Ad Arguendo's new tag line is "the blog of law and leadership". I came up with that after agonizing over how to work through a new post on the "Clementi" effect that is creeping up on us (if you don't know what I am talking about, heaven help you and click here). I was trying to figure out what I could usefully add to the conversation that might be more articulate than: wake up! this is happening! US firms are going to be caught with their pants down while their European counterparts use new-found billions to outflank them in infrastructure and new platforms! I still think that pretty much sums it up--but that isn't what I was going to write about today.
Psycho-Babble Quip of the Day
No, my rant of the day is a little more abstract. Yes, more. As a good little disciple of Bruce MacEwen, I dutifully rushed over to his blog this morning to see what might have fallen from his lips. As usual, it is spot on. If I may, I'll clear up a little of the underbrush.
What law firms need, right now--today--is a new paradigm of growth, a new paradigm of what it means to practice, a new paradigm for exploiting resources. And that paradigmatic shift is: synergy, openness, responsiveness, dynamism, quest for dominance.
Nietzsche said it well when he opined on what "life" is (paraphrasing): an instinct for growth, for power. To date, lawyers have been quite sweetly (bless them) thinking in terms only of an individual practice group here, a new platform there. They have not (as a group) been strategizing how each can dominate a particular market, how they can become the greatest and largest in a particular niche, or better, how they can revolutionize a practice qualitatively, how they can reinvent what the attorney-client relationship means in a particular industry. In short, they are small thinkers, not big thinkers. They have failed to grasp that strategic thinking means a constant evaluation of what one has, what one has done, what one wants to do, and an open eye to the possibilities great and small.
Tactics versus Strategy
Said another way, there is a lack of understanding between the "tactical" and the "strategic." As a former soldier, I understand it well. "Tactical" and "tactical proficiency" mean knowing how to do one's job--knowing how to move on the ground when trying to reach an objective, knowing how one's enemy on the ground was likely to move and figuring out how to respond. This is the extent of most law firms' thinking: they are good lawyers and strive to be better and exploit the markets that come to them.
You Know it When You See it
But there is the second way of thinking--strategic thinking. This is one of those "you know it when you see it" kind of things. Strategic thinking is what those scary wonks in the basement of the Pentagon are doing--thinking three wars ahead, figuring out how to use weapons that haven't been invented yet, making scenarios to fight enemies that have not come into ascendancy. On a level a little closer to home: they are listening in not only to their current "targets" but every target they can think of. The strategic mind is one that is always listening, always seeking new information, and always integrating the new information into what is already known, striving to expose the mind to everything, in all areas, in short, to see the world, humanity and everything in an all-embracing vision of ultimate complexity.
Breaking it Down
Huh? I can tell you, that is what genius is all about. That is what Steve Jobs and the other wonder-wizards of our age are doing. They are taking it all in and they are thinking of entire new products, entirely new needs, completely tangential paradigms. In short, they are not just just making better beans, they are inventing new crops, reinventing how to farm them, reinventing how to eat them, reinventing what "food" is.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE PRACTICE OF LAW?
It means actually "seeing" what is hidden right in the open. Just for starters: All of our nation's former enemies are now economic partners and competitors. The world exists in a free-form exchange of capital unfettered by political necessities. Smaller nations, nations with few resources, and seemingly little savvy, can leap-frog over the powers that be. Plus, all of our "conventions" of practice (like no non-lawyer ownership of firms) exist only in our minds--they can be changed in a trice. That means that despite the growing hegemonic dominance of American law firms across the globe, anyone can change the rules. Law firms need to hire bigger brains, craftier brains, non-legal brains, to help them join the 21st-century in terms of management savvy.
Be That One
If you think for one minute that the world is going to wait for us to deign to grow up as an industry, take the reins that our head start have placed in our hands and then dutifully fall in line behind us, think again.
Think strategically. If you can do this, you will be ahead of 999 in a 1000 souls. Be that one.