Myths & Prejudices
Hidden from those who harbor them.

Talking about the myths and prejudices that infect law firms is tough to do in a general sense. Lawyers and their functional groups - law firms - are as varied as society. No single example fits a meaningful minority, not to mention majority, of situations. For every person who sees relevance in one example there are ten or a dozen who think that the discussion is irrelevant because their situation is different.

Myths and prejudices sometimes relate to GTSC, sometimes not. Some myths and prejudices are held in good faith, some require a bit of "sugar to make the medicine go down".

Since we're always distinguishing and defining terms, we should distinguish and define "myth" and "prejudice" as well.

A "myth" is a handy set of historical presumptions.

A myth almost always serves an emotional rather than an intellectual purpose. The historical myth of the founding of the city of Rome - Romulus and Remus being suckled by a wolf, served the emotional need of the citizens to identify themselves as special among the inhabitants of the planet rather than providing a logical explanation of their history.

Myths get started because the person who first tells it and the person who first hears it both need to go with the program.

For myths to function, that is to stay alive as part of a culture - including the "culture" of a law firm - they have to be held as having a degree of validity (outlining some "greater truth") if not historical accuracy.

Each myth has its place on the continuum between almost accurate and complete hallucination.

Prejudice is more action oriented than myth. It is the tendency to use internal criteria in deciding on a course of action. The word "prejudice" has been beaten up lately in common usage. We use it to convey moral judgment and opprobrium, not just the simple act of judging something before we have all the relevant facts. Thus "racial prejudice" is more a social felony rather than a mistake in process of making a judgement.

When something happens to you in your market that you didn't see coming, it is likely a partial result of your myths or prejudices. Clients leave when you thought you were doing a competent professional job for them, competitors win "beauty contests" you wanted to win.

In simple terms, you not only have to watch where you are going, you have to make sure your glasses are clean and your windshield free of obstructions.

The same is true for environmental changes.

This applies in markets more than environments.

Prejudice example: the firm thinks of itself as a "white shoe" operation. Associates all join country clubs and they "move up" to "better" clubs as they progress toward partner. When playing "reciprocal privilege" golf at a local country club, the pro pairs up our example lawyer with a fellow who mentions his interest in country music and stock car racing. Our example lawyer focuses his conversation toward the other two people in the foursome, and never learns whether the "good ole' boy" needs the type of legal services his firm provides.

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Advocates Management, Inc.
1332 South 26th Street
Manitowoc, WI 54220

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