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September 14, 2010

Employees 1, Clients 0, Firms 0. What about Customers, Buyers and Clients?

Isn't employee (and associate) satisfaction the responsibility of both employers and employees--but mainly of the employees themselves? How did our perspective get so backward and myopic? And, frankly, so anti-customer? Why not evaluate law firm partners--and associates, paralegals, messengers, techs, assistants and law firms generally--based on client and customer service standards? Rather than on what associates think?

And on the opinons of "other little people" who pay our businesses and allow our businesses to exist. I must ask. Do law school profs live in an alternate reality? Does it happen as soon as they enter law school hallways? Does it happen to even to-die for academia acquisitions like fine higher-end lawyers who actually practiced law for longer than 18 months--the kind we at this blog get so jazzed about when they are infrequently permitted to teach? And those who work for world-class litigation shops for decades?

We do worry. See at the always-improving and growing (and we mean that) ABA Journal the short article "Partners Should Be Evaluated Based on Associate Satisfaction, Prof Suggests", inspired by a longer and, frankly, very well-done--if overly polite and risk-averse--AmLaw Daily piece. The author of the ALM article is correct: it's "treacherous" to overgeneralize. But we're all wasting so much money on associates, many of whom are viewed as increasingly "helpless" in recent years--and often running a con on great clients in many cases by even billing them out at all--that a Purple Prose Cry from the Wilderness may make sense here.

Isn't employee (and associate) satisfaction the responsibility of both employers and employees--but mainly of the employees themselves? How did our perspective get so backward and myopic? Stephen Covey's campaign to bliss out the old corporate model? Mr. Rogers? The Phil Donahue Show? Didn't the Covey-esque "employees are oh so precious" overtures of the last 20 years presuppose a U.S. economy and Western markets that did well: green grass, good crops and a TV in every room? The big bonus at the holidays?

Bring it, Skippy: Two partners excited about their evaluations.

These are not those times, Jack. These are the times of tool sharpening--and going back to the places of definitions. Adjustment. Correction. And a reexamination of commercial value itself. The good news: clients, law firms and other service providers and vendors who learn from the present economic troubles will come out stronger.

Look, employee satisfaction is always important. But employee happiness, while desirable, ranks "third" (#3) in the scheme of work things. Or perhaps even fifth (#5) in the scheme of overall priorities. So let's run through it all again, shall we? Here's one possible list that might make sense so we can all be "better people" and know true caring-sharing new age holistic Sweetness and Life in our lives.

Consider these "new metrics", in order of their importance in the scheme of All Things:

1. God, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, The Moral Order in the Cosmos, Great Spirit, Sacred Oaks, the Watchers, Eric Clapton.

2. Your family. Close friends.

3. Your customers, buyers, clients. #1 for Work.

4. Your company. #2 for Work.

5. Employees, associates, and the help. #3 for Work.

6. Pets. Animals.

7. Plant Life.

8. Rocks. Cars, household appliances, PI and insurance defense lawyers, some books, some other material things.

9. Airports that make sense. Cheetos. The 1968 Chicago Convention-era "drug implement" of some kind crafted from an actual billy club and given to me in 1985 by a now-dead famous writer. (Please, no jokes or comments; too easy. No, it wasn't Lillian Hellman.)

10. Traveling the world. Reading the classics. Dinner with Annabeth Gish or Parker Posey. (Should be #5, #6 and #7 if you can "afford" them.)

I have it. How about evaluating partners--and associates and law firms generally--on client service standards? Far-out, huh?

Posted by JD Hull at September 14, 2010 11:59 PM


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