The subtle difference between simple and simple minded.


We'll define practice development simplicity as pithy verbal elegance. A few words that go directly to the core of the matter. One goal of practice development planning and the research and programs that go with it is the Holy Grail of simplicity.

There is a dilemma shown by the question: can you express a concept more simply than the language it is expressed in? If every word has multiple meanings or shades of meaning and meaning is partially defined by context, can we express a simple idea with a simple statement? Much depends on the definition of 'is'.

A simple statement has only one meaning. Its meaning can not change due to the statements that come before or after it. A simple statement derives none of its meaning from the emotions of the milieu in which it is uttered or the feelings of those that speak or hear it. A simple statement, need not always be true, but must always be the same. I can not think of a simple statement.

The request for 'simplicity' is often a form of burden shifting. If I ask you for a simple shopping center lease or you ask me for some simple market research what do we really want? I don't mean a lease that the other side can "wiggle out of" or that fails to consider foreseeable contingencies. You don't want research that mistakes brevity for substance. Simplicity is defined by the instantaneous use/intent of the utterer. It is a near statistical certainty that one of the first three clients you dealt with in your career asked for a 'simple' trademark registration, divorce resolution, personal injury settlement, _______ (you fill in the blank). While a few people might mean that they wanted a lease marked by short sentences and active verbs, usually they meant that they wanted one that was quick, easy and cheap. Only a very few wanted pithy elegance and were willing to pay for the effort that entailed. The request for simplicity often results in what can be called a socially acceptable oxymoron. An example would be the 'comprehensive executive summary'.

The simplicity that so benefits the law practice planner is the statement that is emotionally as well as intellectually simple. Lawyers tend to minimize the value that emotions play in their professional lives and practices. Emotional simplicity is often just the right thing to do. The simplicity of doing the right thing solely because it is the right thing has liberated many practitioners and firms from the stress and constraints of complex ambiguity. For almost all of us, the liberation of simplicity is so invigorating that it appears as newfound professional and economic success.

What this means to the practice development planner.

On the practice development planning continuum, the opposite of 'simple' is not 'complicated' (many parts) so much as 'complex' (multiple relationships between the parts). In a way, simplicity is the resolution of the ambiguity complexity presents. The ambiguity is not in the practice environment (those unchangeable realities the planner must consider) but in the lack of clarity in the vision and mission of those for whom planning is undertaken. Ambiguity, more than adversity, creates the type of stress that makes lawyers question why they practice. In turn, this ambiguity creates stress in clients and compromises the attorney-client relationship. Simplicity, be it simplicity of vision, simplicity of mission, of strategy, of tactics or simplicity in the firm's practice development programs always presents benefits worth striving for.


Planning exercises to improve both simplicity and clarity.

1. Describe how your law firm is different from its competitors in your
market in one sentence with no gt-sc .

2. Write down one sentence (one sentence only) that you want your
rainbrokers* to say to prospective clients you want.

3. Describe in one sentence (again, no gt-sc) the one thing about your
firm that most needs changing if the firm is to improve in any regard.

[* "rainbroker" is borrowed from the work of Mark Powers of Atticus, Inc. ( It refers to those who are in a position to recommend you or your firm to those who you wish to serve.)

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