Last night I attended a special event at Abacus, one of my favorite Dallas restaurants — a Niman Ranch dinner hosted by chef Kent Rathbun and Niman Ranch farmer, Paul Willis. If you enjoy four and five-star restaurants, you will be familiar with Niman Ranch products and its mission of: “… raising livestock traditionally, humanely and sustain-ably to produce the finest tasting food in the world.”
In addition to enjoying a fabulous meal of Niman Ranch Pork Cheeks braised in Shiner Bock Beer (with creamy onion-smoked brussel sprouts), Jalapeno Beer Battered Lobster with Niman Ranch “Ham Hock Mac,” Hickory Grilled Niman Ranch Lamb T-Bone (with toasted garlic-balsamic glaze and carnival cauliflower puree) and Niman Ranch Prime Ribeye Filet with Crispy Morel Mushroom Sauce . . . (is your mouth watering yet?) . . . I learned a lot about how Niman Ranch does business. And big business they do.
Niman Ranch works with 676 (and growing) sustainable U.S. family farmers and ranchers, and the sophisticated infrastructure enables them to distribute products throughout the U.S., Bermuda and the Caribbean.
Paul Willis, an Iowa farmer, quoted Bill Niman (who is no longer affiliated with the company) – and it was these quotes that made me think about lawyers. Willis said, The reason that pork – the other white meat – is so tasteless today is because we’ve had “the chickenization of pigs.”
OK, that wasn’t the quote that prompted me to think about lawyers. But I appreciated the comparison of pigs to chickens, and frankly, the explanation about why, in fact, today’s pork is so bland. (The reason is farmers underfeed them low-fat foods and keep them in containment buildings with no space to move or grow.)
“I’m not raising pork chops, I’m raising animals.” That’s the one. I ask law firm management to substitute this: “I’m not raising billable hours, I’m raising people.” People who happen to be lawyers who care deeply for their clients. Some of the sustainable principles that fuel companies like Niman Ranch could be applied to law firms. The opposite of sustainable farming is “factory farming.” While profits may be higher with a factory-like business model, we have seen the quality of life for lawyers and staff, and the satisfaction and loyalty of clients suffer.
It’s just something to consider.