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Firm Culture

Skiing While Submerged

When I was a teenager, my buddy Bill took me waterskiing. For those of you who do not water ski, you learn to ski on two skis which is easy, then to ‘drop a ski’ which is harder, and finally to start on one ski. That was what I was trying to do.  

Bill said that I was the only person who he ever saw who was still holding onto the rope ten feet under water. An exaggeration perhaps, but sometimes I really do not know when to give up.    

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Firm Culture

Culture Murders, Decimates and Destroys Strategy

You may be familiar with the expression, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast,” a quote from Peter Drucker. As the title of this post implies, I not only agree with that sentiment, but I believe that it is drastically understated.

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Firm Culture

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

There is nothing funny about child abuse, so I hesitate to tell this story. But there is a point to it, so please bear with me.

Back in the day when parents did not see anything wrong with occasionally giving their kids a smack, there was a very young boy who believed that if he shut his eyes tightly, no one could see him. When his father was angry, the boy would close his eyes and feel safe. When he got hit anyway, he was initially shocked. But eventually he learned that hiding did not make him safe.

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Firm Culture

Partners Be Crazy

“It had evidently not occurred to her as yet that those who consent to share the bread of adversity may want the whole cake of prosperity for themselves.”
― Edith Wharton

I cannot think of anything more important in a law firm partnership than associating yourself with partners who share your values.

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Firm Culture

The Storm (or Just Grow Up Already)

There is a young adult in my life who, as he breezed through his teenage years, could not understand the stress that I experienced as I managed a busy legal career and all of the other aspects of ‘adulting’ that each of us grown-up people have to deal with. When, in my stressed-out state, I used to remark critically upon his somewhat laissez-faire attitude on topics such as attending class, cleaning up after himself, mowing the lawn, or shoveling the driveway, he would just look at me and wanting to help, he would sincerely say, “you should learn to be chill like me, Mur.” Of course, that made my blood boil.

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Firm Culture

An Alternate View of the Legal Universe

When I was young, so much younger than today, I completely bought into the fairy tale that the best and brightest lawyers are all at the large law firms and that everyone else is just not that good. After all, they practically teach you that at law school, although they never quite say it aloud, so I imagine that they have plausible deniability.

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Firm Culture

Lamenting Never Having Found the Legal Dream Team

You may have heard the saying that ‘If you owe a $100,000 to the Bank, you have a problem; but if you owe $100,000,000 to the Bank, the Bank has a problem.’ 

The first time that I saw this principle in action was in the case of a rather large company that became insolvent years ago. This company owed so much money and there was so little chance of any of it being recovered, that the Bank could not be bothered to spend the money required to shut it down, and no other creditor thought that it was worth their while to drive it into bankruptcy. So, the insolvent company kept sputtering along for quite a while.

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Firm Culture

Of Sisyphus and Speakerphones

When I started out in the legal profession many years ago, becoming a Partner at a law firm was the dream of every new lawyer.  At the firm where I articled in 1979, each new Partner received two gifts from the firm upon being admitted to partnership.  The first was a gold sculpture of Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the hill.  The second was a speakerphone, which at the time was new and exciting technology. 

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Firm Culture

Has the Legal Profession ‘Souled’ Out?

Back in the day, the practice of law was considered to be a profession first, and a business second.  Over the years, there was a great deal of talk about how lawyers had to recognize that the practice of law was also a business, and to become more business-like in their approach.  I expect that this had a lot to do with some combination of law firms becoming less profitable and law partners, like many in the corporate sector, becoming greedier.

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Firm Culture

Law Firms: Are You Getting What You Are Paying For?

How can you possibly explain why a lawyer at a substantial firm took on a file that was outside of his expertise and made a costly mistake, when that very same lawyer had three partners and two law clerks in his department, all of whom would have easily spotted the error if consulted?  To make matters worse, had the lawyer involved one of the law clerks on the file to keep costs down, as would normally be done, the clerk would have immediately spotted the error.  However, this lawyer chose to do all the work himself at a billing rate higher than the billing rate of the law clerks.