Q: Your best friend’s son/daughter asks your advice about going to law school today. What do you say?

A: The same thing I’ve always said. I never understood the hurry to go straight to law school after college. Unless you’re driven to it, wait. Go get some life experience. If you have no idea what to do, spend a couple years teaching. It’s a way of getting perspective on your own education, you’re young and can live on the salary, and there’s just no rush. Take time to give something back. The world will still be here in two years.

Now, Herb and I didn’t talk about this as part of our back and forth, but I’m the publisher here, so I’m adding this coda, which is the verbatim content of an email I got from Herb just a few days ago, after the conversation I recounted above. I include it because I would like to believe it nicely encapsulates much of the market reaction I’ve been getting to the publication of Growth Is Dead: Now What?


Having spent as much time as I have reading and thinking and writing about the ideas in “Growth is Dead,” I thought the signed copy I picked up at last week’s launch would find an honored place on my bookshelf. After all, I have a “working copy,” which I created some time ago by cutting and pasting each of the twelve chapters into a Word document, and which I have returned to again and again. Instead, I found myself sitting down with the paperback this week and reading it through yet again, and, despite a promise to myself to keep a clean copy, reaching for a pencil along the way and underlining. It remains fresh and compelling.

Your description of GID as reframing the conversation around the new normal is right and apt, but I would go further and call GID a compelling argument with an inescapable conclusion: it is time for active innovation in BigLaw, because for a great many firms the certain risks of not innovating will far outweigh the uncertainty and risks of innovation.

Other observations:

§  Ch. 10 on Clients remains my favorite, and in itself is a platform for a great retreat program. The stats are eye-opening, and the importance vs. performance highlights are sobering.

§  Ch. 8 is a close second, and combined with Ch.10 (plus passages on differentiation) is the answer to the Managing Partner who asks, But what do I do?

§  The call to action with which Ch. 12 concludes is as inspiring as when I first read it.

All the best.


Bonus Round

One of the questions I get most frequently in response to Growth Is Dead is, “So what do I do?”

I would like to believe chapters 8 through 12 address that, but Herb has written an insightful and pull-no-punches monograph of his own on the topic, Inventing the Future: Practical Strategies for Law Firm Innovation, and it’s my pleasure to bring it to the attention of a wider audience by publishing it here on Adam Smith, Esq.

Herb has many smart things to say, including (just a sampling):

  • How about tying hourly rates far more to experience, and far less to seniority?
    • “The challenge for a law firm is to demonstrate value, not collectively across seniority bands, but lawyer by lawyer.”
  • Relevant questions at review time include:
    • “He’s a good M&A lawyer? On how many matters was he the led? For what size companies? In which industries?” etc.
  • Relevant questions do not include:
    • What are we paying him?
    • What do we charge for other partners at his level of seniority?
    • Wasn’t he a good soldier spending four months in the Singapore office?
  • And why are those the rigiht (and wrong) questions?
  • Because clients don’t care what it costs…you

What it adds up to is how to act on the great wisdom of Peter Drucker, who said “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

I commend to you the whole thing.

Herb Thomas

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