Sunday, June 11, 2006

The True Meaning of Success

Success is an interesting word. We all seem to understand what it means, yet everyone I ask to define it uses a different description. As pioneers of a new model, albeit intuitive and proven in business, I recall lawyers asking questions about whether or not the model will be a success. This has prompted me to think deeply about the meaning of success. I cannot help but to think that the "success" as defined by the people posing the question is quite different from the definition from within the walls of Exemplar. The corporate legal industry tends to attract and retain destination-oriented talent (money, success, power). This model is perpetuated by firms that compete for talent on price and incentivize competitive individualistic behaviors, making the journey pure misery, but the destination a gold mine for the few who make it up the "up or out" pyramid scheme. Over time, journey-oriented attorneys leave seeking more fulfillment, meaning, and a better working environment. Since Exemplar is a journey firm, it would be incorrect to define success in destination-oriented terms. To the rest of the industry success may be defined as reaching $3 million in profits per partner or having the highest billable hour rates or even billable hour "quotas." Without a doubt, Exemplar has a different definition of success. For us, success is embracing the best practices that earned corporations "Employer of Choice" awards, setting the standard for customer service in a service industry where service is know to be lacking, creating a world-class work environment that puts the incentives in the right place and motivates the right behaviors, by leveraging our diversity of talents, knowledge, cultures, and interests to approach and serve markets that are inaccessible to a traditionally organized law firm, and (most important) making sure that every day our people wake up in the morning they know that there is no other place they would rather be serving clients than at Exemplar. By destination-oriented metrics Exemplar may have a long way to go, but by the metrics that mean everything to our people that get up every day and do what they do, sucess is not nearly so far. To some, we have already arrived.

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