January 2014

The principal victims of this phenomenon have been those lawyers who become trapped in the culture of short-termism. That culture is especially rampant among the prestigious big firms, where, as a group, lawyers are the unhappiest.

Steven J. Harper

Victims. The word conveys a sense of passiveness-something happened to a person.  And for a while, that was an apt description for the lawyers who became casualties of the Great Reset back in 2008.  Nothing like the Great Reset had happened before, so without history to act as a guide, it is hard to view those whose careers were ruined or set back as anything other than victims.

No more.  When things happen because of informed and knowing choices, however calculated the risk of the choice made, the person who may suffer is not a victim.  To characterize such a person as a victim demeans the real victims around us.  It is 2014, now more than five years after the Great Reset.  While bad things are still happening in the profession around us, it is not as if there has not been plenty of warning and plenty of time and reason to study the situation, become informed and make well thought out, reasoned and studied decisions about your career.

If you choose to live in a culture of short-termism, great. Fantastic.  But if things go to hell in a handbasket in your firm, don’t expect sympathy, even if you did not contribute to the firm’s downfall, even if you played by the rules.

Lawyers are smart people.  Our clients come to us when they have problems and they expect us to investigate those problems, determine the truth and counsel them on how to act in light of the accumulated evidence and the likely outcomes.  It never ceases to amaze me how people who have, or at least claim to have, such superlative investigative skills can fail to exercise them in their own situation.

Whether people accept short-termism because they think it intelligent to do so, or whether they are simply to afraid to change their world until the doors hit them on the ass as they leave their office for the last time, the outcome is a chosen one.  So if this happens to you, you are not a victim.  Your secretary is a victim.  The copy room guy?  Victim.  Associates? Less a victim than the others but still a bit of a victim. You, on the other hand, may be a coward, a fool, a bad gambler, or just damned unlucky, but you are not a victim.