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Mark Brandon: The cultural costs of those sky-high salaries

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  • CommentJUST to clarify - and hopefully pre-empt some comments on the headline here and in the paper - I did not say, nor do I think, that lawyers are "paid too much". What I do think is that if your profits are made at the expense of being a good human being, then you need to consider your priorities. The anecdotes in the article are genuine; a partner I met really was blanked by his best man and colleagues he had known for 20 years due purely to their fear of association with a colleague tainted by having been judged an 'underperformer'.

    I would hate to work in that kind of organisation, and have heard many horror stories from partners over the years; we all know what goes on, few feel able to talk about it.

    For the record, I do not believe in a 'dog-eat-dog' view of the world. That may be judged naïve, but in my view it is a race to the bottom and only leads to atomised, unhappy organisations where internal competition is rife and, ultimately, everyone suffers. I do, conversely, believe that it is possible to build healthy organisations which engage and care for their people, and, happily, the firms I choose to work with are either like that, or have many people like that in them, aiming daily to reform and improve their firms.

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  • Mark

    Thank you for sharing your Summer musings. I'm not too concerned with the pay point--as a partnership it's up to the partners/members/owners how they run their business--but I'm passionate about values.

    The problem is that when you ask the 'Why?' question--what's your purpose--you're met with a look of mild incredulity as if you've asked the most misplaced question in the world: "To make a profit, stupid" is most likely running through the partners' mind and a few might retort with a few more choice words. (Show me the money and all that.)

    But to equate values with money misses the point. From my lowly perspective, every great business knows its Why (.http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action) And if they get it right then the money follows. I'm sure your readers would love me to quote a slew of high profile examples but I don't need to. I know who floats my values boat and I'm not aware of any in the professional services sector. Perhaps the two don't go like hand in glove. But just imagine a firm where the leaders not only espoused difference but they walked the values talk? WOW wouldn't that be amazing?

    If you're interested you might want to check out one of the best books on the true mesaure of money, Enough by John C Bogle.

    Best wishes
    Julian.

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  • Thanks Julian, agree - as usual - with much of what you say. As you say, the pay point is not the main concern; my interest is in what you are prepared to do in order to pay yourself what you think you need/ought to, and I think some law firms have burned the house down chasing target PEP.

    Am a Simek fan myself, though he gives us a nice framework with few signposts for the legal profession, imho. Leadership, in particular, is a very vexed question for lawyers, as Laura Empson's work demonstrates perfectly.

    Will check out the Bogle book; have just started Peter Block's "The Answer to How is Yes" which is shaping up to be very interesting in a similar vein.

    Personally I'm quite sceptical about the traditional values model in terms of expressing cultural identity in the legal profession (warning, shameless plug for blog coming up...):

    http://www.motivelegal.com/index.php/2014/06/valueless-values/

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