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By Murray Gottheil | June 27, 2003
If any among you have not yet happened upon the writings of H.L. Mencken, you should correct that. Among his many pithy quotes are the following gems:
- Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance;
- Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public; and
- Conscience is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking.
One of H.L. Mencken’s quotes that seems particularly apt for law firm management is this one: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”
Gender inequality? Hire more female associates. (But don’t change the environment that drives them out of private practice before they hit partnership.)
Racial inequality? Search high and low for more lawyers from diverse backgrounds. (But don’t hire internationally trained lawyers who do not have Canadian experience.)
Mental Health? Bring in a yoga instructor to provide lessons at 5 pm. (Parents may have to skip it to get home to their kids, but that is their personal choice. Single folks can get back to work after Savasana.)
Productivity low? Order everyone to stop working from home so that they can be more ‘collegial.’ (Because adding two hours of commuting to their day should give them more time to bill.)
Associates abandoning ship? Offer signing bonuses to mercenary lawyers to transfer to your firm. (Then be shocked when they go elsewhere when someone offers them even more.)
Clients unhappy with billing? Talk about alternative fee arrangements and doing away with the billable hour. (But do not actually implement them in any intelligent fashion.)
Management problems? Hire professional management. (But don’t pay too much and be sure that the partners frustrate their efforts when they run afoul of their personal fiefdoms.)
Back to H.L. Mencken. I wonder what he would have thought of law firm management. I imagine that he may have adapted some of his famous quotes, as follows:
- Partnership Meetings are a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance;
- Nobody ever went broke underestimating the management skills of lawyers; and
- Commitment to DEI is the inner voice that warns us that someone might be looking.
Murray is a happily retired lawyer who lives in the country, drives a pick-up truck, writes, teaches and mentors. You can reach him at [email protected] or see what he is up to at lawanddisorderinc.com.