Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Our Profession Has Stopped Thinking: How Else Could We Have Departed from Sound Economic Principles?

Have you ever wondered how the legal profession, which is trained to ask questions and be skeptical, has not asked why they bill by the hour let alone why we continue to do so? Have you ever wondered how most senior attorneys could have practiced law a lifetime and not realize that the practice of billing by the hour was a recent accident and product of the 1950's and cost accounting methods. Have you ever wondered why old lawyers bicker and banter about how fixed-pricing would not work when in fact it not only works in the legal industry in most other countries, but it also has worked for centuries before the 1950's when WE were a fixed-price profession? Have you ever wondered why professional satisfaction is at historic lows, attrition rates and depression rates at all-time highs, and that this trend STARTED in the 1960's and the problems have become worse every year. Have you ever wondered why law firms used to be an honorable profession, or why lawyers in my grandfather's time were "Primary Care" attorneys who had strong relationships with their clients. . .and why we are now a profession of only Emergency Room Medicine? Have you ever wondered why law firms are run more like an assembly line, with highly and narrowly skilled people with no transferable skill sets, just doing more and more of the same thing every day for the rest of their life? Do you ever feel like the prize for the pie earing contest is. . . well. . . MORE PIE? Have you ever heard of Karl Marx's Labor Theory of Value? Have you ever wondered what economic theory hourly billing is based on? Have you ever wondered if your business model is based on a theory that was refuted one hundred years ago and has PROVEN to have caused the same problems our profession is facing today? Have you ever wondered that? Have you ever thought of it? Ever? Do you EVEN THINK? Who are you? Please be at your office at 4pm . . . I'm coming over to to collect you law degrees and return them to the University that let them sneak out one day when they left the doors open, because the one thing I do know about the profession of law is that we are supposed to be a THINKING profession. We are supposed to ask the TOUGH questions. Our laws are based on centuries of wisdom and theory and it takes THINKING people to make this profession one of honor and integrity and to keep alive its founding principles. He who does the right thing but knows not what he does is not a wise man, for any follower can do what he is told. This profession did not start with thoughless minds and it should not end with them. Law firms who operate under an economic theory that is proven to produce miserable people, high attrition, depression, unhappy clients, and a life destined to be counted in 6-minute increments stands for something that is far too lowly of a true professional. Did you ever wonder why you wake up ever day and carry that flag? Do you ever wonder why you stand for your wallet over your people? Can you possibly stand for honor and integrity and dishonor your workforce every day? Can you possibly continue to operate under this model, never ask why, and then turn around and try to convince clients you are smart? Can you wake up every day and look your children in the eye knowing that they could one day be the victim of a model YOU perpetuate? Could you really put on your website that you believe in diversity and quality of life when it is abundantly clear to the world that you run a sweat shop and have only token diversity? (because of your business model} Can a Nazi waive the Jewish flag and be genuine? Can you look in the mirror every day knowing what you do to people by adopting the billable hour model? IS THAT WHY YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO KNOW? Malcolm X put it best when he wrote: "If you are not part of the Solution, then you are part of the problem" Where do you stand?