Suffering, especially when it's unexpected, has a way of opening us to out-of-the-box approaches.
That's exactly what law firms will have to do to make it through the current "economic hell," James W. Jones, Managing Director of Hildebrandt International, delivers that radical advice. In an article on the Law Marketing Blog, Jones is quoted as observing, "This recession is significantly different that [sic] prior recessions and could lead to fundamental changes in the law firm business model."
Fortunately, for newbie JDs, associates and partners many have traveled this road before. One is Winnie Adams. She tells THE NEW YORK TIMES reporter Sarah Kershaw, "I did everything I was supposed to do." That didn't prevent suffering. Her solution: To break away from traditional paths and figure out how to survive separately or out of the mainstream. Adams was and is a lesbian.
Others who also tried and seemingly succeeded in ending suffering by breaking away include:
- Steve Jobs [after getting tossed from his company, remade himself his way]
- Arianna Huffington [once an outsider]
- Ana Marie Cox [former Wonkette who had a checkered career before blogging]
- Bob Dilenschneider [fought that influence comes from emotion, not data], and
- Fictional Augie March [Saul Bellow protagonist who survives though schemes.]
How can lawyers, forced by the system to do things as they "are supposed to be done" [high grades, acing standardized tests, admission to the right schools, passing the bar, hired by right firms, billing the most hours], break away?
Start with deconstructing legal models of people and organizations which had done this successfully. Those range from Alan Dershowitz and Bill Marler to Valorem and the Pittsburgh product liability group of Jones Day. Probably the most useful and poignant question is: Why did they choose the road less traveled? The next is: What was the killer app that brought success?
That's a productive beginning. Then comes the action piece. That entails experimentation. It's usually not pretty. That's because it usually can't bypass failure and appearing foolish. Silicon Valley marketing pro and career coach Marsha Keeffer observes, "Here in The Valley, blowing it is considered a necessary rite of passage. That's because the trauma of losing seems required for winning. Zen? Maybe."
The third must-do is leverage leverage leverage what works into your own unique success formulas. Management consultants W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne call this "Blue Ocean Strategy" or creating your own marketplace space. If there is a secret to Marler's "ownership" of the food-borne disease category, that's probably it.
Disclosure: Now and then I do digital assignments for Bob Dilenschneider, Bill Marler and Marsha Keeffer. Incidentally, my success formula is to do nothing but digital. Here's my story of suffering and breaking away Download Geezerguts.