Four lessons for the legal profession from the Dewey LeBeouf debacle:
Lesson One: Law firms are businesses, and need to be run like one. The old law school indoctrination that “you’re not a businessperson, you’re a professional” comes home to roost.
Lesson Two: Most lawyers, like doctors, are crappy business people. Great legal skills don’t equate to great business skills. The Dewey head cheese blithely gathered in other big-ego and big-reputation people like it was 2005 and the boom was on. He made outrageous promises that sank Dewey when they couldn’t deliver. The Executive Committee was even worse. They thought their role was to be the sounding board and implementer of the head man’s grandiose ideas, instead of what they were supposed to be: protectors of the corporate finances and manager of the CEO, not the other way around. A surfeit of bad business people.
Lesson Three: Today ain’t yesterday. It’s more like tomorrow. While big firms like Dewey follow old paths toward oblivion, hundreds of young firms, unencumbered by the structures and traditions of the past, are busy transforming hiring smarter, building more flexible, virtual structures, casting off the caste system, and learning how to profit by delivering great work at reasonable – and often flat – rates.
Lesson Four: Success comes from looking UP from your client’s perspective instead of from the firm’s lofty perch DOWN. Ask Apple. Ask Google. Great businesses are customer-centered, not ego-centered.