The Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Awards ceremony, held in London last Wednesday, was most notable for the contrast between the puppy-like excitement of the lawyer nominees and the auto-pilot professionalism of the host, FT editor Lionel Barber, whose aura was of a man who’d rather be at home watching TV.
This was a shame, not only for the confused lawyers struggling to understand why Barber wasn’t high-fiving them as they collected their trophies, but because it overshadowed the setting of a world record. Never before has the adjective “innovative” — or its derivations “innovate,” “innovation,” and “innovator” — been used with such frequency in a single evening.
Between them, these four words featured in 14 of the 15 award names, peppered the subsequent acceptance speeches, dominated the copy of the awards brochure, and strangled the dinner conversation. Hypnotised by the repetition, I was convinced by the end that lawyers could see the future and were responsible for all of the great achievements of humankind.
However, having regained my sense of reality during the Tube ride home, it slowly dawned on me that most of the innovation I’d spent the last five hours being bombarded with wasn’t innovation at all, but simply lawyers doing their jobs. The “innovation in corporate law” award, for example, went to two law firms which acted on a merger, and the “innovation in dispute resolution” prize was given to a firm that won a case.
At other times, “innovation” was employed as a euphemism for not especially original ways to cut jobs….
* You call that a raise? After 12 years of stagnant salaries for state judges, New York’s Commission on Judicial Compensation sure has a funny way of “correcting injustice.” [New York Times]
* Hope you had some D.C. firms on your bid list for OCI, because they seem to be on a hiring spree. Is there room for all of these newbies? [Washington Post]
* Maybe if we let Jacoby & Meyers get some non-lawyer investors, they could afford better commercials. Come on, even the ABA thinks the law should be run like a business. [New York Law Journal]
* O’Melveny wants to give new parents advice on transitioning back to work. After losing talent earlier this year, perhaps the firm could have used some transition advice itself? [The Careerist]
* My parents “ruined my life” a lot when I was a teenager, but I never sued over it. Unfortunately for these plaintiffs, being a snotty little brat isn’t a valid cause of action in Illinois. [Chicago Tribune]
Every so often, we need to ask the question: Why do lawyers have to run law firms? Just because that’s the way it always has been doesn’t mean that it’s the right way to do things. Law is a business — obviously — so why can’t business people run them?
Things are the way they are now because of legal ethics rules barring non-lawyer ownership of legal practices. That’s not the only way to do it; England and Australia have no such bans.
We do in America, but hey, laws can change. At least that’s what Jacoby & Meyers is hoping.
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