Field of Dreams
Bob was a brilliant lawyer. He loved technology and was a wizard at math.
Back in the day when we used fax machines and they stood alone somewhere near the photocopier, Bob became enamoured with the idea of software that would allow the assistants to send faxes from their desktop. Bob ran various scenarios to demonstrate how much money we would save if we purchased this product. He calculated the salary and benefits earned by each assistant per minute and multiplied it by the number of minutes each assistant spent walking to and from the fax machine every day. We were going to save a fortune.
Technology Levels the Playing Field
Back when I was a teenager, I worked in a warehouse with Warren.
Warren and I unloaded trucks. Warren would stand in the truck and toss boxes to me which I would stack on the floor. A truck might contain boxes of various sizes and weights. One small box might contain screwdrivers that weigh a ton. The next might be a large container of disposable aluminum cooking trays that was light as a feather.
Back in the day, I used to teach junior lawyers how to practice law. I had me some rules. They went something like this:
- Do not delegate something that you do not know how to do yourself. If you do, how are you going to know if the work product is correct?
- Do not include anything in a document if you do not know why it is there. I will be unimpressed if you give me a document and cannot explain why you included every single word in it.
- As a corollary to Rule number 2, never say to me that you included something ‘because it was in the precedent.’ If you do that, I will be apoplectic and that will not be a good thing for either of us.
These rules helped me train a number of junior lawyers to be pretty good at what they did.
In the old days, lawyers joined firms and stayed there, progressing from Associate to Partner. Nowadays there is a great deal of lateral movement among firms. Law firms do not seem to have figured out that they have to do something to manage their business in the face of this constant change of personnel. Appara asked me to think about how legal tech fits in. You can read my thoughts on their site by clicking the link below.
My legal career drove me crazy. Granted, it was not a very long drive, but I suspect that with a bit of knowledge and a great deal of counselling, perhaps I could have taken an off-ramp before I got there.
In a better world, people contemplating a career in law would be told that: (i) it is stressful; and (ii) they should take steps to become their best psychological self before they start down that road.
In the old days, the path to success in the legal profession seemed fairly straight forward: Get top marks; article for a good firm (the larger the better); get hired back; work a tonne of hours; become a partner.
With success came prestige and money.
Hiring Grandma and Grandpa
My friend Steve tells a story about the loss of his uncle at age 58, when Steve was 18 years old. While Steve’s parents were aghast at the tragedy of losing their relative at such an early age, Steve remembers thinking, “what are they talking about, the guy was 58 years old. He had a good run.”
Don’t Miss the Tipping Point
Back when I started practicing law, fax machines were just coming into vogue. This was an extremely useful development, especially since email had not been invented yet.
The timeline for the introduction of fax machines into law offices had two distinct markers.
Doing Less, Thinking More
My stepson once explained to me that his career goal was to be paid a great deal of money to sit at a big desk in a private office and think about things. I tried to explain to him that on the path to his dream job he would have to pass obstacles such as shoveling the driveway, taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn. We did not understand each other.