Monthly Archives: May 2016

Let your body talk (a reflection on professional communications)

roosterAttorney at Work reports that

Studies show that 55 percent of your communication is body language, while 38 percent is pacing and tonality of voice. That leaves a mere 7 percent for words.

MidLaw suggests that attorneys consider first making a full display of tail feathers accompanied by a bit of strutting back and forth, then crowing.

Attorney at Work has a different approach.

The professions, including the legal profession — the future of them?

SusskindThe professions are not immutable. They are an artefact that we have built to meet a particular set of needs in a print-based industrial society.

The Future of the Professions, How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts, Richard Susskind & Daniel Susskind, page 3.

And so, where should we professionals pitch our tent for the future?

The Susskinds take aim not just at lawyers, but also at doctors, professors, architects, accountants, business consultants, appraisers, preachers. The future of the professions, they say, is not in giving clients access to knowledge — not even in giving advice and judgment — respecting data, information, tradition, precedents. All of that has its roots in the once-but-not-future print-based society.

Professionals: middlemen between clients and knowledge? In greatest demand when information is hard to get at.

As technology advances, professionals are coming in line (like other middlemen before them) for fundamental changes in their roles. The information technologies are, if nothing else, making knowledge and advice more and more easily accessible. Eliminating the middleman.

New professionals, be wary of settling into career niches that are too narrowly focused on purveying knowledge.

Berkshire Hathaway’s Munger speaking to lawyers, law firms

munger-modal-ebookgraphic-210x210Charlie Munger, the celebrated vice-chairman at Berkshire Hathaway, has gotten the status of guru, especially among writers about investing.

Many do not recall that he is a lawyer and founded one of the most admirable American law firms, Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP; or that he was persuaded to quit practicing law by Warren Buffet. Munger says quitting was one of the best things he did. Aspects of law practice such as measuring out your life in time sheets, did not suit him. Munger has thought and spoken well about the profession —from both perspectivews – as lawyer and as quit-lawyer .

Shane Parrish at Farnum Street, an exceptionally good blog, is a leader among Munger admirers. He recently called attention to the commencement address Munger gave at USC Law School in 2007. Parrish says the speech contains so many of Munger’s core ideas that it represents “Munger’s Operating System” for life.

Maybe so. That address is a string of jewels about career development for lawyers and regarding law firm management.

Here are four nuggets lifted from there. There are more at Parrish’s piece; and more yet in the address itself. But, start with these.

Lifelong learning

[Y]ou’re hooked for lifetime learning, and without lifetime learning you people are not going to do very well. You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know. You’re going to advance in life by what you’re going to learn after you leave here…if civilization can progress only when it invents the method of invention, you can progress only when you learn the method of learning


If you’re unreliable it doesn’t matter what your virtues are, you’re going to crater immediately. So doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.

Work that excites you

Another thing that I found is an intense interest of the subject is indispensable if you are really going to excel. I could force myself to be fairly good in a lot of things, but I couldn’t be really good in anything where I didn’t have an intense interest. So to some extent, you’re going to have to follow me. If at all feasible you want to drift into doing something in which you really have a natural interest


The last idea that I want to give you as you go out into a profession that frequently puts a lot of procedure and a lot of precautions and a lot of mumbo jumbo into what it does, this is not the highest form which civilization can reach. The highest form which civilization can reach is a seamless web of deserved trust. Not much procedure, just totally reliable people correctly trusting one another. That’s the way an operating room works at the Mayo Clinic.

If a bunch of lawyers were to introduce a lot of process, the patients would all die. So never forget when you’re a lawyer that you may be rewarded for selling this stuff but you don’t have to buy it. In your own life what you want is a seamless web of deserved trust. And if your proposed marriage contract has 47 pages, my suggestion is do not enter.

That last one is the key to operating a law firm. True law firms are professional associations whose members share professional values out of which grow a kind of trust that cannot be achieved by policies, rules or procedures.

Trust among law partners creates real law firms. The rest are “legal services organizations”.

Cahiers de Hoummous: the sin of pride and the way of the masters

zahavThis is a confession. A confession of the sin of pride.

MidLaw was becoming prideful about hummus. As more “best hummus recipes” came forward, MidLaw began to resist. Why read another one? Surely by now MidLaw knows what’s worth knowing about hummus. MidLaw is an expert.

So, there it is in all its ugliness: PRIDE. The original and most deadly sin. The most insidious.

Pride obstructs new learning and impedes change.

When Zahav’s hummus genius, and the new cookbook (Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking) were urged upon him, MidLaw reacted badly.

Zahav is the celebrated Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia and now also the cookbook, created by Chef Michael Solomonov. Zahav’s hummus recipe both confirms MidLaw’s longtime methods and brings new insights. Zahav deserves the celebration that is raining down on it.

So, as a penance and to purge the contamination of pride, MidLaw has gathered key hummus-craft insights, both from Chef Solomonov and also from others.

Hummus techniques of the masters

  • Soak dried chickpeas in water for 8 to 12 hours with baking soda (say, a teaspoon of baking soda to a cup of chickpeas). Never put salt in there. Salt toughens the skins, and you are trying to soften and ultimately remove the skins, not toughen them.
  • Cook (bring to boil, then simmer) soaked chickpeas in new water with a new baking soda treatment. Cook them for a long time (at least an hour, but even more). Keep them immersed in water. It may not be possible to overcook them. No one knows for sure. What you want to get is really soft chickpeas, falling apart, with the skins separating out.
  • To the extent that you can, remove the skins (remove the skins, that is, if your vision is the creamiest hummus, but bring MidLaw Mind). Maybe the best way to remove the skins is to sift the cooked (then cooled) chickpeas through your fingers.
  • Err on the side of too much tahini.
  • Err on the side of too much olive oil.
  • Err on the side of either too much or too little lemon juice. You must find your own way here.
  • Get enough salt. Add more if you need it.
  • Conventional recipes counsel blending olive oil directly into the chickpeas. But Solomonov, Maureen Abood and many another in Israel and Palestine advocate withholding the olive oil until the end, then drizzling it (very liberally) on top of the processed chickpeas and tahini just before serving. Some do both.
  • When you add water, add cold water (ice-cold water, Solomonov says, with the water to be added into a running food processor a teaspoon at the time; Maureen Abood agrees).
  • Solomonov may be unique for advising that garlic, lemon juice and salt should be combined in a food processor separately. He advises using more garlic than others (4 cloves) but adding the cloves while still unpeeled. Purée coarsely, he says, then allow that mixture to sit for 10 minutes while the garlic “mellows.” Finally, strain the mixture through a sieve into a separate bowl, seeking to remove the solids. Tahini is combined with that in a food processor, and after that, ice water. Finally, the chickpeas are added in.
  • And then, run the processor a long time. 4 minutes? You decide.

Tenets of MidLaw Diet

Even more important though than master techniques, are the core tenets of the MidLaw Diet:

Roll your own.

Never hesitate to use canned chickpeas as the circumstances require. Remember the microwave hack.

Never submit to the dominion of an external standard of taste or texture. Bring MidLaw Mind.


Between pride and submission there is a middle way: the path of radical humility, the way of the masters.