Monthly Archives: March 2015

Attributes of a liberal education that promote an exciting life per former CEO, Sharp-Carter

Guilford College alumnus and thought leader, Vic Cochran has thought about why it is that liberal arts graduates and Guilford College graduates live exciting lives.parrot_PNG721

He says that

  • Guilford students are challenged to look at other points of view to inform their own views and opinions.
  • Guilford students experience diversity through the student body and faculty.
  • Quaker education values exposure to other cultures and beliefs.
  • Guilford students are encouraged to be involved in their local communities.
  • Guilford students experience opportunities for service learning.

This kind of education, he says, leads to graduates who are involved and who contribute. They are people who want to solve problems and be involved in decision making. They are leaders.

And this, says Vic Cochran – Guilford alumnus, sociology major and Greensboro carpet and flooring expert – makes life exciting.

Note: Vic Cochran’s thoughts are presented here as nearly as possible as he originally expressed them, without modification, except in those instances where modification has been required to conform Cochranisms to conventional spelling and grammatical norms.

Vic’s comments bear the mark of wisdom. They are focused on Guilford College, which is a unique place – but much of what he says can be claimed for liberal education broadly.

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Strategy for traditional law firms, colleges, firms & institutions with long-time identity

Defining a differentiating value proposition requires that we tiger_PNG546stop focusing on reclaiming old territory and instead discover new territory.

Positioning for Professionals: How Professional Knowledge Firms Can Differentiate Their Way to Success, Tim Williams.

The challenge for traditional institutions as they confront new conditions or new competition, is their past success. It may no longer suit the times.

The whole point is that something new has come. Nothing has broken, but nothing is the same.

The best organizations focus on their strengths. But the focus must be on those strengths that will succeed in the territory ahead. Traditional strengths may not. Old ways, however successful, may no longer contribute value; they may not capture new territory.

If you have a distinguished past, you want to look back. But that only works if what’s old still adds value looking forward.

Differentiation must be defined in light of what is now.

Hummus-passion: every hummus recipe in the whole world in one place

I admire the spirit of the thing – the hummus-passion of it.

It looks like Palouse Brand, the pea and lentil people, have tried to collect every hummus recipe they can find and put them all on one website – or, technically I think, it’s one Pinterest board, whatever that is.

A truly great legume inspires this kind of passion.

Regrettably, this has led to more beet hummus formulations, but that’s what unbridled passion is.

To be honest, I am also bridling at the notion of chocolate hummus. But I am tantalized by the idea of hummus deviled eggs with za’atar … by the concept of a grilled hummus and caramelized onion sandwich … and by all the Mexican hummi. Many others.

There is a hummus here to walk with you on every leg of your journey.

hummus roasted red pepper

Traditional law firm professional development models obsolete?

birds & young 2Brooks Pierce’s lawyer staffing model is not far removed from what might be called “traditional” or “old fashioned.” That means that we still hire most of our new lawyers immediately upon their graduation from law school, or judicial clerkships – and we assume that when they join us, they are not ready to practice law; they are certainly not ready to practice law “the Brooks Pierce way.” We assume our new lawyers will learn by working with experienced lawyers (what the consultants call the “apprenticeship” model).

Depending on many variables, we assume that it takes four to seven years before most new lawyers become “stand-alone” professionals. We assume that in time our associates will become our partners and spend their careers as members of Brooks Pierce. This model helps us to deliver a standard of client service that, we hope, sets us apart.

Are we obsolete? In a changing world, we hold to the conviction that our way remains the best: the best professional development model for lawyers who will become counsellors and advocates for clients facing the most difficult problems.

The greatest challenge to our model has come from high turnover among associates, which we attribute to demographics. Turnover among young lawyers at law firms generally is high, as apparently turnover is high for Millenials generally.

We believe that turnover at Brooks Pierce is lower than among our peers, but – at our size and in our practice niches – turnover (or, retention) is still a challenge, and it is expensive. We cannot ignore it.

Whaddaya gonna do?

We manage. Specifics (our not-so secrets) will come in posts to follow this one.

We believe that we have have continued to make the economics of the old model succeed, even in a time of high associate salaries – and on terms that are fair to our clients, yet work for us. That part is a story for another day.

We are not obsolete. We are classic.

UNC president warns about years of cutting higher ed funding

rossUNC president Tom Ross made a speech last week in Raleigh and it must have been a stem-winder.

Declining support for public higher education in North Carolina is running off professors (they are leaving for other states), he said, and making college less accessible to North Carolina students.

Without great faculty, you cannot be a great university. And in my view, without a great university, you cannot be a great state.

North Carolina is behind. We are not competing. We have reversed our tradition of investing in the talent of our citizens.

Who knows more about higher education in North Carolina than Tom Ross? What he said, as reported by Higher Education Works Foundation, is chilling. No, it is freezing. It is clear-sighted, cogent and compelling.

The truly chilling aspect of this is that the consequences of failures to invest now will not become evident until they are visited upon our children and grandchildren far in the future.

[An adaptation of Tom Ross’s remarks before the National Public Affairs Forum were published by the News and Observer on March 15, 2015.]

[Now, The New Yorker has weighed in.]

Which exciting lives do liberal arts grads have?

Somebody called me on it. “Exactly what are those exciting lives that Guilford College graduates leading?” she asked.owl_3

Off the top of my head, my first thought was to say that Guilford alumni are professional basketball players, investment bankers, members of Congress, presidents of colleges, professional golfers, field biologists, all kinds of coaches at all levels of competition, leaders of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), authors of best selling books (and also ones that don’t sell so well), religious leaders and leaders of religious schools, C-level business leaders, bankers, IT professionals, Internet entrepreneurs, geologists, philanthropists, astronomers – and teachers, preachers, doctors, lawyers, farmers, artists, scholars, accountants, fire chiefs, organizational design and leadership consultants, rug merchants, forensic scientists and real estate developers.

Then I thought – wait. Those are jobs and, yes, Guilford graduates are at the top of those fields – but jobs are not lives – and for every fire chief whose life is exciting, there’s another one whose life is not.

It’s not what you do, or where you do it. It’s your awareness of it that makes your life exciting.

“The examined life.” 

If there’s any group of people who are prepared to examine and understand their lives, it’s the ones with liberal arts educations. And thereby hangs the excitement.

Guilford graduates are at the apex. Ask Socrates.

Gen Y & law firms – the turnover, the turnover

Brooks Pierce‘s professionals and staff directors spent a morning recently with Rogan Kersh, who is Provost and a political science and demographics scholar at Wake Forest University. (I have concluded that Brooks Pierce needs a provost-political-scientist-demographer, too (at least, we need a brilliant one like Wake Forest has).)

Dr. Kersh brought us his celebrated insights about the digital age and Generation Y (Millenials).birds-leaving-nest

Invariably, those of us in the vanguard of the Baby Boom are shocked in such discussions. Shocked, to hear that members of Gen Y will hold so many different jobs in their lives.

Projections differ. Some say typical millennials will have 5 or 6, or even a dozen, jobs before they are 30 years old. Others project that millennials will have well over 20 jobs in the course of their careers.

Doesn’t matter what the exact number is: this is a challenge for traditional law firms.

It may not be so much of an issue for narrowly specialized lawyers, or for lawyers whose work is to handle high volumes of routine or standard matters. But, for lawyers who are problem solvers – for those whose stock in trade is judgment applied in conditions of ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty – the work experience they need takes more time to get than job-hoppers have got.

If “apprenticeship” is the way problem-solvers are trained best, that takes time. Is there enough time for job-hoppers to learn as they go from job to job? Can the legal profession work that way?

This is not to say it can’t be done. Job-hopping may be a good way for new lawyers to find the professional setting that suits them best. In some circumstances, different experiences at different firms may enhance professional development.

But the turnover wreaks havoc with the staffing model of old fashioned law firms.

That can be managed, too. And managing starts with identifying and understanding the issues. Thanks to Rogan Kersh for doing that so cogently for Brooks Pierce – as it appears he is doing for Wake Forest and its law school as well.

College attendees have more exciting lives; Guilford College grads, the most exciting. It’s true!

College attendees are much likelier to report exciting lives, with 58.4 percent doing so compared to 49.6 percent of people with only high-school diplomas and 48.7 percent of high-school dropouts.Eagle Todd Clark

It’s true and this is data worth conjuring with. Forget all that dreary politicians-talk about how college education ought to be mere job training. Forget too, all that – undeniable – data, which shows that college graduates make more money. College attendees have more exciting lives! This even includes students of accounting.

Graduates of liberal arts colleges have the most exciting lives of all. (I have no data to support this, but I am confident that it is so.)

Graduates of Guilford College are at the apex. When I see the places that they go, I am pretty clear about this.

[Note: I have shown this note to several readers and gotten back a freshet of comments about how and why it might be that these graduates, especially Guilford graduates, have these exciting lives and what those lives are. I will put those comments up in this space in days to come. For now though, just focus on this: college attendees report more exciting lives.  Conjure with it. It’s true and it’s an important point.]

Socrates was thinking about lawyers one day

Socrates said:Socrates

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Not every item on calendars and lists of tasks is fruitful. Nor every client or matter.

“Busy” is getting a bad name. I mean bad.

This insight has been found to be high in Omega3.