Monthly Archives: January 2013

We Are Not Running Railroads or Fighting Land Wars

Efficient organization

One of my favorite themes is that 20th Century law firms erred by taking 19th Century business organizations as models for organizing law firms. Rob Austin and Lee Devin’s Artful Making, What Managers Need to Know about How Artists Work (FT Prentice Hall 2003) brought this home for me some time ago. Recently, an article published by CNN/Money, What entrepreneurs can learn from artists  makes parallel points.

I’m saying all these same points  apply to lawyers and to law firms as well as to entrepreneurs. We are more like them.

We are not running railroads, fighting land wars or making socks. Wait! Wait! I know, I know. Neither are today’s transportation companies or armies or hosiery manufacturers any more. We are all knowledge workers now. And, to give them credit, the military were among the first to see this.

Another of my favorites, Nilofer Merchant is making parallel points also, talking about where we all are headed in the future — in 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #Social Era (Harvard Business Review Press 2012).

And, in case I am not being clear: these insights have implications for how law firms are organized and managed.

The Mind of a Statesman Rather Than a Politician or a Practitioner


William Alexander Graham

Bishop Cheshire believed that Governor William A. Graham was “one of the greatest men our State has ever produced.” He was, the bishop wrote, “wise rather than brilliant.”

“Governor Graham’s mind did not concern itself with small things, either of the law, or of politics. He was a statesman and a philosopher, rather than a politician or a practitioner. He was earnest and elevated in thought and in character. Perhaps he was somewhat lacking in an adequate sense of humor.”

Judge Pearson said of Governor Graham “what Sugden said of Brougham as Lord Chancellor; that if the Lord Chancellor knew a little law, he would know a little of everything.”

How can this be? One of our greatest lawyer-leaders and yet he knew no law? What can it mean?

This comment about a 19th Century lawyer puts me in mind of  Richard Susskind’s comment that the value of legal knowledge is diminishing in the 21st Century, while the value of wise counseling is growing.

That bit about his sense of humor though. Now that’s a horse of a different color.