It's their funeral...


I am generally critical about how law firms are managed, although always out of a sense of affection and respect for my profession. Even I was shocked by what I read about the management in Dorsey & Whitney's London office:

But old-fashioned bad management is apparently playing its part too: one partner issued an email after the London bombings explaining that he had billed 7.5 hours on that day and expected his team to do the same. Apparently, he also refused to allow anyone from his team to attend the funeral of a partner who died shortly after leaving the firm.

This is actually excerpted from a news story on the site (which is supported by advertising from major London law firms).

On Dorsey & Whitney's web site, the firm proclaims of its own management that:

Our management team is comprised of experienced law firm professionals, dedicated to creating an environment in which our attorneys can put clients first.

Reconcile that with this excerpt from the same story which says:

…at least eight associates have resigned.

There may be hope! In the recruitment section of their web site, under the heading "Firm Structure/Management" appears the following Q&A:

Are non-partner attorneys involved in firm management and governance?

The Council is a representative body that serves to strengthen the voice of Dorsey's non-partner attorneys. The Council welcomes feedback with respect to concerns, issues and ideas from all non-partner attorneys. The Chair of The Council regularly reports to firm management.

Perhaps "The Council" will have a go at this issue.

PUNCHLINE: While the behaviour alluded to here is about as bad as I have seen, I promise you that Dorsey & Whitney is not alone in having socially dysfunctional, destructive lawyers in their midst. Do not imagine for a second that this kind of negative influence comes without expense. What does it cost to recruit eight associates? I'll bet no firm would dare subtract that number from the billing revenue of some maniac in order to determine compensation.

One Managing Partner confided in me that the greatest contribution he has made in his tenure as leader of his highly profitable international firm is the firing of 60 partners, including some that so demoralized others that their impressive billings just "were not worth the pain and suffering they caused, emotionally or in extra expense".

MY WIFE'S WISDOM: Sometimes my wife Bethany really nails the point - her reaction was: Dysfunctional people with power are going to have to realize that their behaviour simply is not anonymous anymore.

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Comments (4) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Michelle Golden - January 6, 2006 8:48 PM

Gerry, I am rendered speechless. And those who know me will acknowledge that is almost impossible.

I think your wife said it well.


Patrick Lamb - January 6, 2006 10:14 PM

Your wife's comments could not be more on the money. If the offending partner is the top person in the whole firm, there's a problem that only the partnership can handle. But assuming there is someone else up the food chain, the offending partner needs to be held accountable. Accountability, sadly, remains lacking in too many institutions and firms.

David Jacobson - January 7, 2006 7:59 PM

In 'One for All' or 'One for One'? The Trade-off between Talent and Disruptive Behavior
Knowledge@Wharton (free registration required)discusses the case of a star US footballer who was let go by his team because of repeated eccentric and disruptive behavior that alienated teammates, coaches and fans alike.

The article has some excellent comparisons for service firms and corporates.

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