; and cause other competitors to see us as a ‘leader’ in some particular niche areas?

Many are satisfied if they can get a handle on their clients’ current needs. But, this is not the answer. You must also think far ahead of the curve. You must lead the pack by anticipating clients’ needs before clients even know those needs exist. Thus, the question is NOT, “how might we better serve our clients?” That is an example of working from what is. To work from what could be, the central question becomes, “What service might we provide that clients are not yet asking for?”

How many of you, as you are reading this, understand the potential influence of Synthetic Biology, or Graphene, or CRISPR Genomics, or Biometrics, or IoT and how any one of these will profoundly affect your future? Your strategy should only be concerned with looking externally, looking to the future, and looking for growth opportunities.


At different times during this past year, I released three new eBooks through the kind folks at Legal Business World – all of which remain available free for you to download.

This excerpt comes from Strategy Innovation: Getting to The Future First
(242 Pages, 43,079 Total Readers, Top Countries: US, United Kingdom, Australia, India, Netherlands)

See blog

Tags: Digital Transformation, Innovation, Business Strategy


1 Business
Non-Executive Director / Advisory Board Member

Location: International    Date Available: May 14th, 2018    Fees: Open to Discussion

Submission Date: May 12th, 2018    Service Type: Service Offered

My experience includes 30+ years of being a strategic and leadership advisor to professional service firms, primarily law, but also including some of the largest international consulting and accounting firms; and to corporate and government legal departments. This work has taken me to 47 different countries. I also proudly serve as a non-executive director (NED) or advisory board member with a variety of professional service firms and incorporated companies. My aim is to instigate innovation, provide independent strategic insight drawn from my years of experience, and support effective governance.

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Patrick McKenna