I’m going for a long hike soon, and for it, I bought a really light tent. Some guy made it himself. I have to seal my own seams because he doesn’t do that. He just makes tents. They’re awesome tents.
The guy I bought the tent from has a little store that sells some gear, but he mostly rents stuff to backpackers. If he doesn’t have it, he’s not going to go out of his way to find it and make some cash selling it. He’ll point you in the right direction, though. He’s really nice like that. His store is great.
What if those guys joined forces? What if the tent guy found a seam-sealing guy and tried to go big? What if the store guy started carrying everything from all the little tent guys around the world?
I meet with a lot of ambitious people. Many of my clients are ambitious. Many of my colleagues are the same way. There’s no shame in it if you’re doing what you’re doing honorably. Not everyone’s like that, though.
Some people just want to do what they want to do. They just want to be really good at it. They probably want to get big enough to not worry about the mortgage next month, but the idea of building a national presence is as foreign to them as the idea of downsizing to be just big enough to be happy is to the management at Microsoft.
A little while back, a client came in with a complex white collar case. He’d been referred to me by someone I represented in another complex white collar case. After hiring me, he suddenly decided to ask me all kinds of questions about my practice.
He wondered if I hoped to someday grow the firm to include all kinds of support staff and associate attorneys. Did I want a bigger office building? I asked him if he would’ve hired me if an army of associates was actually going to handle his case.
He looked puzzled and said he met with another lawyer who required several intakes by junior attorneys before agreeing to see him. I asked him why he didn’t hire that other attorney, and he didn’t seem sure how to react. He smiled, at least.
It seems to me that people equate size with prosperity. They assume the biggest is the best. Although there are plenty of notable exceptions, they seem to assume that the best manage rather than do. Nobody wants their surgery done by a famous guy who hasn’t held a scalpel in ten years, though.
Some people see that lawyers are the same. Those are the people I want to represent. Those are the people I want to work with.
I wouldn’t mind making more money, but I also wouldn’t be too sad if things stayed the same. If I’m going to grow, I’m going to want to grow in a way that associates me with good lawyers who do good work and help me and my firm serve a broader clientele. I don’t care if that never happens.
Growing in size is overrated. Growing in prestige is illusory. Growing in skill or quality of service is growth that matters. Helping one person better than anyone else could is far more meaningful than helping millions just enough to stay on top.
If I’m by myself doing the best I can, which happens to be better than what I’ve ever done before and maybe makes me the best out there, who’s to say that isn’t a worthy goal? Who’s to say I should want more?
Growth at all costs shouldn’t be the goal. The goal for each particular endeavor should be to do the job the best you can do, to maximize success in the manner best suited to that particular endeavor.
When I start my hike, I don’t want the best best-selling gear. I want the gear that does the best job of fulfilling my needs for each piece of gear, and I really don’t care if I’m the only person who appreciates it. I only hope that enough people like the thing I need to make sure the person who meets it is capable of continuing to do so.
As a lawyer, that’s what I want too. I want to serve each client to the best of my abilities.
Growing as a business is enjoyable and fruitful in many ways. Growing as a lawyer and a person in general is what matters in the long run.