My company, Content Pilot, is a founding partner of a bold new initiative called Generation Generosity. The initial exploration was done by Akina, and as soon as they broached the idea with me, we were enthusiastically on board.
As you can read on the “Gen-Gen” blog, www.generationgenerosity.org, here is the idea:
Generation Generosity was born out of the belief that lawyers need a new way to experience themselves, and the world needs a new way to experience lawyers. The time has come for lawyers to be revered, not reviled, and we think that lawyers and law firms can create a new way of working and thinking that creates a Triple Bottom Line to grow revenue, relationships and resources.
Wanting to fuel the conversation, Akina hosted a “Reimagining the Legal Profession” day in Chicago last month – and I was fortunate enough to be a part of it (one of the few non-lawyers in the room). The vigorous discussion was led by three experienced facilitators from The Insight Labs, a think tank in Chicago that works with non-profits, government agencies and others to – well, rethink things. Here is Insight Labs’ strategy copy from its home page:
We lure the smartest, most creative, most influential people out of boardrooms and darkened auditoriums to get them engaged in designing a better world.
(Doesn’t this entice you to roll up your sleeves and say, “Hallelujah! Count me in!”)
Below is an excerpt from an article that one of the participants, Timothy Tosta, a partner at Luce Forward, published in The Daily Journal following our learning lab.
For me, the best part of the exercise was feeling fully engaged in the conversation and hopeful that we could resolve some things. I wanted to believe that we were charting a path to improve society’s perceptions of lawyers as a whole, as an extraordinary collection of human beings.
Three weeks later, do I still believe this? While we all could have checked more of our “comfortable thinking” at the door, I am optimistic that there can be a groundswell about it. It will gain momentum as more and more lawyers are known for their integrity, transparency, loyalty, generosity and leadership.
As marketers and business development professionals, we have to keep getting the word out.
Excerpt from “What Happened to our Profession?” by Tim Tosta, Partner, Luce Forward
…When the American Lawyer began tracking the metrics of law firm profits, and created their now iconic indices that rank law firms accordingly, the game changed. Or, perhaps more precisely, the alienation accelerated. Steven Brill did not make lawyers avaricious or materialistic. He just provided them with the metric to justify their actions. From a marketing standpoint, it was brilliant. The Am Law 100 represents to the legal industry what U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of colleges used to mean to academia. From a quality of the practice perspective, it has been devastating.
It’s funny how you don’t really care as much about income until you make your earnings relative to someone else. The Am Law 100 fueled the fire of greed by making comparative data widely available. Then, we began to perceive the Am Law creep as firms began to cook the books to inflate earnings. But, I have to ask, why is any lawyer worth several million dollars a year? Is any lawyer’s true value added contribution that precious? And, why is it that lawyers believe they can raise their rates from year to year without improving their competency or value proposition?
Why is it that law firms assume that they will grow every year, despite overall economic performance? Why is it that law firms think that their lawyer peers are the best business managers and leaders? It appears that, with the recent downturn, our clients have begun to answer these questions for us. And, their answers are showing us that we have demeaned our profession and overvalued our contributions.
I just returned from a meeting in Chicago convened by Akina Corp., a professional service firm that helps lawyers and firms build business development skills. Akina recently initiated a program, named “Generation Generosity,” in which it seeks to explore, through contributions to its blog, what generosity in the legal profession looks like and why it is important. Akina recently partnered with Insight Labs, a Chicago nonprofit think tank, to convene a session of about 25 esteemed members of the bar to reimagine the practice of law. Lawyers converged in Chicago on Sept. 16, from all over the country, representing a mix of firm sizes, in house corporate counsel, a senior member of the law publishing industry and others to examine this question. Prior to the meeting, each of us was asked to identify a lawyer who we believed embodied the best of the legal profession and to explain how we made our choice.
This lab was not intended to result in a definitive action outcome. It was designed as an exploration. We worked hard. We covered a lot of territory. We had lots of agreement yet found many propositions over which we disagreed. In the end, a big concept congealed. Mind you, I am from California, bringing with me all the left coast language and propensities that go with that territory. But the words that follow are not mine, although I made my contribution.
At the end of the day, we concluded that the role of the legal profession is to protect the social contract under which we function. We developed the shorthand order without guns! Our failure to uphold this obligation (and, I would add, to demean it thoughtlessly) ultimately could result in social disintegration and violence. We are the guardians of the rules and order that allow our society to function. Maybe this outcome is obvious. But the fact that all this talent spent hours to reach it suggests the nature of our plight. The question is: Are we collectively fulfilling our role? More importantly, can we keep our society’s trust if our principal goal is, or appears to be, about generating profit? Have we already crossed the line, where our role as protector of that trust is no longer credible? These are very big questions.
How it would feel to bring this trust back, as the focal point of our professional lives? How differently would we treat one another? How differently would we mentor our associates and successors? How, then, would we counsel our children about the profession?
Our work from the lab is far from over. Our conversation will continue and expand. Other conversations will begin. Are you interested in this exploration? Or, are you fine with the way things are?
Timothy Tosta is a partner with Luce Forward’s San Francisco office, specializing in land use law. He can be contacted at 415.356.4612 or email@example.com.
Reprinted and/or posted with the permission of Daily Journal Corp. (2011).