A (love) letter to law firms

Dear law firms

It’s hard to be you. No, it really is, I am not being sarcastic. You give so much to so many people, but no one ever says thank you.

You and the partners who create you, you are created by sacrifice. The sacrifice of time with family, the sacrifice of sleep, of creativity, of life outside of work.

And all anyone ever talks about is how much money you make, and how they never want to be like you.

If life were a Disney film, you would be Beast. Alone in your gilded tower, with everything you could ever need, except the understanding and kindness of others.

I want to tell you that you matter. And I want to say thank you.

I want to show you that just like Beast, you can transform yourselves to love and be loved in return and live a happier, more meaningful and productive life.

You are brave

Law firms, you are stronger and braver than you think.

You can start a quest for what really matters to you. You can open your heart to taking risks and being honest about your feelings.

You can find out what really matters to you in the practice and profession of law.

You can start listening to your calling again and stop suppressing that voice that begs you to do more of what you love.

Tell a story about who you are and who you want to be.

Let people who don’t feel the same find themselves a different place to be.

Send out a flagship to those who don’t know you yet and call them to your cause.

You can fall in love again

It’s hard to love somebody who doesn’t love you back.

But it goes both ways. Your lawyers will not love you if you don’t love them first. They have been hurt too, you know?

Your lawyers make you who you are. Your lawyers deliver on your dreams. Your lawyers carry the scars of your relationship with them as well as the honours bestowed.

Lawyers almost never leave for a ‘better opportunity’. Deep down you know this. They leave because they are heartbroken and they don’t have any more love to give.

They come to you, so eager to please, so ready to love, so open to trust. But your heart is closed to them and over time they slink away or storm away, sad, hurt, and sometimes injured.

Open your heart. Love them for who they are and help them grow into who they can be. Thank them for what they give you, trust them in all things, and listen to them when they need you to hear them.

In this way they will cry when they leave, and they will never be truly gone. They will always be a part of you and the firm, and you will always be able to say you both did your best, and it was beautiful for as long as it lasted.

Know you are worthy

It’s a strange thing that law firms are filled with pride but not enough self-respect. We are so sure of our intelligence but somehow unsure of our worth.

You are not interchangeable. Every firm and every partner has the ability to offer something no one else can – themselves.

You cannot be all things to all people. Like an insecure teenager, it seems you change your outfits to suit your latest crush, and in doing so you make it impossible for anyone to know who you really are.

Only children think that dating is a competition. Adults realise that dating is about falling in love with the right person, not making the wrong person fall in love with them.

You are special. You are the only you. And as a collective of individual and amazing people, you cannot be copied and you cannot be undermined.

You set a price for your services, but you are not for sale.

When you discount your services you risk being seen to discount your self.

Set a fair price and stand behind it. Respect what you are and what you do. Stand firm in your worth. People who value you for yourselves will pay your price. Let those who don’t, go elsewhere. They are not marriage material.

You are making history

You have read so many self-help books that it’s hard to know who you want to be any more.

You have stayed a partnership yet borrowed endlessly from corporate and management theory, and yet you are not a corporation. I am sorry to say it but many of you are barely a shell of a partnership either.

If you are committed to partnership and the profession of law, every decision you make should be worthy of our collective history.

We are a teaching profession, we are an ethical profession, and we are steeped in almost a thousand years of history. I ask you to find a way to preserve the meaning of partnership and the duty of partnership in your organisations of hundreds and sometimes thousands of partners.

Every graduate lawyer is your collective and individual responsibility. Every failed relationship with a client or employee is a failure of you all.

If you truly wish to become corporations, then it’s time to make a real decision and take real action to operate with shareholders, a board of directors, and independent management.

I tell you this with love. It is hard to change. But it’s time to remember where you came from, and to decide for good where you are going.

It’s time to be happy. It’s time to be brave.

It’s time to be good. It’s time to be gentle. It’s time to be kind.

And it’s time to be the best that we can be. Together.

Love Fionn


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