Is your law firm management style a joke — or is this just April Fool’s Day?

Years ago, as a youngster, I saw a clip on television that I remember to this day. It was a short that demonstrated how spaghetti was harvested! Yes, harvested! Full grown spaghetti being taken off the vine. This made no sense to me, but there it was, on television; it must be true.

Not until USA Today, on April 1, 2005, did I learn that the television clip, produced by BBC,  was an April Fool’s Day joke. In fact, it is rated the number one April Fools’ Day joke ever to be made by a media company. The next two are the article that George Plimpton wrote in Sports Illustrated in 1985 about a new Mets pitcher, Sidd Finch, a Buddhist monk who could throw 168 mph. The third was, in 1962, when Sweden’s only television channel showed how viewers could convert their black and white television to color by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen. All three of these jokes had a similar appraoch to their humor: Seriously asserting a proposition that an intelligent person would otherwise say is ridiculous.

Such jokes are intentional, but ultimately harmless. It’s far more dangerous when law firm management does the same thing. Do you seek to fool your law firm members and staff by saying things you don’t believe? Do you think you can pull “the wool over their eyes” by asking for achievements either you are not willing to do yourself or that are beyond their reach because you don’t provide the necessary resources? If so, you are playing with fire. Abraham Lincoln, a very shrewd lawyer, observed that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time. When people realize they are being fooled, their first reaction is embarrassment – and their next reaction is often anger.

An angry or mis-directed law firm is one doomed to failure. It’s far better to be open and honest about what your firm needs to achieve, and to work as a team with everyone having the same agenda, using sufficient resources to achieve agreed-upon goals. Think about it — April Fool’s "jokesters" often get their comeuppance from those they attempt to fool. Is that how you want the members of your firm to react to your management?


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