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December 18, 2010

Has Everyone Except Scott Greenfield Died and Gone to Hallmark?

Many law firms are now like a small town homeowners' association whose key members just learned that the monthly meeting was changed to their bowling night. They are pissed off, torn, confused. The screams out there for quality and value have not been convenient.

"America Lawyers in 2010: "A Passion for Excellence". No one, I'm afraid, is writing a book right now with that title and subtitle. Or books with the same subtitle about Client Service, Retail-level Customer Service, American Education, U.S. Cultural and Geographic Literacy, "Bar Leadership" (let's tell the truth: Western lawyers don't lead anyone or anything anymore) or, say, consistently providing value for to-die-for clients, customers and buyers in the American workplace. Even a world-wide Recession has not made many of us re-think Value--in the marketplace and in our lives--and demand anything new, different and harder of ourselves and others. See our posts over the past two years.

During the Holiday Season, however, we give humans a pass. We accommodate shortcomings, even cookie-cutter living and barely working. But should we tolerate imperfection as much in those who should know better? Those of us with fine educations that others paid for? Those of us in the law firms and other institutions that represent large and publicly-traded clients in corporate America and Western Europe? The firms I see in my work every day? My take: we are all over the board--but very dumb-downed and diluted from 20 years ago. The Recession has not improved quality here either. We are really not leading and "up to it" yet--we still hire and keep mediocre people.

And we are in turmoil. Many law firms are now like a small town homeowners' association whose key members just learned that the monthly meeting was changed to their bowling night. They are pissed off, torn and confused. They know there is work to do--and it must be done more efficiently, more inexpensively and with a valuable return to the real boss: the Client and Customer. The Recession was the biggest wake-up call of all. But most of us have not seized the day. We continue to want to make money doing what they have always have done, working and thinking in a prison of old patterns, and surrounding ourselves with the same goofy people. The screams for quality and value out there in the legal marketplace have not been all that convenient.

Can we just start with the worthless words and phrases we use? Would that help to take quality to "the next level". Scott Greenfield, a noted Manhattan corporate trial lawyer, my friend and a man who beats fish to death with bare hands, has been an ally generally and on specific issues. Do read Simple Justice every day. Like Scott, it defies political labeling, and seems to be read by as many corporate apologists like me as it is read by the criminal defense bar. See also last week's post "What's The Buzz? Scott knows that no one listens anyway--so when you are persuading try not to sound like Mr. Rogers with a Tuck M.B.A. and a lifelong fondness for ether and nitrous oxide. There are others like Scott, who fight WeenieSpeak, Bad Working, Bad Lawyering and Bad Internet. There's this feisty fellow Tannebaum in Miami, D.C.'s Ernie from Glen Burnie, Walter Olson and...well, I'm sure there are others, too. They would all agree with Holden Oliver's remark that "a man who embraces mediocrity and schmaltz says no to life".

Posted by JD Hull at December 18, 2010 11:59 PM


Only the good die young. I plan to be around for a while.

Posted by: shg at December 19, 2010 12:25 PM

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