An ex-girlfriend of mine used to say:
“Never explain, never apologise.”
At the time, I was too young and too naive to challenge her assertion. However, years later, and the fires of passion having dampened and died, I look back and think “What a load of b****cks”!
Her attitude of ‘brazening it out’ was not only arrogant but showed a complete lack of understanding of the foundation of relationships.
It is no different for business relationships. Trust is as much built from the accepting responsibility for mistakes and fixing them, as it is from anything else we do.
Many lawyers confuse an apology with being some kind of “admission of liability”, for them, sorry does seem to be the hardest word. The challenge will come when new market entrants from “service” backgrounds begin to compete. Service levels becomes a core element of their “product” and acceptance of “service failures” forms an essential part of their offering – then some lawyers may be face to reevaluate their relationship with the “S” word.
To aid this transition, emotionally, here are some famous apologies from history:
- BILL CLINTON TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE for his dalliance with Ms Lewinsky, which he acknowledged was “a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.”
- MEL GIBSON (take your pick) for his anti-Semitic rant at a Jewish police officer, which he described as “unbecoming” in his ”inebriated state”.
- RICHARD NIXON TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE resigning post “Watergate” – Nixon manages to get through his whole speech without expressly apologising or using the “S” word.
- NOBEL FOR INVENTING DYNAMITE – and seeking a better legacy through the peace prize.
- TONY BLAIR FOR: Slavery, Irish Famine, Historical Miscarriages of Justice – all before his time and then, finally, for Iraq deaths.
Please post any more you can think of?
- Lawyers become narrower in scope (but deeper in domain specialism) the more qualified they are; and
- Firms have a short term view to buy specialism rather than adaptable intellect.
* Marshall McLuhan, was known for coining the expressions “the medium is the message” and “the global village” and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. [WIKI-LINK].
“How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you’re on your own)“
A Little Help from My Friends, Lennon & McCartney
Saturday night friends invited me to see the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s The Two of Us, the Lennon and McCartney songbook. Amazing show, amazing orchestra, amazing venue and an amazing city.
The scale of the orchestra and the intimacy of the venue laid bare, to me, the lamentable tragedy of how a partnership borne from mutual respect and admiration, which produced timeless genius, can be wrecked by personal agendas and petty jealousies.
In just ten years, The Beatles were formed, went from five to four and then another four, conquered America, stopped touring, ruled the world and produced 12 of the most timeless albums of pop in history.
In my view, the Fab Four were actually the Super Six when you give the appropriate recognition to Epstein and Martin.
These six produced a legacy which was more than the sum of all its parts. That is what partnerships do, or should do.
Dennis Norden, when talking of his long writing partnership with Frank Muir said “A partnership really works when it is partner a x partner b, rather than partner a + partner b”.
For some of those ten years, The Beatles had this until they lost Epstein and personal agendas finally took over.
Take a long hard look at your partnership, do your partners value your partnership over their own, personal, aims and agendas? Are you a “partner a x partner b” or a “partner a + partner b” or, doomed to fail in a Dewey-style “partner a - partner b” model of partnership?
It’s Monday, a new week, are you going to be a Fool on the Hill or get by with a little help from your friend?
Thanks to my friends at Hill Dickinson for a fab Saturday night.
“Guruitis is a scourge of our time, listen people there is no THE answer, there are a number of possible answers. There is no THE book but a number of books worth reading”.
Stephen Allen, @LexFuturus May 2012
Let me tell you about a book worth reading, in fact I would go as far to say that if you only had time to read one book on the future of the legal services market, then this is the book you should read.
Avoiding Extinction: Reimaging Legal Services for the 21st Century, by Mitchell Kowalski (@mekowalski) is a fictional narrative detailing the visionary law firm of Bowen, Fong and Chandri (“BFC”) and their client Kowtor Industries.
BFC, headed by the mercurial Sylvester Bowen, set out the case of a reimagined legal service provider to their future client, a new recruit and a member of their board of directors.
So, why do I say this is a must read book?
Firstly, with amazing brevity – less than 200 pages, Kowalski provides the reader with a vivid depiction of what is possible when the starting point is giving the client what they want, rather than trying to fit what you already do to the clients want. I can do little better than to quote BFC’s mantra:
“BFC performs legal services that differ from those of our rivals, or, similar legal services, but in a very different way.”
Secondly, it tackles the “biggies” in terms of: project management; value pricing; technology; knowledge management; recruitment; reward; work space; team work; alternative sourcing; management; and leveraging your assets. All in this one book, less than 200 pages.
Thirdly, it references the theorists, but through believable examples, including: Boake & Kathuria; Martin; Mayson; Susskind; Parsons; Posner; and Sharp. This book is your “Oh, but where to start?”
Fourthly, because some of it will make you feel uncomfortable by challenging your status quo. I, personally, have never warmed to the open plan principle but find myself unable to resist the argument (if universally adopted by all).
Finally, because I have worked on a proposition that would have delivered to Kowtor’s RFP and that has demonstrated, in reality, many of the lessons set out in Kowlaski’s book.
However, both of us have come to a similar answer, quite independently of each other and without knowing, at the time, of each other’s existence.
This puts me in mind of Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin who, quite separately, came up with the theory of evolution. Darwin published the Origin of the Species (dedicating it to Wallace) and Wallace was just happy having his own theory endorsed by recognised great thinker.
Mitchell Kowlaski is Darwin to my Wallace, I am happy to know my theories are shared by someone who is clearly such a great thinker.
Both of us, like Darwin and Wallace, are interested in understating how to avoid extinction, if you are too then read this book.
Post script. A number of people have advised thhe the ABA site is not apply to supply and that Amazon is unable to supply until December.
I am reliably informed that Ben McNally Books in Toronto will send copies to the UK – email the owner at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him for a copy.
Jimmy Carville’s phrase has been quoted, misquoted and plagiarised ever since it was one of the Clinton campaign’s internal focus checklist in 1992.
The phrase had been intended, by Carville to play on the anxiety of American voters.
Increasingly, however, I am seeing it misused by leaders of law firms (and some consultants to law firms that I shan’t mention) to justify inertia.
Law firms are not under pressure just because of the economy. Yes, post 2008 the already creakingly inefficient law firm model has been put under increased pressure. The economy has been an accelerator.
BUT the view held by a scary number of law firm leaders that all will be okay “once the economy picks up” needs one and only one response: “It’s not the economy, stupid!”
Here are ten other things the deluded should concentrate on, instead:
1. Your overheads are too much;
2. No football team won anything with 11 strikers, it’s not a profession anymore, it’s an industry – get the right team in;
3. Clients hate the hourly rate;
4. The clue is in the name, it’s a FIXED fee;
5. Ask your clients what they need;
6. Think about what else they may need;
7. Do something about it;
8. By the way your client is not the GC but the GC’s client;
9. None of your clients make 30% margins; and
10. There are too many of you – get fit, get relevant and you may survive.
Its in you’re hands, don’t look for excuses, look for answers – and what ever you think “It’s not the economy, stupid”.