The Handbook of
Law Firm Mismanagement

Sample Story: The Future Is Ours




The one committee at Fairweather, Winters & Sommers for whom the question "Is there any new business?" is more than a platitude is the Committee on New Business.

The committee was formed some years ago at a session of the Long-Range Planning Committee, chaired by Herbert Gander. Here is how it all came about.

The Long-Range Planning Committee met in a weekend retreat session at the Moosetoe Lodge on the outskirts of a little town not far away from another village not far away from another little town. Members of the committee were given detailed directions on how to get to the lodge by Herbert Gander, himself a founding Moosetoe. The meeting was delayed a day when five of the seven committee members phoned the lodge to say that they had followed Herb's directions and they had all wound up at the same Holiday Inn, some 240 miles from the Moosetoe.

When the throng had finally arrived, Herb suggested that the committee focus its attention on what the firm would need if it were to be in existence say ten or fifteen years from now. Hiram Miltoast offered that they would certainly need a supply of legal pads. Though electronics was taking over the place, he could not see the legal pad disappearing within the decade. But Helen Laser thought that stockpiling legal pads for the next ten or fifteen years was not what the people who created the Long-Range Planning Committee had had in mind as its function.

Sheldon Horvitz thought that for the firm to be in existence, the world would have to be a different place, and therefore suggested that the firm start a Committee on Disarmament. The committee tabled the suggestion, opting to give the superpowers a tad more time to see what kind of progress they could make.

"We are going to need the ability to change with the times," said Hiram Miltoast. "We know the law is going to change, but we don't know how it will change. New laws will be passed and old laws will be repealed. Cases will be overruled and cases will be followed. Some will be distinguished and some will be cited as authority for another proposition altogether. New areas of the law will emerge, though hopefully nothing as boring as ERISA but who knows for sure? The point is that if our firm is to survive, we've got to roll with the punches, to ride the waves, to bend but not break, to be big enough to admit our mistakes--because two wrongs don't make a right but not so big that we can't see our mistakes because they're too tiny. Nobody is going to do it for us, we've got to walk that lonely valley by ourselves and climb every mountain. I, for one, don't favor hiding this from our partners. I think we ought to come right out and say it to them."

The Chair thanked Hiram for his remarks and motioned to the bartender not to serve him any more drinks.

Harriet Akers said she was concerned about what work the firm would have ten or fifteen years from now. "I don't think that we can assume there is going to be work here ten or fifteen years from now just because there happens to be work here today. Hell, even some of our largest class action suits may be over by then. We have got to be thinking of where our work will be coming from."

James Freeport agreed with Harriet Akers, saying, "I agree with Harriet Akers."

Harriet thanked James Freeport for agreeing with her, noting that she often agreed with what James said, too.

The Chair agreed with both Harriet and James, but that, to him, the question was how we could assure there would be work for the firm fifteen years from now.

James said that the key was to attract new clients, and that he had a few ideas as to how to attract them. "Clients are, after all, just people with money who don't pay bills and so should be able to be attracted by means similar to the way other people are attracted. We ought to get a chemist to work on developing a cologne that would attract clients. Since many of them seem to smoke smelly cigars, perhaps some sort of essence of cigar smoke would work. We might also start work on some type of call that they would respond to like 'suee suee,' though that might attract only defendants. Of course, there is also the possibility of a creative advertising campaign offering specials for the month and using a catchy new firm jingle, as our public relations firm, Keepum Fortha Public, has suggested. But I think that we should just start a Committee on New Clients."

Harriet said that, unfortunately, she had to disagree with James this time, though, as she'd said earlier, often she agreed with him. "There isn't a firm in the country that isn't thinking about how to court new clients to get business for the firm, both short and long term. Our committee is supposed to be a creative one, seeking new solutions to problems. We all know that the reason we liked law school so much was that we didn't have to deal with clients. We should see whether we can come up with a way of returning to that blissful state of innocence:  clientlessness. Our new committee ought to be called the Committee on New Business, not the Committee on New Clients. If we dream up a way to create business without clients, think what it will do for our recruiting efforts."

The Committee on New Business is still working on the problem.