Make something that means something
I don't know about you but I hate expedience. Having been a professional with high standards, and a business owner with the same, I hate coming across businesses that are at their core about expedience and simply “finding the angle”. You know the ones. They sell you a product that is either “just enough” or designed simply to feed a need they themselves create. It's off-shoring everything because it's more profitable while harming your service, or changing what you do to “game” a situation. In his recent book “Perenial Seller” author Ryan Holiday puts it nicely:
“People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification.”
I think as a profession lawyers are very fortunate to be taught and ultimately hold quality in much higher stead than expedience. As the profession embraces technology and change it is important that this spirit of quality is kept and it would be wise for legal service providers to consider how they communicate this message to the market.
Do you want your service to be expedient, or to add value? Do you want to be known as simply filling a gap, or creating something to fulfil a need?
Maciek and I thought long and hard about this when we were trying to work out what we could do to help bring change to the profession. Expedience would have dictated we try and make money as fast as possible, even though we weren't 100% sure what that meant. It would have made us charge for the dozens of free guides we've given away and create something that people had to pay for. We'd probably just have come up with a recruitment site, and not embraced a holistic approach to helping business owners achieve their ambitions. Thankfully we embraced meaning first, gave ourselves enough time to work out exactly what a business that meant something to us looked like, (and what we would be doing in it), and created something around solving other people's problems.
It's not easy. We've invested a lot of time and money into taking our time, creating something of value, and in giving ourselves the opportunity to bring meaning to all aspects of what we do both for ourselves and our clients.
Avoiding “expedience” came up on my recent podcast interview with the Director of Helix Legal, Janelle Kerrisk. Janelle recounted a story of how Helix Legal rejected time based billing. She told me of the struggle early on with clients who just couldn't understand, and that she needed to do a whole heap of work for free to demonstrate why project based billing would work for the client. Now she could easily have charged for her time, but she wanted to create something that had meaning, and if she gave up on a key part of that right at the start, how would she be able to stick to her guns long term? It was a great lesson to me and something that has helped guide me when the doubt and financial realities start to create pressure.
In short, expedience is the enemy of meaning. It's lazy and shallow. It undermines and draws you away from meaning. So if you want to do something that means something to you, consider the actions you take simply for the sake of expedience, and how you might be able to change them to add meaning, and create real value.
Written by Michael Bromley.