Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Time and Space

It has been said that Margaritaville is anywhere that you want it to be.

So after reading articles about law firms acting like two schools yelling across a Friday night football field about who has more spirit, and counting up the many nickels that I would have for every firm that I know that has maintained the same general headcount for a decade deciding to add office space for 30-50 new offices in a city. It seems that many firms want it to be the 80’s and 90’s again. (Personal privilege, I’m all for it. Lived in Lauderdale. Loved the music. College was fun.)

However, just like you see the many things that cell phones have replaced. The idea of space is dated. Other than photo backdrops, why exactly do law firms have decades-old Westlaw books on walls of shelves? Go watch a Mad Men episode and realize how many of those jobs are obsolete. Watch The Office and realize that all of the admin would be centralized in Tallahassee, Jim and Pam would be on flex-time working from home. Dwight would be working from the farm on his beet growing side hustle while filling his pipeline. Michael would manage a remote sales team of certainly more than 2-4 people. The reception would be automated and supply-chain efficient distribution centers would ship next day paper supplies to the customers who still use paper for the entire region. Still, nobody would know what Creed does, but every company has one of those employees.

Over the past several years, I have constantly heard the refrain from attorneys that a lot of their offices are empty on any given day. People are working from home more and at different hours.

Planning a retreat earlier this year I found a flight with a 3 am connection and it made me question why there is such a thing as rush hour anymore. Why not fly or drive at 2-4 am? This 9-5 world is so analog to people who want to work until time to pick up their kids, have dinner with family or enjoy a hobby, reengage with clients a world away from 10 pm until 2 am when their clients are working on their second cup of coffee.

A colleague of mine works with clients in London first thing in the morning, east coast clients through the day and west coast clients in the afternoon from a beach condo in Destin.

The idea that the only way to engage this world is to put on an expensive outfit, sit in traffic, go to a building, kibitz in the snack room, before taking in the beautiful panoramic views from the high floor conference room, when all of the speeds, video calling, legal resources can be accessed anywhere at anytime is a mind shift change that is happening at a rapid clip.

In my little town of Tallahassee, I can name a dozen attorneys that either work from home for a large international firm in another city, or have clients that are in the UK, Asia, Latin America, or anywhere in the US that they rarely see and even more rarely need to see in their office. Staying closer to home, better serving people further away. More nimble with rates, time, and space.

Some firms are embracing this as a way to recruit attorneys whether it is utilizing technology, processes, and procedures to ensure that attorneys can leverage their practices and not be siloed in their home offices. Other firms are embracing hybrid models that are more hotel options where less office space is secured, but available for attorneys that need it.

If you aren’t using all of that overhead that you are working to maintain, why are you paying for it? To be part of a national or international firm? It is at least a visual way to take stock of a firm’s culture and fiscal mindset when evaluating a move. Firms that have solid processes usually have them throughout the organization. I have never seen a firm that handles the hiring process with a ton of bureaucracy only to become efficient when someone is hired. Fiscal irresponsibility usually rears its head all throughout a firm. Ask to take a tour and let what you see inform you. Eventually, you will be on the hook for paying for someone else’s dream.

A dream that may be a dated way of confusing someone’s presence in a building with their productivity and legal prowess.

So what constitutes a national or international law firm or practice? I guess it’s wherever you want it to be?

Andrew Wilcox, President, Wilcox & Hackett, LLC, Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com, 850-274-7849

The Journey

A couple of years ago I was invited to mostly proctor a plenary session at a 2-day conference. Paying freight by weaving a few recruiting and client development best practices to a room that was amped up just short of a Tony Robbins firewalk, then brought down with soft music, reamped with mantras chanted, chakras aligned, laughter, crying, an entire gamut of emotions. Perfectly articulate folks who found their inner middle schooler taking profanity for a test drive. Others who escaped offices for a few days finding an inner peace that would hopefully last them past the following Wednesday.

Gone were the elevator pitches. Apparently, people take the stairs, are afraid of triggering in a boxed space, or interrupting people scrolling their Facebook pages. Several people took turns on the last day delivering their “tagline” or “money” line describing what they do in the form of a verb. Not an attorney, “I help clients navigate the real estate buying process.” “I help companies manage their legal risk.”

At a carb social between sessions, a gentleman introduced himself, gave his tagline and asked what I do, to which I blurted out, “I go on journeys with people.”

By this point, I was around state 32 of a journey with my family to all 50 state capitols, presidential libraries, and national parks that's origin began with noun destinations in mind. Around state 15 somewhere lost in Thelma and Louise country missing the turn in Hanksville, Utah as the Sun was setting, two young daughters and my wife in a car that was getting close to empty thanking the paper map as GPS was lost, or the church in Salida, Colorado opened on Wednesday evening, when apparently every gas station, store, and restaurant owner within 200 miles shuts it down early for Hee-Haw or Lawrence Welk reruns, we found that ears that hear the who, what, why, when, and where will garner instant recall as a book of capitols stamped from each will end up in a bin somewhere.

This summer we finished in Montana, every presidential library, and 48 national parks realizing that the two in the backseat are approaching the age where the Griswold family vacations will soon give way to their own personal journeys and the logistical capabilities of embarking on them.

There is a lot of time to think on some of the roads out West where after hours in a direction, mountains do not seem to get closer. Thinking of the people in the van, friends, family, but also the journeys that I have been lucky enough to travel with attorneys over the years.

By now, I have known some attorneys from a LinkedIn connection or advice-seeking emails when they graduated from law school, through the associate ranks, partnership, starting their own firms or managing firms. Along the way, marrying, kids, parents that have fallen ill and needing to be close to. Vacations, hobbies, triumphs, tragedies. Overcoming self-inflicted obstacles. Taking calls, texts, emails at all hours from some that are paid a $1000/ hour to always have all of the answers, but can’t find an escape from the pain that they feel. Counseling to make amends when they can, listening to their stories and what they want of the next chapter. Helping to navigate an opportunity that helps pay for their kid's college, enables time in the morning or evening to share a meal with family, surrounds them with people that challenge and embrace them.

Please contact me at: Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com, or 850-274-7849 if you want to discuss what is next in your journey.