f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

March 2, 2006

wedgie opportunity: poor advice for associates from Juris’ CEO

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 9:41 am



Wedge” (Feb. 24, 2006), Bob Coffield of Health Care Law Blog pointed to a

posting that day by Tom Collins, calling it “Great advice for everyone — not

just law firm associates.”  Collins was the founder of Endata and is the CEO

of Juris, Inc., which he says is  “the leading brand of law office business soft-

ware for midsize law firms.”

 

“slicingThePie”


Admission: It’s hard for me to avoid skepticism about a weblog

named MorePartnerIncome. However, my mediation practice

gave me lots of practice in maintaining objectivity and withholding

judgment, so I tried to read the Collins post with an open mind.



The Collins’ post is titled “Achievement Concepts for the Young Attorney“, and 

it focuses on the concept of the Opportunity Wedge.  After taking Bob Coffield’s

advice to “consider” it, I’ve come to a serious conclusion: From the perspective

of law firm management and career development/balance for young lawyers, it is

both very scary and very silly.

 


                                                                               Opportunity greater than eq s

                                                                                                                           less than eq s Time

 

Because I want to go through Collins’ piece closely, and you deserve the chance

to read it as first written, I’m going to present the short essay here:


Achievement Concepts for the Young Attorney

 

by Tom Collins, MorePartnerIncome, Fri 24 Feb 2006

 


Instill these concepts in your young team members, and they will increase


per-partner income and firm success.


 


Opportunity Wedge: There are two certainties in life





  • Change is constant.


  • We are always judged by others


OWg


What we are is determined by how others see us. The Opportunity Wedge

illustrates that life is a journey involving constant change.  

 

At birth, our opportunities are the greatest. We can become a bum or a great


achiever.  Our final destination is determined by our own decisions and actions. 


As we journey through life, one decision after another narrows the alternate op-


portunities available to us.  For those who have already sacrificed their best op-


portunities through bad decisions, the opportunity wedge is an unpleasant and


fatalistic concept. Thus, I am always reluctant to introduce the Opportunity Wedge


to an audience.  But for the young associates entering the firm, it is an important


concept for their mentor to convey.  Where the associate goes from here will be


determined by the associate?s own decisions and actions.  Make the right decisions,


and the future is a bright one.  We are the captains of our own destiny. 


 


It is an organization?s culture (its core beliefs) that gives that organization its character


and personality. The Opportunity Wedge is a part of ours and the following catch


phrases and short descriptions identify others. I recommend them to you.



Make My day: You are the person who decides what kind of day


     you will have.


Pros Play Hurt: Show up and play your best.


Keep on the Gas: Don?t let up just because you are almost there.


Presentation Counts: A cake is one thing; one with icing is altogether


     another.


Finish, Don?t Quit: Achievers bring things to a conclusion.


Listen to be Heard: Great conversationalists ask and let others talk.


Dress for Success: Clothes may not make the man, but they make


    an impression.


It Is All About Giving: Relationships are built by helping others.


Two Words to Use: ?Thank you.?  ?You?re welcome.?  ?I?m sorry.?


People Bank: Save them; they pay a great return.


Smile: People can hear yours.


 


Humor: It is disarming.  laughing man small


Miss Manners: Behavior counts.


Persevere: Never throw in the towel.


Standing 8: Take the time to refocus.


Play Offense: Act, don?t react.


True Believer: Be a ?can? vs. a ?can?t? person.


Practice/practice: Stars aren?t made?they practiced.


We, Not I:  Great things are accomplished through others.


Collaboration Trumps Competition: Personal contribution is valuable,


    but it took collaboration to build the Pyramids.


“tinyredcheck” Ignoring some of the harmless aphorisms for a moment, does this all sound inspiring and


helpful to you as a partner or associate in a law firm?  Is there one word about personal


and professional fulfillment? life balance? finding your own values and practicing them within


the profession?  bringing professional ethics into your practice life?  putting the client’s inter-


ests (rather than the firm’s) first?



tiny check Frankly, if you are a young lawyer in a firm that has adopted the OW   OWsv 


(appropriate acronymn, yes?), you need to ask whether you belong there.


If you blindly buy into the OW concept, you might want to consider flipping


it over and wearing it as a hat.  Read on to see why.


sleuthSm


 


Let’s quickly go piece by piece through Collins’ “Achievement Concepts for the Young


Attorney.” I’ll give my reaction, while you ask yourself just what the young attorney might


hope to achieve by following the concepts.


 


– Instill these concepts in your young team members, and they will increase


per-partner income and firm success.-   


 


Ed.: Clearly the firm doesn’t show this sentence to the young associate.


 


Opportunity Wedge: There are two certainties in life





  • Change is constant.


  • We are always judged by others –

Ed.: There seem to be quite a few other certainties but, yes, change is constant,


even when it seems as if everyday is the same and you’re in a rut.  The potential


for change is, of course, the potential for creating new, better opportunities.  Always


being judged by others might be a certainty for human beings, but what that means


for the young attorney remains to be seen — except, we should keep in mind that


trying to please others and live up to their expectations is what brings many thought-


lessly into the legal profession and keeps them at jobs not suitable for them (see our


1L of a decision).  Let’s see what Tom Collins thinks about such judgments.



OWs


What we are is determined by how others see us. –    

 

Ed: I’m an old guy by weblog standards, but this notion seems mighty old-fashioned

to me — as in feudalism or maybe an exotic caste system.  What we are is deter-

mined by what we do, what values and priorities we choose to live by, what talents

and personality traits we choose to nurture, what friends we make and cultivate, and

much more.

 

 

– The Opportunity Wedge illustrates that life is a journey involving constant

change. –    

 

           Ed:.  I’m no great illustrator or creative artist, but the Opportunity Wedge

image used by Tom Collins seems to “illustrate” virtually nothing.  I’m not even

sure if a ceaseless reduction in “opportunities” over time is actually a “change.”

 

 

At birth, our opportunities are the greatest. We can become a bum or a great


achiever.  Our final destination is determined by our own decisions and actions. 


As we journey through life, one decision after another narrows the alternate op-


portunities available to us. –


 


Ed.:  Call me a silly optimist — or perhaps a practical realist — but, it seems to me that,


for many members of our society, opportunities appear quite limited at birth, and for the


vast majority, they look rather mediocre, with little or no chance to be “a great achiever.”


Nevertheless, with choices and commitment, opportunities can grow — even beyond those


that seem the most obvious at the time one graduates from law school or is shunted aside


by a law firm.  We can create new and better opportunities even past middle age.



tiny check Tom Collins seems to be imaging a world where you enter one career track and stay


there for the rest of your working life (unless thrown out, I guess).  In the 21st Century,


people will change jobs, and even careers or professions, often — or, need to be ready


and able to do so.


                                                                                                             pawn horiz


 


For those who have already sacrificed their best opportunities through bad decisions,


the opportunity wedge is an unpleasant and fatalistic concept. Thus, I am always


reluctant to introduce the Opportunity Wedge to an audience.  But for the young


associates entering the firm, it is an important concept for their mentor to convey. –


 


Ed.: So, fatalism is an important concept to convey?  Having no options, keeps the


sheep docile.


 


 


Where the associate goes from here will be determined by the associate?s own


decisions and actions.  Make the right decisions, and the future is a bright one. –


 


laughing man small  Ed.:  This is a joke, right?  Who has less control within a law


firm than an associate?   Which “right decisions” ensure a “bright future”?


 


 


We are the captains of our own destiny. –


 


Ed.:  Nice royal “we” hear.  Even many equity partners have a shaky hold on their


own destiny within a law firm.  Only if you look to the future, keep your options open,


and are willing to make hard decisions concerning leaving a firm, can you have a good


grasp on your own destiny (still, of course, with no guarantees).


 


 


It is an organization?s culture (its core beliefs) that gives that organization its character


and personality. The Opportunity Wedge is a part of ours . . –


 


Ed.: A prospective associate should find out whether a firm subscribes to the OW   “questionDudeS”


concept — if the firm does, its “character and personality” may be fixated on maximizing


partner income and maximizing associate obeisance and “performance.”



tiny check On Feb. 27, Mr. Collins had a post on Associate Salary in Mid-sized Law Firms.


He advises (emphasis added):



“Given the continuing rise in Associate compensation ($75,000 to $145,000


depending on firm size and location), it is now more important than ever to set


targets and measure performance in order to ensure that the firm?s investment


will generate a profitable return. 


 


All the talk of balanced life aside, law firms have to fund operations from current


performance.  Associates have to pay their way.  That means setting targets for


revenue production and holding new additions accountable.” 


tiny check As for Collins’ aphorism list, many that are positive or harmless seem quite obvious,


 and many others suffer from the same myopia as the OW.  The following ones, however, appear


rather ironic, given the primary goal of Tom Collins’ weblog: 




Make My day: You are the person who decides what kind of day


  you will have.


 


It Is All About Giving: Relationships are built by helping others.


 


We, Not I:  Great things are accomplished through others.


 


Collaboration Trumps Competition: Personal contribution is


valuable, but it took collaboration to build the Pyramids.


I especially like the last one.  If I’m not mistaken, the pyramids were built with the “collaboration”


of slaves (many of whom died during the process), and were constructed for the honor and glory


of one human being, who deemed himself to be a god, and accumulated obscene amounts of


treasures and wealth.  Hmm.


 


watch step sign


 


Sorry, Tom and Bob, the Opportunity Wedge looks (and probably feels) much more like a


Wedgie Opportunity.   Whether the young lawyer is subjected to the humiliation of an under-


wear wedgie, or is merely under the heel of a partner’s wedgie boot, OW! is the likely outcome


for the associate.   Life and careers look a lot more like decision trees than like Collins’ Wedge.


Perhaps the better analogy is to a Scrabble board — where a shoot off a deadend position can


branch into new opportunities for triple-word scores, creativity and personal satisfaction, with a


large element of luck thrown in.


 


Let’s hope all those mid-sized firms that use Jurist, Inc. software don’t also subscribe to the


Jurist OW concept.  Just to be safe, though, job seekers or current associates should do a


little probing.  You have choices.


 


 









solstice sunset

beside dad’s pink slip 

her christmas list

 

 

 

 

 

christmas evening

the goose she raised

all summer

 


ed markowski 


 


 


 






the great lord’s wood fire
rises
first


 


 



translated by David G. Lanoue

                                                                                                                                   OWsv


 

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