The questions in bold are from a recent post in David Maister’s blog. My responses to him are the ones not in bold:
One of my favorite quotes, by one of my favorite authors is by Ayn Rand: "We Can Avoid Reality, But We Cannot Avoid The Consequences Of Avoiding Reality". And now that the stage is set, here are my thoughts based on having
many times been invited into small la w firms as a Practice Management Consultant
by spouses and even by solos themselves to validate their points to
staff – or vice-versa. Since I hope everyone reading this blog thinks of him or herself as a professional problem solver, perhaps these observations between consultants will find relevance in your law practice too. . .
Do you HAVE to be a skilled mediator to be a good advisor?
YES. That’s not to say you have to mediate. But you must have the
skills of being able to understand problems in all of the dimensions
they exist in and maintain a healty dose of skepticism. Most mediators
I’ve worked with understand that every dispute has three sides: My
point of view, Your point of view and The Truth. The best ones are
able to get everyone focused on how well all the grooves and curves of
The Truth fit together with their own objectives.
What do you do if you’re not?
Get some practice at understanding problems in all three dimensions in
which every problem exists: Time, Money & Reputation. If anyone’s
interested I teach how to do this in my How To Close Every Sales Call audio program.
Is it OK to accept an engagement when you know you are being
used as political weapon?
If you speak the truth and offer your best advice for the good of the
FIRM and not necessarily anyone particular faction, it shouldn’t matter
to you how your words are used. I will say I’ve had the experience of
the person who brought me in, not being too happy when I called it like
I saw it and when my advice for the best interest of the firm didn’t
fit their agenda, so it’s best (for your mental health) to always be
candid with whomever from the firm brings you in.
Is it ethical to accept an assignment if you think your work
will lead to the break-up of that firm by proving to people that they shouldn’t
be living together? See my response above.
Is there ever a way to not be politically involved? Yes, but the consequence is that you’ll end up being terribly boring. At the end of the day, if you’re not pissing someone
off, you’re probably not trying hard enough to stretch the firm.
Afterall, most of the people who hire us are smart. So what do they
really need us for except to challenge the status-quo, offer fresh,
objective, challenging, thought-provoking perspectives on how and why
the law firm is the way it is, and solid advice for how it could be
Is there ever a way to not have a political impact?
Remember, there is a difference between being politically "involved"
and being politically motivated. Some of the definitions of the word
political include: ". . .1) of, pertaining to, or involving the state
or its government; 2) having a definite policy or system of
government;and 3) of or pertaining to citizens: political rights." I
prefer the second definition. In the context of an advisor to a law
firm or anyone else for that matter, being "political" can mean having
a definite point of view, a philosophy, a set of values. Love them or
hate them, could you ever really respect a person or take their advice
seriously who didn’t have these attributes?
And if you DO have a point of view, a philosophy and a set of values
that you bring to your work, how can you hope to – why would you want
to – avoid having an impact on your client?