Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cross-Pond Commentary

Are you still sitting on the floor? Me too. I fell off my chair, and haven't been able to pick my big but amazingly cute butt up off the floor since I landed there. No, I know YOU don't care to know anything about my butt. But, I'm still single, and, well, you never know, do ya? And I wasn't talking to you, anyway. . .I was talking to . . . uh . . . you. How YOU doin'? Where was I?

Oh yeah. Falling off the chair. I know! Me too. The same article. Oh, wait. I gotta tell you another story, so I can use this expression.

Years ago, I used to work with this guy named Vinny. Swear to, whatever, he spelled it Vinny. No, not V-i-n-n-i-e, Vinny. Not the story. No, the story is that Vinny'd always make comparisons, every time he told you, well, anything. And he'd always use the same expression: "Same thing, Man, same E-ZACK thing!" Made us HOWL! We'd make him tell the same story again and again, just to hear him say "Same thing, Man, same EZACK thing!"

The funny thing is, I know for SURE that I'd heard Vinny say "Exactly" before. As a one word response. I'd said something, and Vinny said, "Exactly!" But, no matter what, get him going and, before long, here came Vinny and "Same thing, Man, same EZACK thing!"

So, the article. I really don't know where to start. And I gotta be, uh, "carefy." I know the writer did his best not to sound as phumphery as he came across. But, honestly, you're going to use as your example of excellence Marks and Spencer who came to our very own shores not too very long ago and managed their own concept right into the ground? Lost money from the get, alienated even other retailers, and made their very own customers hate them? This is who you'd advise American Law Firms to emulate?

I know I'm not too bright, but even I know retail history well enough to know THOSE lessons. I won't even bring up the painful mid-to-late-80s memories of the vaunted David Jones, late of Australia, empire and their foray into Southern California, but I was there, and I lived it.

While we're at it, it's not so much that I disagree with everything that's been said. I agree, most law firms do an awful job of keeping their non-lawyer professionals, and the half-life of a non-lawyer in most of these jobs is ridiculously short. . .to an outsider, it seems like professional suicide to take one of these jobs in a law firm; I wouldn't do it on a bet, certainly not for what these people are getting paid. Nevertheless, the idea that mere cosmetic or linguistical changes, like Allen & Overy calling a non-lawyer an "Other Professional" makes any difference in the hearts and minds of lawyers is laughable, and ridiculous on its face.

I don't care if you call me a non-lawyer, an "Other Professional" or "Ticky-Boo"; it don't make no never mind to me. . .I'm STILL not in the club, and you know it, and I know it, and you know that I know that you know it, and that's all there is to say about it.

Fortunately, lawyers don't much care about ME. . .my job doesn't require it, and I've been around lawyers my whole life, so I think like you do; it's like being raised by wolves, except not as civilised. I'd be lying, though, if I said the sniffing one another part wasn't a hoot and a holler, but perhaps I've already said too much.

Let's get back to the "future of law firms" issue for just a minute. I think the idea of "branding" law firms is ridiculous on its face. Let's go back to Marketing 101 for jist a minute, m'kay? Aside from all the other things branding is, one of the things that branding for SURE is, is a way to hang a "HOOK" in your brain for future reference, to "tag" something, and to create a sort of utilitarian interface with something that, presumably you'll have a need/desire/want/urge/etc. for in the future (i.e. Coffee, Tissues, Headache Remedies, Tequila, whatever). That's what brands are for. Mrs. Olsen, the referent. Folger's, the Brand. Juan Valdez, the referent. Uh, oh. . .No Brand! See how that there works right there? Colombian Coffee may indeed be the richest in the world, but it's NOT a brand, it's a typology. (I'm talking Principles of Marketing, here, not Brain Real Estate, IP beagles, so calm down, and stop pointing at the R in a circle; I got you).

But here's the thing, like it or don't. . .NOBODY wants to have a Law Firm Brand hanging off a hook in their brain, not even me. And I LOVE law firms Because I'm freakin' weird, but, yeah, I do. But I don't want to have to say "Well, Millicent, MY legal work is always handled by Snooty Puss Brand Lawyers, 'cuz they're just the cuddliest attorneys ever!" Of course, my own very mother would kill me with her bare hands if I ever talked like that, but you get my point, right?

Can you imagine. . .DLA Piper Brand Attorneys at Law? "Oh, I used to work for Cadwalader Brand, but then I came over to Skadden Brand." Because you know they'd MAKE us say "brand." Every time I think of it, I remember Old Dr. Welby, pitching "Sanka Brand Decaffeinated Coffee." I was, like, three seconds old, but I remember that my old Grandpappy used to drink "Sanka." But what ever could "Sanka Brand" be? Even Grandpa didn't know.

One of my friends is a bigtime hifalutin' IP lawyer now, and I told him that story, you know, "When lawyers try not to get 'Aspirin-ed', the search for Brand Identity." I just made that up. Pretty clever, huh? Anyway, he was totally clue free. On the other hand, he's like fourteen years old. . .missed the ads completely, and will never know the joys of seeing Consuelo and Dr. Kiley on the little blue screen. Oh, Consuelo. . .I had such a thing for Consuelo.

My Auntie Regina (no, you have to say it Ruh-jy-nuh. . .I know. . .I still have to suppress a giggle; me a grown-up man), says there's no possible way I can remember Doctor Welby, that I was too young. . .maybe, maybe not. . .but I sure do remember me some Consuelo. Ay, Mami!

Where was I before I drifted off there. . .? Ah, yes! Branding Law Firms Sucks! But wait, sports fans, there's more. There's gonna be a brand valuation round up, a pricing blow-up, and a marketing mix-up. Or something.

Me, I dunno. I'm not sure I'm prepared to take advice from across the pond, no matter whose mouth it falls from, although I DO like the way our cousins sound when they talk. I'm gonna have to think about this a little more. In the meantime, I think I'll have me some Noname Brand Frozen Pizza, chug down a few Store Brand Cervezas, and follow it all up with a nice cup of Colombian Coffee (there, IP beagles. . .I did that for YOU!). Juan Valdez, I LOVE you, Man!

But not as much as my sweet Consuelo.

Remember, YOU are the Otter of your own fat, and that all real products referenced herein are the Intellectual Property of their respective owners. Not me.

James E. Mason
Managing Partner
Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Wiggity-wiggity-wiggity Wack!

So much to say. So many people to say it about. So much foo to flung, as it were. I say "as it were" a lot. But not for serious. Just, you know, like a joke. . .(wait for it!). . .as it were. Not my friend Joebo. He's all up on the lingeaux (that's lingo, gettin' jiggy wit itself). Me, I'm of simpler stock.

But not our friends up in the Strato-fied air of the BigLaw BigLaws (aka BL-squares). And I meant to say "strato" as in "stratospheric heights", and not just stratified, meaning, sort of, layered (geddit, strata? How kewl is English?!). But that too. We have SO many things to talk about. . . how ever will we get it all done? As it turns out, I have the answer. First of all, put your phone on "make busy." If, like me, you don't actually know HOW to do this, ask your assistant to do it for you.

Between us, the only reason I know about "make busy" is because once, at band camp, no, once, I said "Hey, is there a way I can make this phone not ring, because if it rings one more time, I might have to kill someone!", you know, the way ya do, and Miss MaryMay Vajayjay, Assistant to, um, someone not me, let's say, yelled at me "Why don'tcha put it on make busy, Wonder Puppy?", and I said "Ruh? Rut's Rake Rizzy?", and now you know about it too. And between us, again, how many of the Senior Partners do you think just got the, uh, "Roobee Roo!" joke? I mean, before I just gave them the punchline this second?

Yeah, that's what I thought. I do that a lot. They're like little Pop Culture tests, mini exams for your soul. I'm not accusing you of having a soul, don't get all bunched up there, or anything. I'm just saying, you can test yourself. You know, like a voluntary breathalyzer in your car, sort of, but less obvious (and probably less useful).

Which brings us to our next topic, which is 'pacifically for our Fray-enz in Californy (say it like an ol' time preacher or politician: "Mah Fray-enz! . . . ."). It would appear that the seemingly successful Diversion Program for Wayward Lawyers, which The State Of California amusingly calls the Alternative Discipline Program, doesn't do NEARLY enough to shame, and embarrass, your fellow members of the bar to satisfy prosecutors. Oh, Nay! No, these feckless thugs think the program is too easy, takes too long, and allows attorneys enrolled to, get this, KEEP THEIR LICENSES! O, the Horrah!

But the thing that really seems to rub the noble, and certainly NOT feckless, (CERTAINLY not!) Scott Drexel, the wrong way, is that, and I quote: "27 other jurisdictions have diversion programs for attorneys but none allows participation by lawyers who engage in acts of moral turpitude." (Let's be clear. . .I'm quoting the article, not His Counselness.) Now, I'm pretty sure I don't know what a moral turpitude is. I doubt I could pick one out on say "The Price is Right" or nothin' like that. I don't even know what one tastes like, although I doubt it tastes like Chicken. But really, this is California. California.

The Diversion program, despite its flaws, is said by many to have been instrumental in helping a significant number of Attorneys get their acts together, and get flying in a line with the rest of the geese. It has saved careers, and probably lives. And it has saved attorneys, which, as my mama used to say, "that ain't no punk!" [Don't tell her I told you that.] By which I mean, persons with licenses to engage in the practice of law (and, for the first time ever, NO "practice of law" joke. The crowd goes wild!).

But, really, Becky, Moral Turpitude? That's what has you so cranky? My seventh grade edition of the "Not Ready For A Real School" Dictionary defines Moral Turpitude as: "the gross disregarding of moral standards expected of a human being while doing some activity or crime. Eg. Raping in front of the parents." Well!

However, my Hello Kitty dictionary defines it as "n. gross violation of standards of moral conduct,vileness, such that an act involving moral turpitude was intentionally evil, making the act a crime. The existence of moral turpitude can bring a more severe criminal charge or penalty for a criminal defendant." And you can't get more definitive than Hello Kitty, I don't think. Well, there you have it. I was wrong. Moral turpitude, on top of everything else, just makes a bad thing, more, just, far more worser. And bad. And stuff. Gosharootie.

To be fair, Mr. Drexel is cranky about a lot of details about the ADP program. I suspect that, in time to come, we'll find out that SOMEONE in his family works for a Payroll Processing Company, and then we'll really be in for it. I had to.

So, down with Moral Turpitude. It's bad. And stuff. Oh, except this. Mr. Drexel's big BIG problem is that some of the tactics engaged in by accused persons (or are they presumptively guilty, or are they, in fact, guilty scalawags, cutting deals? I'm not clear on THAT either), are "unfair to prosecutors." Oh, and costly. But mostly, I suspect, unfair to prosecutors.

You know what, I just stepped away to learn how to make my phone busy, again, and I had an epiphany. It wasn't very big, hardly worth mentioning. But I had one. I decided that Scott Drexel is right, and I am wrong, and always have been. Burn the lawyers, I say, whenever you can. Why try to save them? There's just too damn many of you anyway. If you get trapped by Drugs and/or Alcohol, too bad. You're just weak. Your turpitude don't have any moral in it. Or you got too much, whatever. I'm still not clear on this. Anyway, down with ADP. Down with ADP. Down with ADP. Boom. Boom. Boom Boom Boom! (Cymbals!). End.

So, anyway, back to BigLaw BigLaw. Apparently, the folks in charge of the Brain Trusts at some of the biggest and brightest of the biggyest and brightyest of them all have decided that they can stanch the flow of talent outward, and retain all those smarts they want to retain (always a tricky juggling match, even in the best of circumstances), by reclassifying you all as "Talent," or "People," or "Knowledge Workers,"or, heck, I dunno "Special Ops" ('kay, I made that up), and then hiring a lot of special people to, I guess, feed you and bathe you, and give you special food, and, perhaps, give you special beer, and massage you every two hours. No, wait, that's Kobe Beef, right? Could be you too, I don't know yet. This is all new to me.

So let me ask you. Does the hiring of a Chief Talent Officer, or a Director of Knowledge, or Finder of Truth, or Seeker of Wisdom, or whatever, make you somehow more inclined to look favourably upon the Firm, or do you think, as I do, that this is just another Guru Goof-up? Don't get me wrong, I LOVE me some guru. I even like to be thought of as a guru.

But we've talked about this (okay, not you and me, you know, privately), and it's important, and sometimes it gets missed, and unfortunately, Consultants, Gurus, and Vendors, as important as THEY are (hey, we do consulting too, after all), sometimes become enmired in our own goopy language. Language should CLARIFY not OBFUSCATE. Language should crystallize and focus thinking, not muddy and scatter it. Even when it comes to labels and titles.

The worst thing about it is that the firms already KNOW what they need to do, and they already have the resources available if they DON'T know. I'll tell you the secret in just a moment, but, in order to build up the drama a little bit, lemme tell you a story. Of course, I have to share with you that since we saw the movie "Happy Feet," all of my friends and myself have to say "Layt me tell sahmthing to Ju!" I know! And, no matter what, when someone says that they don't want something, or they hate something, are tired of something, or just don't want to do it anymore, we say "No, ju like eet!" Yeah, easily entertained.

So, the story is this. When I used to do my little Management Seminars, I always did this riff about how I really appreciated everybody coming, but that they already had all the knowledge they needed to have in order to accomplish their objectives as managers, and it had always been waiting for them back at their office, plant, firm, whatever. Yeah, that made a lot of friends. But it's true. And here's the punchline: All a law firm has to do if it really wants to reduce turnover, increase retention, increase profitability, motivate its people, whatever whatever, is to simply ASK. Just ASK them. Sincerely. And mean it. And listen, really listen. Oh, yeah. . . And do what they say. And there's the rub, as they say.

Each law firm is different, (duh, thanks for the update, Dr. Obvious), we all know that. And one of the major differences is that the people who make UP the law firm see themselves, and the firm as being special in a way that no other firm is. This is particularly true with law firms, much more so than with any other organisational type. The problem is that most of the people who work IN law firms, who consult FOR law firms, and who STUDY law firms, don't have backgrounds in Organisational Culture, let alone organisational development, management, or theory.

I see a lot of people who talk about culture as if they think they know what it is, but I've never seen any of those people at any of the meetings specifically devoted to it. They don't talk about culture from any theoretical basis I understand. They talk about it as if it can be driven from the front. And none of these things are true.

Now, granted, I flatter myself that I know these things because I did ALL of my Graduate work in Organisational Culture. In fact, I wrote my Thesis on Teaching Organisational Culture, and the vast majority of my experience prior to working in the field of Legal Recruiting centered on culture. So, naturally, I have a bit of a bias. But I have come to believe a couple of things, which I hope I've learned to see through my bias regarding.

I believe that the people who are in the best position to tell you how to manage them are the people you manage. I believe that people will TELL you what motivates them if you ask. I do NOT believe YOU can motivate anybody else, which is to say, I believe all motivation is internal. All you can do is provide those things that function as motivators for others (i.e. Motivation-Hygiene theory). I do not believe FEAR is a motivator, but I do believe it is a powerful De-Motivator, and I believe that anxiety is even more destructive than fear.

I believe high-function, high-activity, high-intensity types, like lawyers, do best in an atmosphere and environment of what I call Negative Certainty rather than Positive Uncertainty, by which I mean, I think a lawyer would rather know, up front that s/he is NOT on the Partnership track, and never will be, but that the firm really REALLY likes him or her, for real, than be kept in the dark.

I have also come to believe that those same lawyers would totally appreciate the offer of help finding a great opportunity elsewhere if offered sincerely, and I know this because it's what I've been told. I believe the foregoing is true for Salary increases, Bonuses, and almost everything else to do with compensation and benefits.

Lawyers actively solicit the opinions of their colleagues in the local marketplace for information about firms and place much more stock in those opinions than in anything the firm does, even when it comes to Summer Associates, although Summer Associates have also told us that they tell the firms that the activities, mentoring, and assignments during Summer are the usual determining factors.

The most important factor for determining whether or not a lawyer is interested in making a lateral move is rarely a compensation factor. Most of the time, it's an issue of platform, personal and professional support (I'll break this down for you), the belief that the firm is actually "interested" in the success of the attorney's practice, and their "fit." Let me see if I can make sense of this for you.

This is the overarching principle, expressed as a statement: "I need to believe that my firm, Super Law, LLC, sees me as an important part of the "team," even if I don't think of myself as Little Tommy (or Tammy) Teammate, or express it that way. And I want them to relate to me the way I like to be related to, even if I'm a bit of a Diva, because that's who I am. You guys need to LISTEN to me. If I hate my Assistant, get me another Assistant. If my Practice Group Leader is a jerk, then help me find a way to solve that problem. And when I come to you and ask you if you think we should be looking at ways to expand my platform, that is a SERIOUS warning sign. Bells should be going off in your head. I haven't had a meeting yet, but it means absolutely that I feel like I need to expand my platform, and all of a sudden it's important to me, and if I've had to come to YOU, it's already almost too late. And finally, I don't know if anybody told you this, but I'm a grownup. At least I'm doing grownup work. If you don't think I'm an adult, you shouldn't have hired me. Or you should fire me. But stop looking over my shoulder. If you can't, won't, or don't trust me, I shouldn't be working for you. There's more, and if you want to know what it is, just ask."

Whew, that was a LOT to cover, wasn't it? It sure was, and it isn't over yet. Certain issues are individual, like whether or not a particular lawyer wants to make partner in five years versus twelve, whether she likes to train, how he feels about managing, things like that. And what lawyers want is for you to accommodate them with respect to these issues. The (I hate this word, but there's just no way around it) nexus is this: Lawyers want law firms to trust them to drive, and law firms don't want to give up the illusion that they have some kind of power that they just don't have. How do we know you don't have the power? Ummm, look around. Are you, or are you not, losing lawyers left and right, paying more each year, watching internal satisfaction scores plummet, and so on, and so on? You tell me, who's really in charge here? Right, law firms, of course. But you don't need to rub it in. Give in on the little stuff and the big stuff takes care of itself. We'll talk about this more below.

The most important thing is this, and there's no way around it. Lawyers love law firms. They really and truly do. Even lawyers who want to go in-house don't really WANT to go in-house for the most part. They just want less insanity in their lives, and believe that, if they want to continue to practice law, it's either in-house or nothing. But really, who doesn't love law firms? The marble, the dark woods, the thick carpeting, the quiet easy hush, and the history just oozing from every nook and cranny? Even in Brand Stinkin' New offices, and Super High Techy Tech offices, there's just something about Law Firms. I love 'em, too.

But the practice of Law Firm Management, occasionally, is a little, um, "hidebound." It's crazy really. Lawyers, and Law Firms, are SO out in front in so many ways. You adopt the latest technologies. You're caught up on the latest information about everything. In fact, Lawyers, and Law Firms, and their activities, in many ways, DRIVE many of the innovations, advances, changes, not just in American society, but, in some cases, on a Global scale.

And then we look at the management practices, and it's like "What? Time Tunnel? Are ya sure?" It's wacky, too. Because, sometimes, we ARE asked. It goes like this. A client-elect (that's where I elect for them to be a client, they're not so sure yet; aka Almost Every Law Firm In The World, B'Cept A Few Really Smart Ones) will say, "You know, we don't really have anything against recruiting firms, but sometimes it seems like all we do is look for attorneys. And yet, our [fill in here] research shows [factoid here]. We'd sure like to get to the bottom of this (hint, hint)." Yeah, me too. No, seriously, I would.

Sometimes, way too often, we have discussions with either a firm, or a lawyer, where the discussion starts off with "Well, the last guy (company, consultant, recruiter, head poobah, whatever) done us wrong. You need to do better." No problem. What exactly did THEY do wrong? Oh, gotcha. Everything. Well, that explains it. No wonder.

Sure, I can do that. Let's start now. You wanna keep lawyers, all kinds and flavours, for longer? Wanna drop turnover instantly? Wanna recruit more women, minorities, diversity candidates, and keep actual talent, and slow the spin on the exit door, starting tomorrow? No problem. This is what you do. You do these few things, and you'll drop turnover, increase profits, increase minority, female, and diversity recruitment and retention, and make clients happier, because your lawyers will be happier. I guarantee it. Here we go:

1. Drop minimum in-office requirements. In fact, drop ALL office-specific requirements. To the extent that there's no legal impediment, allow lawyers to work wherever, whenever they want, insofar as it doesn't impact on Client Service. Make the issue of Client Service the ONLY criterion, and, instead of making assumptions, let the Client be the judge. Allow for telecommuting, job-sharing, home-officing, and so on. Let lawyers work in whatever way makes them the most comfortable, as long as they get their work done. Feel free to raise the bar on performance, but lose the facetime requirements.

2. Create an instrument to poll lawyers about their opinions on firm policies, procedures, operations, and so on. Have it tabulated, analysed, reviewed, and reported on by an uninterested third party, and presented to the Management Committee, as well as the entire firm. Commit to making any and all changes that don't hurt the firm's profits, LEGAL standing (i.e. don't do anything illegal), and client base. Make it a rule that, even if something seems uncomfortable, or downright crazy, it's still up for consideration. Report the results to the entire firm.

3. Ask yourself just one question (I know. . .and I hate myself for saying it too), what do you believe? Seriously. We don't do mission, vision, and all that stuff, as a general rule. But there are all kinds of lawyers, for all kinds of law firms. If you're a law firm that just wants billing machines, I can tell you for a fact, I know those lawyers exist out there. . .I know some, personally. They love it. There are also lawyers who believe in pretty lih-tel flowers and trees, and Bambi and his woodland friends, and delicate Rainbows. Awwww. I think mountain, I think 4x4, but that's just me. My point is, not everyone is Green, even now, so, if YOU aren't Green, don't say that you are. Or, maybe you're like us. . .we're not Green up in here, we're just cheap, and we don't like to waste, because we have better uses for the money. Be who you are. Even if you have ten thousand lawyers all over the world, and there's no area of law you don't cover, you still have a take. Trust me on this. You want people to stay with you for more than a minute, find people who are like you.

4. Open up the books. Really. All of them. Tell everybody how much money it takes to run a firm. It's expensive. Show them why you keep reserves back. Show newby Associates why they need to bill out 2100 hours to pay their keep, because you have to pay for support staff, and leases, and the pens that they take home, and the staplers that they steal and give to their friends, and the legal pads that they take home and forget, and the cases of sticky pads, and so on and so on. Show them why ten fewer hours billed per Associates means 15% lower profits this next year, and how much the firm spends for coffee each year, and how much a parking pass actually costs.

Most attorneys, especially Associates, have no idea how much it actually costs to run a law firm, especially a big one. Sadly, most law firm leaders are too afraid to show anybody how much money they make to clear things up. Guess what, fellas and ladies? Everybody already knows how much you make. Within a couple of thousand dollars, anyway. With a surprisingly HIGH degree of accuracy. I know you don't think so. ALL recruiters know you don't think so, and we play along with you, because it seems to be important to you that you think you have some kind of control over this information, but, trust me, EVERYBODY knows your business.

I know this law firm, who blah blah blah, you know the drill. Anyway, once they told me, and some other recruiters, that absolutely, under NO circumstances whatsoever, were we to share any information about the firm with potential candidates. Nothing. No income information. No comp information. No partner information. No info about equity positions. Nothing. So, okay, we didn't. Didn't matter. Every lawyer I ever talked to already knew. They said so. And they were astonishingly accurate. Within a few hundred dollars in some cases.

Yeah, sometimes, an individual attorney won't know how much the Chairman or MP of MegaFrisky BigLaw will make for Fiscal Whenever because of their bonus structure, but, again, it's a matter of degree only.

My point is, just open up the books, share information, and you'll find that people will start to get on board with you, as long as you're fair about compensation, bonuses, and other firm policies, which leads us to. . .

5. Learn to be fair. You don't have to be EVEN. I don't believe in Egalitarianism, and I never have. Never will. I believe that s/he who works the hardest, or the smartest, or contributes the most, ought to get the biggest reward. But I DO believe in fairness. Basic fairness. I don't believe you should reward cheaters, and I don't believe you should tolerate bad behavior. Which brings us to the next topic. . . .

6. Clean up the Kitchen: Yup. Have a "come back to the fold!" meeting. Put another way, declare a Moratorium on Jerks. Just like that. Decide, and declare, that Jerks, and jerk-y (Jerk-like?) behavior will no longer be tolerated. If you're reading this, and the problem is The Leader, then gang up on him or her, and do the same thing. Do whatever you have to. Vote them out, buy them out, arrange to have them pricked with a needle containing a powerful drug which renders them unconscious and sell them into indentured servitude, or just outright fire them.

In the direst and most extreme of cases, if you absolutely have to, I understand that you can hire someone to bury them up to their neck in the desert, cover their head with Peanut Butter, and sic a very enthusiastic Dachsund on them. His name is Clarence. I'm not saying anything, but I know a guy. . . .

Here's the logic. It has long been assumed that it's worth it to put up with these people because, very often, the Bad Actors are extremely profitable for a firm. They're often rainmakers, they usually have long-term client relationships, they usually have large practices, and they usually contribute significant profits to a firm, or, on the other side, they usually have significant ownership, so losing them could hurt a firm.

But there's new research that says that this might be a myth; that, over time, the costs associated with tolerating a jerk (bully, butthead, insert your favourite expression here), might actually wipe out the upside potential of keeping the bad news around. Not just in terms of increased turnover, although that is a major factor, but in terms of opportunity costs, tertiary costs of doing business and THOSE lost opportunities and profits, and additional costs related to those, not to mention the ACTUAL costs of goodwill in the larger business community. Pretty compelling stuff. And worth considering.

It makes sense. We all know the value of, well, "Reputational Capital." We consider it all the time. How many times have you had a recruiter call you up about an attorney, and NOT had it enter the picture?

Think about it: "Howdy, Mr. Wise Decision-Maker. I'm calling about Richard Snerdpoot, a Partner at Flotsam, Jetsam, and Bilge. He's been there for twenty years, but he wants to work for you now. As I'm sure you know, he's been in charge of their Skirt Wheedling Practice for the past decade or so." And what do you say?

You say "Ah, yes, of course, well, Skirt Wheedling is, naturally, a big interest of ours, and FJB certainly is a leader. As I recall, he built that practice from nothing. Let's take a look at his details, and we'll chat about how to proceed."

The point is, reputation is huge, whether it's about a particular practice, or a practice area, or a particularly jerkish boss. And, of course, alumni have opinions, too. But we'll leave the discussion of alumni for another day.

Fortunately, most lawyers refrain from uttering even the smallest criticism about anything, and, frankly, I think it's remarkable, how rarely I ever hear anybody in the profession criticize anybody or anything. You'd think a candidate would tell their recruiter everything, but, no, I've heard almost no negative comments about anything from lawyers I've talked to. It has led to some interesting problems.

Once, I found out, after the fact, that I'd set up a meeting between people from two firms that had definitively different points of view. The leader of, let's call it Firm A, never shared this with me, nor even any hint of an issue. I didn't find out about it until the leader of Firm B called to let me know that the meeting had gone, well, badly. I never did find out why Firm A consented to the meeting. And Firm B never talked to me again.

I'm NOT complaining. In comparison to other professions, I say give me lawyers any day, and twice on Sunday. I'm just saying that stuff happens, and I'm convinced to this day that Firm A believed it was not ethically appropriate to air their dirty laundry with me, and I'm not sure I disagree even a little bit. However, in future, it might be good to send a telegram, you know, like Bugs Bunny does.

So, put the jerks on notice.

7. Policy, Shmollisy: This is my favourite. It was the very most hardest thing for me to learn. For reals. I am a policy geek. Love 'em. Can't get enough of 'em. I love me some policy, and I most especially love me a good, thick, delicious policy manual. Or several. The expression "policy and procedure"? Nectar! Yeah. Lose it. Lose all of it. Okay, not really. But start to loosen things up. Open them up. Rethink. Try things a different way. Partnership? Hmmm. What does it mean to be a partner? What does it mean, in this firm, to be a Partner? What would a person need to bring to the table to BE a Partner? Fine. If Jane or Joe Blow BRINGS that stuff, however they bring it, as long as it was legal, then they should be able to be a partner, whether it's money, clients, negotiable bonds, or cherry trees, who cares? Look at decoupling time from being the main, and sometimes ONLY criterion for many policies, and maybe any policy.

Here's one of my favourite examples: Firm K had a personal time policy. 12 days a year. Use it or lose it, but use it any way you want, i.e. Personal Days, Sick Days, Vacation, who cares? However, some staffers wanted to be able to "buy" additional days, i.e. sick or personal days, in order to spare their Vacation days, because the policy was, no matter what, when you're gone, for any reason, you have to use your Personal Time, and you have to use four-hour increments. So, if you have a Dentist appointment, hey, no problem, just use a four-hour block, right? Are you crazy? Let me just come in a half-hour late and make up the time, said the staffers. Oh no, said HR. That's what the Personal Time is for. . .no coming in late and making up time. . .it's too hard to manage, and it's not fair, and it's too hard to track, and so on.

Well, you know what happened, right? A lot of people started to get sick around the same time, and the office was just WIPED OUT. For like two weeks. And then? People still got sick, and again, a few weeks later, the WHOLE OFFICE was sick, for like TWO DAYS, but nobody had any sick days left, so they all went in to HR, and they went to the boss, and they mumbled, and caroused, and grumbled, and so on, and "now what are we supposed to do? Someone comes around and makes everyone sick, but we used up all our sick days, and now we're getting punished for something not our faults, this is so ridiculous, blah blah blah!" Some quit. Just said "goodbye, I don't need this." A few good ones.

So, now, people can buy additional days, designate time, and take as little as an hour of personal time, and, of course, they can choose to make up time too. There are many other companies, with many other examples, but I know you can feel the words that are coming out of my brain.

LAW FIRM LEADERS, WE'RE LOOKING AT YOU! I'm telling you this to help you keep the lawyers you've got, if you want to. One of the biggest reasons you guys lose lawyers is this right here. . .stupid-ass policies that have nothing to do with a lawyer's competence, ability, or integrity, but instead only serve to remind him or her that you are in charge.

Guess what. . . they don't care, and they don't think so, either. And the funny thing is, the better the lawyer, the worse they hate it. Oh, they might HAVE to stay around for a while because of bonuses, or clients, or whatever, but I'm here to tell you that they always figure out a way to make that time work for them.

You want to keep the good lawyers, recruit even more, even better lawyers, and build a reputation as a leader with the diversity community? Change your policies to reflect the needs, and realities, of today's world, the new circumstances facing today's attorneys, and demonstrate that you get that it's a different world, and you'll become an employer of choice. You can't rely on your reputation to carry you through any longer. . .I think the past year or two has CLEARLY demonstrated those days are over.

And finally, talk to your recruiter. Hey, I had to slip in a commercial. SOMEONE has to pay for all this good advice.

Keep Lawyering,

James E. Mason
Managing Partner (and ChaCha Instructor!)
Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

“The 2008 Lawyer, Client, Recruiter, and Everybody Else Wish List.”

“The 2008 Lawyer, Client, Recruiter, and Everybody Else Wish List.”

James E. Mason

Managing Partner

Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting

I love the holidays. I do. Always have. Around this time of year, members of my family ask friends and acquaintances about their “wish lists” and incorporate those details into their various family letters. Extended work kept me fiddling around here and there for longer than anticipated this holiday season, so I spent longer than I planned away from the old casa before I was able to prepare. As I started to wrap up, it occurred to me that the idea of a “wish list” was a perfect way to start the year.

Herein, based on conversations with Lawyers, Clients, Recruiters, Office Staff, Non-Lawyer Professional Staff, and others too numerous to mention, is the Wish List for 2008 (and probably beyond). In no specific order. It goes without saying, but lawyers being lawyers, and legal types being legal types, let’s say it anyway: None of this is legal advice. It doesn’t pretend to be legal advice. It doesn’t even wanna be legal advice when it grows up. This here is just “what would you say to these various and sundry folks if you could, knowing that they weren’t gonna bust you for it?” And here we are:

I. What Lawyers Need to Know:

a. Fierce! Grrrrrrr! Oh, PuhLeez! Look, killer, good for you, and good for your reputation, but whenever I need a laugh, I call my good friend, Diva Sheeva and say “Be Fierce!” and she says “Grrrrrrr!” He’s a SCREAM! Law Firms are looking for GOOD lawyers, not mean lawyers. Besides, all you gotta do to make a bully cry is stand up to him. Everyone knows that.

b. Think “Eagles!”: There was this song, and in this song was a line. And the line went “In a New York Minute (woo-woo), everything can change.” And the recruiter saw that it was true. And he learneth his lesson. Too bad the lawyer he was calling about a great opportunity DITn’t. I’m just saying. One day, you’re practicing like a Big Dog. The very next day it’s like: “Uhhh, how YOU doin’?!” And the recruiter is all like: “Excuse ME, do ah know Yew?” And BigDog is all like: “RuhRoh Raggy!” Life is like that. Really and for true. Just remember, sometimes, the recruiter are our friend. (Zoinks!)

c. Just because Associates take the beatings doesn’t mean they like them. Oh sure, some do, but they’re kind of rare, and besides, you’ll NEVER be hot enough for the ones who do anyway, so just keep your mind on your work, there, Spanky. The truth is, this whole “trial by fire, we had to do it when I was an Associate, hazing is good, and by the way, when I was a young lawyer, buh buh buh. . . .” riff is getting old, and, from one recruiter to the World O’ Law Firms, it’s starting to affect your play. When a top law firm goes from “Dude, BigLaw is Bomb” to “Dude, BigLaw is TEH Suxx!!” in less than a season, there’s Trouble in Paradise (and if you don’t know what I just said, now you know why I’m teh PWNZ!). We’ll be addressing this below.

II. What Clients Need to Know: Oh, many, many things. One in particular sticks out. Like this here:

a. Stop whining. Just stop it. Really. Rates go up. They do. Besides, you’re partially to blame for this problem. You brought this issue on yourselves, back then, years ago, when you forced the law firms to adopt MUCH more rigid billing systems, and you forced them to account for every penny of expense, and develop ways of tracking costs and profits, and this thing and that thing and the other thing, until, now, they don’t even know which way is up. A law firm is NOT an automobile manufacturer (Really, Becky?!). Good lawyering has never depended on the number of paper clips used by the firm, although good lawyering can be destroyed if the firm can’t afford to BUY paper clips. Try this fun game: Count up the number of times a really good legal team has been your ground cover during a total bet the company/bet your ass move, then calculate the value of that legal team versus the value of the number of times you’ve pissed them off by counting beans in the corner like a sugared-up six-year old. Uh huh. Now apologise.

b. And, for the MP who asked, yes, there is ONE thing I am afraid of; I am afraid of cowardice. Which is why I wrote the above. You’re welcome.

III. What Law Firms, and MPs, and like that there, Need to Know:

a. “I don’t see no velvet rope!”: Translation: Lawyer to Law Firm: “Hire me, or don’t, but don’t make me wait.” Nobody likes to be made to wait. Even if you’re THE thing. Sometimes, you guys are fickle, fickle, fickle. Fickle. You engage us to find Hottie McHot Hott, Attorney at Law, and we do. We make him or her LOVE US! Make them LOVE YOU. Lots of love, baby. Love all over the place. Hot love. Juicy love. Dirty love. Really and for ta-Rue, LOVE! I’m talking pwnd! And then? You tell us: “Oh, my no. I’m jest too bizzy. . .bizzy, bizzy, bizzy. . .no, I couldn’t possibly. . .we have this retreat, and that meeting, and this hootenanny, and that farkelnootin, and then my gadget needs a waxin’ . . .” and the next thing you know, the LUV candidate is calling ME saying “Ah, ex-Cah-YUSE me, Mister Man, but my teeth are getting loose in mah head, and I’m about to retire. . .have you heard ANYTHING yet, not to complain, but, really. . . .” And, of course, in the meantime, the candidate is saying, to him/herself, and EVERY OTHER LAWYER IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, “Why, this is ridiculous! That stupid recruiter is the worstest ratfinkiest recruiter ever Ever EVER! Nine months? Are you de-sane? Are you teh crazy? I must smak that recruiter right in his reputation, that is what I must do. Hello, Central? Get me Character Besmirchment on the line, per favore!” Now, granted, this is a very slightly exaggerated example of what happens in every case. Probably only nine out of ten candidates ever go that far. But the truth is, the hiring process almost always takes longer than it needs to. If you need us to hire special dogs to sniff the candidates, let us know, we’ll hire them. If you need US to sniff the candidates ourselves, and you’ll promise to represent us after we do so, FINE, we’ll do that too. But you’ve GOT to find some way to speed up the process, because the candidates are OVER it (in fact, in certain parts of LA, they’re OVAH it, that’s how over it they are). They’ll only wait so long, and then they’ll find someone else to love them. And good love always finds a ready buyer, baby.

b. You Will Screw Up. Yup I said it. That felt so good, lemme say it again: You WILL screw up! That one even tasted good. At some point, you will screw up. So will I. So will everybody else (except my sainted mother, [insert here] bless her!) Deal With It. And have a sense of humor. We won’t mention any names, but SOME people just can’t take a joke. Even when they are the joke. One law firm, who shall forever remain nameless, handled this issue badly. It hurt their reputation among lawyers, law schools, and students, and left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of other people (peh, peh, peh). If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can? I know. . .all of the rest of us. See us? Here we are. . .laughing at YOU. Behind your back. Professional Recruiter advice: Learn to take a joke, and don’t act like you’re all butt hurt, dude! Seriously!

c. “In Your Race For Power and Glory You Forgot One Small Detail; You Forgot To Hook Up The Doll.” Oingo Boingo makes me remember strange, but great, movie lines. The point is, and I know I’m not alone here, a LOT of recruiters find really, truly amazing lawyers, and you guys WASTE them, (and our time, and by extension, yours), either by having dumb internal rules, or dumb policies that cost you fantastic lawyers. Who CARES if a lawyer is in the office 25 hours a week, or 60 or 80, or whatever? Who cares if s/he’s full-time, or part-time, or 1/3-time, or whatever.

At some point, you HAVE to realize that good lawyering has almost nothing to do with facetime, and everything to do with raw, unadulterated talent, and brains. Maybe you guys really don’t get it. And maybe it’s because you don’t talk to hundreds of lawyers a week, but WE do. They’re out there, the really, truly amazing attorneys. The knock your socks off, so smart it’s scary, funny, brilliant, wise, breathtakingly sharp, “man, I’m gonna hire you myself, just so no one else can get you, are you actually even real?” attorneys. They’re out there. . .in droves. I talk to them all the time. And I am not alone. All of us in this business run across them. And sometimes (a lot of the time), they call us back.

But if you’re Studdly McSuperstar, Attorney at Law, and you’re ALREADY a partner at BigLaw, LLC, who needs the Agita of moving firms, especially when you realise that mommy-tracking could KILL your career. Man, does THAT suck. So, now I have to choose. . .I can create a life, or give mine up. . .can I have a few minutes to decide, please? And you wonder why people leave the profession? Let’s see: “Come and join the profession of law, where we eat our own young, and make you choose between personal fulfillment and professional success!” Jeez, who wouldn’t want to be part of that happy band? Obviously, I’m being extreme to make a point. But the truth is that sometimes, it can seem like that to various lawyers, and they’re not ALWAYS wrong. So, if I were allowed to make a recommendation or two, I might suggest a little flexibility. And when you’re looking for a competitive advantage, try to be nice. It helps.

Example: SuperLaw, needed to staff up a new office. Actually three. We find a BUNCH of great lawyers, but each has an issue. For one lawyer, commute is too long. For another, wants to work half-time for the first year. Another, wants to telecommute part time, and office three days. The firm was no, No, and Oh, NO NO NO! BTW, we found, like NINE great lawyers, they passed on six of them, and three stayed or went solo. The firm is STILL looking for great lawyers, by the way, but no one wants to work for them because they now have a reputation of inflexibility. And it isn’t recruiters who talk about this stuff. . .it’s lawyers.

My point is this, and this is personal, just me, James, talking. I love lawyers. I love what they do, and I love why they do it. I owe my life to a lawyer, and that’s part of it, of course, but it’s always been much more than just that. I see most everything from the perspective of a lawyer, not a law firm. But recruiters work for Law Firms, so we try to help law firms find the best lawyers they can, as does every other recruiter out there.

The world is changing, and so is the world of lawyering, and, like it or not, the way in which lawyers relate to law firms is changing too. You may very well be a two-hundred ninety-seven year-old firm, whose first lawyer practiced in the ancient, sacred halls of Jersey, back in the Olde Countrye or some such, but, at the end of the day, you’re pickin’ from the same pool of attorneys as DigitaLawDotCom, The Celebrated Automated Law Firm of The Future, Click Here.

Here’s the best advice I can give law firm leaders, and it’s absolutely true: You will never win the game by cranking down on lawyers. Ever. So Lighten up. Loosen up. All the tracking, all the monitoring, all the facetime, all the “desktime,” all the clocktime. . .it may MAKE you feel like you have control, but you don’t. You never have, and you never will. When they wanna go, they’ll go. When they wanna cheat, they’ll cheat. When they wanna find another berth, another berth, they’ll find. The best thing you can do is make your place a place where lawyers WANT to practice. Be nice to them. Treat them like adults. Give them ownership. Give them respect. Stop treating them like chattel. Stop treating them like cattle. Don’t De-equitize them (that was. . .well, better decisions HAVE been made . . . good for recruiters, though! And your competition.). Of course, most of you won’t listen to me. Which is fine with me. . .job security, baby.

d. Bad Behaviour hurts law firms three ways: It hurts retention. It hurts your reputation in the community (among your colleagues, with other law firms, etc., and so on; whether they tell you or not; believe me, it does). And, it hurts your ability to recruit the top lawyers. Maybe not with New Grads, but, really, who cares? That’s low hanging fruit. They’re ALL desperate to get a job. . .who isn’t when you’re a new grad (ahh, memories). And I don’t mean that in a bad way. . . we were all new grads at some point. And, fine, it’s worth it to you to spin them out in a few years, as you know you will. That’s a good investment, anyway, and, okay, you’ll account for that too. But, at some point, a really good law firm wants really good lawyers, and most (almost all) really good lawyers are really good people. You know, after a while, you start to get a sense for who a particular lawyer is in a community, and also what a particular law firm stands for too. I’m just saying, don’t think that either one exists in a vacuum.

IV. What Recruiters Wish They Could Say: This is my favourite section. Tasty. Nutritious. Full of vitamins, plenty of fiber, and with a zingy, spicy, yet somehow delicate bouquet that lingers but never overpowers. Oh, please, who are we kidding? We TOTALLY overpower, but that just makes you want us more. . .we’re like the Banana-HabaƱero Sauce of New Year’s Articles. Strap in. Remember, this is for your own good. And don’t blame us, we only came up with a few of these on our own. The rest of them, your OTHER recruiting firms, the ones who didn’t have the guts to say it to your faces, put on OUR list.

a. Truth to Power: There’s a political expression, “truth to power.” Actually the phrase is “speaking truth to power.” The best description I’ve ever heard is that it’s what that little boy did when he said “Hey, look, the Emperor is butt nekkid, y’all!” The point is, it’s SUPPOSED to be your recruiter’s job to tell you the truth, even though we know you don’t want to hear it. Like when your granny shoved that Castor Oil down your throat. . .that was LOVE, baby! So, if your recruiting firm is doing its job, you probably won’t like them every minute. In fact, if your recruiting firm is really and for true doing its job, you probably won’t like us all that much, and not very often to boot. But when we find you a darn tootin’ attorney or practice group, or homminah, homminah law firm to hook up with, then hot zing baby, that’s some serious love right there (go ahead, we won’t look).

b. Recruiting is a Top Down Job: We (recruiters in general) do our best work if we can talk to JUST ONE PERSON who has the authority, ability, and knowledge of everything that IS going on and NEEDS to go on, in order to say “aye” or “nay” when we say “So, about this Lawyer, Stevie Rucksack?” or whatever. Not ten people. Not twenty-leven meetings. Not fifteen weeks. One person. A couple weeks. Max. Okay, maybe more, maybe less. But not weeks an’ months an’ months an’ months an’ months. An’ months. And, one thing more. Either hiring is important, or it’s not. If it is, dedicate the resources. If it’s not, then don’t. And we’ll leave you alone, and find a firm to whom it is. All of us will. Well, I will, anyway. I don’t waste my time on the unobtainable. Not since I got my American Express card, I mean.

c. Focus on Skills and Talent, not book size: When will you guys learn? Book size is more or less irrelevant for an attorney coming into a law firm. I don’t mean from a historical perspective. But I DO mean, when you ask “How big is the Lawyer’s book today ?” it tells me you don’t know very much about, well, much of anything. . .certainly not much about a lawyer’s potential value to a law firm. First of all, there are no guarantees. Second, there are no guarantees. And third, to quote Yoda, “Guarantees, none there are.” Get it? You’re still gonna have to trot out a dog, a few ponies, some clowns, maybe a juggler, who knows what else? Oh, that guy who takes a cannonball right to the gut, is he available? Let’s bring him too! The point is, when you hire a new attorney, you’re hiring INTO their book. . .it’s like getting married, only without the honeymoon benefits. . .you have to earn the love of their clients, and they have to sell you (and, contrary to popular belief, you’re not all as cute as you think you are, regardless of what my mom told you).

d. D is for D-versity. Elvis was right: “A little less conversation, a little more action, please; All this aggravation ain't satisfactionin' me. A little more bite and a little less bark, A little less fight and a little more spark; Close your mouth and open up your heart and baby satisfy me.” (Disclaimer: Intellectual Property that don’t belong to me, don’t belong to me, but it do belong to someone not me, so please recognize, got it?). Ya know, that guy, he just. . .he just had a way with words, didn’t he? We do a lot with Diversity, and always have; it’s part of our firm DNA, whatever that means. But for a lot of the firms out there in the meta-mega-google-
hyper-supa-dupa-plex, it’s a whole new thing, like some Gigundo toy they’re all excited about, and beginning to want to play with, but they can’t find the “on” button. An’ ‘den? “I know! Let’s put on a PROGRAM!” someone shrieks, in a voice that sounds suspiciously like Mickey Rooney’s.

But here’s the thing: A program does not a commitment to diversity make, and the lawyers are beginning to get a little suspicious. One candidate we know, who shall remain nameless, but whose initials are J.D. (we kid), is also a hifalutin’ big deal in diversity in the western part of the pacific northwestern portion of the eastern half of the southern part of the U.S. (please, like I’m gonna tell). This candidate expresses it best: “Programs? I don’t need no stinkin’ programs! Just hire candidates. Don’t tell me about it, don’t talk to me about what you’re going to do, and for Pete’s sake, don’t send me literature, or run ads, or develop materials, or hire a diversity coordinator, or do any of that other stupid [Dude!] stuff. Either commit to diversity or don’t. Hire, or don’t. But stop talking about it, and either DO it, or don’t.” (And props on the Sierra Madre reference, right?!)

Wau! Talk about harshing your gig, right? But he has a point, even if he makes it a bit too delicately. Allow me to rephrase, ever so slightly. What I think some of the affected persons are saying, in essence, is that while they appreciate the efforts so far, sometimes it seems as if the efforts have mostly been directed toward developing programmatic and mechanistic approaches that haven’t, as yet, made systematic changes. Put another way, stop measuring, and CUT. The Diverses don’t object to having people drive the programs, but, as we say around our shop, it’s time to either fish or cut bait. Note: I call my diversity advisers Diverses, much to their annoyance, which I find completely hilarious. I am precluded from telling you what they call me.

e. “Size Matters” is true, but context dependent: The context on which it does not depend is book size, as noted above. The rest is up to your current love interest’s sense of humour and fair play. Good luck with that.

f. Never Fire Angry: One from the vaults. This has happened twice in our lives. Just. Don ‘t. Do. It. Both times, it was a bad call, on all our parts. If you ARE going to part company with someone, regardless of the reason, be ABSOLUTELY sure that the decision is completely dispassionate, even if it means you have to wait until it’s a less ideal time, or you’ll be making a bad decision. The only exception is a frank violation of law, ethics, or a policy violation so egregious it warrants immediate termination, but you already knew that, being a lawyer and all.

g. Just stand there and be wrong in your wrongness: This is just darn good advice, painfully learned. One time one of us (which one, they wondered?) was having a HUGE fight with one of our best friends about something stupid, but ENORMOUSLY IMPORTANT, you know, the way you do. Long story short, she was right, and I was wrong. Oh, so wrong. Stupidly, I said “Okay, I was wrong. So, what am I supposed to do?”(<<<<< And she said “Supposed to do? You’re not supposed to do anything. Just stand there. Stand there and be wrong in your wrongness. That’s what you’re supposed to do!” Moral of the story: Sometimes, you’re just supposed to Stand There And Be Wrong In Your Wrongness. And, yes. Owwwwww! Butt hurt. But screamingly funny.

h. We will if you will: This is from EVERY OTHER RECRUITING FIRM BUT US. Only because, well, can we just say, “asked and answered.” ? So, from everybody else but us, cuz we already brought this up. . . why do legal recruiting firms have to guarantee the performance of lawyers they find for law firms, when Law Firms don’t have guarantee their OWN performance? We’re just asking. (Hey, don’t shoot us, we’re just the messengers).

i. Recruiting Posters, and Websites, and MarCom, and so on, and so forth: Mostly a waste of money. And, SO not funny. No. Really and truly, no. Look, lawyers just aren’t funny for the most part. Okay, there are, like, three funny lawyers. Maybe four. And not ONE of them is involved in recruiting. We don’t think. Recruiters ABSOLUTELY are not funny, and this article is definitive proof of that. Just. Not. Funny. At all. But I already knew that, and I don’t even try any more. When even your dog looks up at you with a look that says “Dude, you know I love you, but, really, you’re JUST. NOT. FUNNY. I’m BEGGING you. . .for all of us. . . .” you know you’re not funny. We’re just saying, [me, most of the rest of the recruiters in the known universe, virtually every lawyer ever born, most of the dogs, a significant proportion of the cats, and a large delegation of the pigeons from the five boroughs], we’re saying, um, “Please, no more with the not funny. Law Firms and humour are like sixteen-year-old boys with beer, cars, and girls; no good can ever become of it!” This is our plea! Thank you.

j. I’m not saposta to tell you this, but. . . .: The reality is this. . .if you’re not BUYING me lunch, you ARE my lunch. I’m always going to be polite, and, like every other recruiter in the world, I will very politely ask if I can represent you a time or two every single year. We all do. But for every time a recruiter talks to the Powers That Be, we will have talked to the best lawyers in the country five or ten or thirty times. It’s what we do. And most of us know dozens and dozens of attorneys, many of whom refer attorneys to us, and we talk to them too. Think of it. . .dozens of recruiters. . .swarming all over your helpless little lawyers. . .UGH! How big do they make those bug baits, anyway?

V. And Finally:

a. About this alternative billing thang: “Do eet! Do eet nau!” We mean it. Hourly billing is teh suxx. Alternative billing is teh PWNZ! Think of it this way (by the way, shakas to our friend JoeR for this). If you were a Surgeon, you wouldn’t be reading this crap. . . I mean, uh, if you were a Surgeon, you wouldn’t be billing hourly. Your down the hall Partner Stewie would be all “So, Mickey Bob, how much to RotoMoto my painfully inflamed prostate gland?” And you’d be all “For you, StewMeat, 12 Large, a bargain!” And he’d be all “So, how long on the table?” And you’d be all “A couple hours, three, four, tops. . .why, you gotta date, heh, heh?” And he’d be all “No, just wondering what you’re making an hour, there, SportySpice!” (Totally missing the hilariously funny reference, by the way. Surgeons also are not very funny). And that’d be it.

And later, while he was phasing in and out of consciousness, but still aware enough to make himself a promise that he would never EVER, ummmm, “tinkle” again, he’d say “Eureka!” to no one in particular, scaring the hell out of the nurse, and then, he’d say to himself, “Self, I just got me a great ideer! NO MORE HOURLY RATES! This is GENIUS, is what this is! I’m going to call my Lawyer, right now, and tell him/her about this idea. I mean, what if Lawyers were to charge on the basis of what THEY can DO, rather than by the hour? What about that there then?” Ah hah! Wrinkled, furrowed brows. Intense concentration. Actual, factual thought. Stand back now. Lawyers thinking! Yup yup yup. Seriously. The way it works now, if you’re a genius lawyer, it’s like you get PUNISHED for being better, smarter, faster. Talk about TEH SUXX!! So, the advice from the gallery, worth almost half of what you paid for it (I’ll wait while you work that out. . . .), consider exploring alternative billing arrangements. Unplug yourself from the hourly billing grid. Learn to value yourself for what you can do, not just how much you can bill (between us chickens, we know someone, who shall remain nameless also, who doubled their income the minute they did this. . .and never lost a single client; just sayin’).

And no, we don’t think everybody can do this (not everybody is brave like you), but I’d be flat lying if I didn’t confess that I sort of harbor a secret fantasy about the Chairman of some White Shoe BigLaw getting all loved up at a hootie and then goin’ back to the office and sending out a memo to all the clients, you know: “After considerable research, we’ve determined that the Hourly Billing Model, which for so long drove our business, is Teh Suxx. Accordingly we will be adopting a new Value Billing Model, which we believe is not only Bomb, but also PWNZ. Shakaz, Yo!”

I KNOW! Gimme Dap.

James Mason is the Managing Partner (talk about miscasting) of Mason|McRight Legal Recruiting (MasonMcRight, LLC), a smallish--but very fashion-forward--legal recruiting firm, which also provides additional value-added services to law firms, despite the fact that neither Mr. Mason, or his partners, are fans of the term “value-added.” Or “edgy.” Definitely not “edgy.” For sure.

Hey, Partner! C'mon In!

How you doin'? Sorry about the title, but we promised our leetle frien' that we'd name a blog for him one of these days, and, well. . .today's the day. Since we don't actually want to have any potential or actual liability for anything that might happen herein (and, y'know, who KNOWS?), we just used his little saying. . .which is "Hey, Partner!" Nancy thinks it's cute.

You're kidding, right? Okay. . .this is totally his, ahem, "ladykiller" move. . .he walks up to you in the bar, or the restaurant cum lounge, or whatEVER, and sez "Hey, Partner!" and then he looks over at whoever he has his eye on, and gives 'em a wink, and a "how YOU doin?" nod, you know, the nod, and. . .well. That's all I gotta say about it.

Don't kid yourself, he's from Detroit. He wouldn't know the operating end of a Steer if it was aimed right at him.

But, really, how about YOU? Why in the world would YOU want to come HERE? Intense boredom, prolly, and work avoidance. Oh, yeah, and to get the lowdown and skinny on, well, everything. This here's your primer. Take notes. No, ain't no test. But Lawyers should take notes. And wash their hands. And say please and thank you, and . . . you're right, I've gone too far. And, for the record, I pick on virtually everyone and everything. But, I'm fair. . .I pick on me and Legal Recruiters just as much as I pick on y'all.

So, let me introduce myself to the six or seven of you who don't know me. I'm James, (Hi, James), and I'm a sex addict, NO, Legal Recruiter. Somehow, Option A seems less, uh, how you say??? Objectionable. But, well, there you are. I'll be writing most of the blog entries. Doesn't mean I'll agree with them (that's for my partners), just that I'll be writing them. I suspect this is some type of punishment. I suspect they think I deserve it. I suspect they're right.

So, why a blog from a legal recruiter? Are you KIDDING? It's time. Attorneys talk about "ya ya ya ya" this, and "ya ya ya ya that," but those are entirely different conversations than the ones they have with us, and we try to help our clients by telling them not only what Lawyers tell us, but what we find out from our compatriots (SO not the right word, but you know what I'm going for, right?) in the industry, as well as clients in general.

And what a Candidate thinks about something is likely to be VERY different from what an attorney in practice with a particular firm thinks. And, while I like analysts (they're so CUTE, with their little graphs and charts and pocket protectors and so forth), I've never found their information to be particularly helpful OR relevant. Especially when they guess on employment figures.

You tell me. . .what do I know. . .but we've all read the same articles, same journals, same blogs, same information all over the place (I swear, the blawgspace is the most repetitive space in all of webdom). For years. So, let's just check, shall we? The next time you need a total clock killer, research opinions on Legal Employment, what it will do and not do, for any year you care to, although this past year was a total ride! Wow! How fun was '07, huh? I felt like a cartoon character, like someone had tied a rocket to my tail (I'm not saying I HAVE a tail, I'm just saying), and fired it off.

Another reason for this blog is, well, "general karmic balance." Or something. And, really, to give a different voice, wait, strike that, an additional voice. That's sort of why we built mmlr from the ground up. By the way, this is probably the LAST ad you'll see me run (well, there will be the obligatory "suck up" post, coming soon).

But, you know, not a lot of cheerleading. No "mission statements." No "value propositions." No "blahdeo blah blah principles this and that." (Committing words to a page does little to commit hearts and minds). Very little sucking up. You either like us or you don't, but if you're dumb enough to think that our opinions have anything to do with our competence, then you deserve what you get. End of advertisement. Oh, yeah. And Lawyers, really really good lawyers, love us. Well, not me. Actually, yeah. Me. (I'm VERY cute, and almost never spill food on myself. Okay, that's a flat lie. I always spill food on myself. But I'm getting better).

So what we'll do is talk about current events, for the most part. What's going on. Rumours and gossip. But we'll tag them as such. When we think something is good, we'll say so. When we think it's bad, we'll say so. And we don't care if we have a relationship with the lawyer, the client, or anybody else. Besides, if we pulled punches, technically, it would sort of defeat the whole point of confidentiality, right, and be totally obvious. Yeah, that's what we thought, too. We like you. We like the way you think.

By the way, the New Years' post is, ummm. . . well, it's certainly something, we can say that for sure. We'll talk to you later. Keep in touch.

mmlr! (cue the theme music, please!)