Saturday, October 2, 2010

The 2001 Mariners

After the Seattle Mariners finished the 2001 season with a major-league record 116 wins, a reporter is said to have suggested to manager Lou Piniella that they won so many games because four of their starting pitchers – Jamie Moyer (20-6), Freddy Garcia (18-6), Paul Abbott (17-4) and Aaron Sele (15-5) - had terrific seasons. Piniella’s reported response: “We didn’t win 116 games because our pitchers had great years. Our pitchers had great years because they pitched for a team that won 116 games.”

There’s a law firm analogy here. Firm A has good lawyers, but as a firm it’s ordinary at best. Firm B’s lawyers are just as good, and as a firm it is widely respected and enjoys consistent success, profitability and growth. To explain why Firm A is less than the sum of its parts, while Firm B is greater, consider these contrasting presumptions: the presumption of scarcity versus the presumption of abundance.

In firms that presume scarcity, the emphasis is on my practice, my originations, my clients, my billable hours, my collections. Standards for clients and matters are pretty low because, after all, the next matter may be my last. And don’t ask me to reinvest in the firm - in marketing, recruiting, training, technology or anything else that may reduce my next draw.

In firms where abundance is presumed, one is more likely to find a firm culture that values teamwork, encouragement, reinvestment, and the sharing of opportunity, success and credit. Client quality is relatively high, because the attorneys understand that accepting a bad client will divert time and energy away from serving the next really good client whose arrival, they are certain, is imminent.

In short, attorneys at firms that presume abundance know that the victories are coming, and that they will have a good year because they play hard for a team that will win 116 games.

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