Higher profits come at a cost. Be careful what you wish for.
As a multiple-decade veteran of Big Law, I vividly remember the many debates about whether practicing law was a profession or a business. I was often leading these discussions as the firm-wide managing partner of operations of a global law firm. How could a firm with over 1,000 lawyers, over $1 billion in revenue, and over 20 offices be anything but a business?
In an attempt to gain the latest insights on strategy, finance, human resources, outsourcing, and IT, I eagerly read every issue of Harvard Business Review. I remember years ago having to overcome the partners’ resistance to being paid only by direct deposit and to increasing the partner-to-secretary ratio beyond 1-to-1. Now that I am gone from Big Law and managing a law-school legal clinic where I am still practicing law (but with startups and other micro businesses), I frequently question whether being so focused on productivity and efficiency in my former life was worth the price. Perhaps giving up a few ticks in profits per partner (PPP) would have made my firm a better place.
In this Labor Day essay, I’ll offer some second thoughts on the business of law,
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