Over this past summer, a client, who has become a friend, asked us what the “back story” is behind the name of our firm. (Presumably he found the name ingenious or bizarre or some combination thereof.) Be that as it may, after we explained the origin he said he thought the story might be of broader interest, so on the wager that his hunch/hope was correct, read on.
As these things happen, before the website or the company really existed, the notion formed in my mind that the law firm industry was sufficiently large and economically consequential–$300-billion in annual revenue in the US alone (this is private for-profit law firm revenue, not counting another $200-billion or so that supports corporate in-house departments plus “NewLaw”)—that it deserved a source of objective third-party commentary and analysis devoted to examining it.
More specifically, I envisioned an online publication offering an ongoing series of essays describing and critiquing how the for-profit law firm industry behaved as an economic entity and as a business. This would have nothing to do with jurisprudence, advocacy, “practice pointers” (heaven save us all), or the comings and goings and “who’s up/who’s down” of lateral recruiting or office openings/closures.
As many of you know, I had majored in economics in college and as many of you, I hope until now, did not know, Adam Smith (1723—1791) became my hero. Why Adam Smith? Simple enough: He was almost surely the most famous of a number of famous Scottish economists, and the intellectual godfather of capitalism. In short, my hero.
So, when I awoke in the middle of the night with the phrase “Adam Smith, Esq.” in my mind—concatenating in a way economics and law—there was no turning back.
As it turned out, everyone—and I mean everyone—that I shared the proposed name with thought it was awful. “Nobody knows who he is!” “What has that got to do with the legal industry?” “It’s completely confusing!” “Your name isn’t Adam or Smith; huuh?” Etc. But I was not going to be deterred.
Parenthetically, it bothers me not in the least to tell you that I have regularly been called Adam and/or Mr. Smith in person. And although in moments of weakness I’ve been reluctant to correct the record—what an unwitting compliment!—I always have.
Not only did the phrase have a quasi-syllogistic internal logic to it (the intersection of economics with law), but of far greater emotional valence to me, Adam Smith the actual human being did more to promote and advance the health, prosperity, and well-being of more people than any other non-divine figure in history. (Cards face up, folks: I believe that to be true.) And it didn’t hurt my feelings that he was Scottish.
So that’s the story. Aren’t you glad you asked?