Blame Is the Lawyers’ Game, But a Poor Management Tool

Famously, lawyers are professional layers of blame. It’s a good business to be in, but it’s no way to run a  law firm.

Structuring relationships and evaluating decisions based on fault and blame is corrosive and paralyzing. Do I need to break it down? Accountability, yes; learn from failures, yes; blame and assign culpability, no. Bruce MacEwen recently diagnosed lawyers’ predispositions to  blaming as the fatal strategic flaw of 21st Century law firms.

There’s legal, business and interpersonal blaming; and they all come together in law firms. Come together and get tangled up. The best and most readily accessible thinker about interpersonal blaming  that I know is Virginia Satir.  See Satir, The Satir Model (Science and Behavior 1991) ISBN:0831400781

The most useful application of Satir’s thought to workplace relationships is Gerald Weinberg’s Quality Software Management: Congruent Action. (New York: Dorset House 1994).

Weinberg and Jean McLendon have a good article, “Beyond Blaming,” that outlines the issues. It speaks to what underlies MacEwen’s strategic diagnosis.

McLendon’s article, “Healing the Ailing Workplace,” applies the same material to organizations. IEEE Software Journal (The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., May/June, 1998). How does a healthy organization process problems and make plans? Not by blaming.

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