Back in the day, I would have an Associate join a client meeting with instructions to speak up if they thought I was getting something wrong. Of course, they would only do so occasionally because I was not wrong all that often. When they did, if their point was not so great, I would respectfully acknowledge it and move on, but if it was valuable, I would say so and say to the client something like, “that’s why I had her sit in.”
Since professional firms are usually partnerships, the well-compensated people at the top of the pyramid are partners, not employees. As a result, all of that stuff that protects employees from discrimination on the basis of age in the Human Rights Code does not apply to them, at least where I live in Ontario, Canada.
With that over-simplified but pithy summary of the law, I have explained how partners in accounting firms and law firms can be squeezed out in their early sixties.
“Fools believe silence is a void needing to be filled; the wise understand there’s no such thing as silence.”
Michael J. Sullivan, Age of Myth
Client: Why do I want to pay for two lawyers to be in this meeting?
Before you read this story, I should let you know that this is a sad story which does not end well.
Long ago I had a great professional relationship and friendship with Laurence. I liked Laurence a lot. He was honest and ethical. He cared about his clients, his family, and his relationships. He taught me valuable lessons about dealing with clients and co-workers.
I spoke to a young lawyer the other day who hails from another country. I will call her Natalie. Natalie explained to me that where she comes from, the culture is such that self-promotion is frowned upon. In her country, people do not think much of braggarts and blowhards. They respect people who are humble.
To Thine Own Self Be True
“This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”Hamlet – William Shakespeare.
I drove into the Big City the other day and had brunch with an old friend who I will call Sandy, because that is her name.
Now that I have been retired for a few years, I sometimes wonder whether my experience as to how law firms work remains valid. Also, since I spent my days with medium-sized firms and not in Big Law, I occasionally worry that my view of what goes on in Big Law is not correct.
But then I speak to lawyers working in Big Law and they invariably confirm that Big Law is exactly what I always thought it was (which is just Medium Law on steroids, with worse side effects), and nothing has changed, and likely never will.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.”Yogi Berra.
I was speaking to an unhappy lawyer the other day, which is typically the only type of lawyer that calls me.
This particular fellow has been practicing law quite a long time and makes decent money. His unhappiness stems from his insecurity, that so many of us share, about whether the clients will continue to come, and the fact that his work is too easy. He needs to develop his reputation so that he is in demand. He must also attract some more complicated stuff to sink his teeth into so that he is intellectually challenged and feels that he is doing something valuable for his clients.
So, so much chatter about Chat GPT. I believe some of it. I think that some of it is nonsense.
Here is the bottom line:
- Lawyers did not go out of business when computers were invented and we lost all of those hours reviewing draft after draft of retyped documents.
- We were still able to generate enough billable hours, even after we became able to produce documents faster with document automation software.
- Online legal databases did not replace articling students and junior associates.