Definitely Mabey

New voice but same words

T. S. Elliot once unknowingly demonstrated insight into the legal profession when he wrote:

"For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice . . ."

Stephen Mabey Author

The challenge in the legal profession is not that voices don't change (albeit sometimes too slowly) but the words never change. If a frank and open survey was conducted of law firms of all sizes this January, I would bet the issues and challenges identified as facing their firms in 2013 would differ only so slightly from the ones identified in a similar survey conducted last January.

There are likely as many reasons for the absence of "doing" as there are firms, including:

  1. The magnitude of the issues are such that it will take years of repeated effort to solve them;

  2. Because new challenges arise, we have to keep adjusting our priorities, and these issues—while serious—were bumped for more serious ones; and

  1. We were not sure where to start so we worked on other issues while we developed a strategy on how best to deal with our more serious issues.

Much of the law partnership business—large and mega firms excluded (but perhaps they should not wear the title of partnership to begin with)—is conducted on a consensus basis.

In January 2012, H. Karen Gardner, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard University, authored a paper titled Performance Pressures as a Double-Edged Sword: Enhancing Team Motivation While Undermining the Use of Team Knowledge. For purposes of this column in layperson English, her research suggests innovation is smothered by consensus decision-making.

The legal profession is a classic example. Everyone knows of the need to make significant changes in many aspects of its business processes and procedures, but there is no real wholesale movement in the profession. In a simple chain of events Gardner's research would seem to point out that:

The rest of this article is available in Stephen Mabey's new Book

Book Cover - Leading and Managing a Sustainable Law Firm - Tactics & Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Profession by Stephen Mabey

Available for purchase on BookBaby.




Until next month, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin:

"Let the end of 2013 find you a better firm than you were at the start.”

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First Published in Canadian Lawyer January 2013. Copyright © Applied Strategies Inc.

Legal Strategy Consultant