December 09, 2013
I am irritated by my own writing. I am like a violinist whose ear is true, but whose fingers refuse to reproduce precisely the sound he hears within.
--Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
December 07, 2013
Jack Kerouac and Lucien Carr, Spring 1944, Columbia College. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.
December 06, 2013
The difference between a job and a career is the difference between forty and sixty hours a week.
--Robert Frost, Poet and Yankee. He won the Pulitzer Prize four times.
December 05, 2013
I find myself doing it more than I would like--especially with clients with newer businesses or in emerging industries. I've just laid out some legal or regulatory infrastructure that, to them, throw up roadblocks to their plans. And I do this especially on the phone. I hear myself saying "no". Point: When you talk to clients, protect them. Make them safe. And be strong on those "no" points. But tell them what they can do, too. Make it part of every conversation.
December 04, 2013
You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.
--Jack London (1876-1916)
December 03, 2013
It's hard yet not complicated. You ask them. You pick up the phone and ask for more work. Or, in some cases, you e-mail. You persist--but do it all with taste and sensitivity to their schedules and burdens. Try not to be a dork.
"Zen Master", by Chen Jun (1935-), 2003.
December 02, 2013
The effects of a vigorous genius working upon large materials.
--Samuel Johnson, commenting on the life work of John Dryden (1631-1700), English poet, critic and playwright.
From The Indian Emperour
December 01, 2013
The River Wye at Tintern Abbey, 1805, Philip James Loutherbourg.
November 30, 2013
Getting it right under pressure was, and is, Steve's life. Writing is difficult. Even if you can't be perfect--and often you can't--please put your heart into it.
Writing--any kind of writing--is hard work. The most inspired "work moments" I've had are in this category: watching someone struggle with getting to the right word or phrase under pressure and when they are tired. The first time I saw it was watching a college daily editor--my roommate both in college and in DC for a while--struggle at 4:00 AM over a few words in the final sentences of a student reporter's story covering a public figure's on-campus speech.
He was also a student stringer for a well-known newspaper, and knew his bosses far away would see his article on the event. He had already phoned in the facts to an editor in Manhattan--and he had been careful to get those facts right.
November 29, 2013
Kurtz. He got off the boat. He split from the whole goddamn program.
--Captain Willard, Apocalypse Now (1979)
Thompson had a way of keeping anyone unfriendly to the very idea of him beyond even mere curiosity. Just unaware. In that case, you were a nice person doing the best you could. You didn't "need it"--anymore than you needed to become good friends with Andy Warhol, Ralph Nader, Harry Dean Stanton, or Dr. John the Night Tripper, whoever they were.
Twenty years ago, when I was an associate in D.C. sweating everything, I worried a lot about something hanging in my office: a framed black, white and red "Hunter S. Thompson for Sheriff" election poster for a 1970 election in Aspen, Colorado.
The poster bore a Harvard Strike fist. Inside the fist there appeared to be what someone explained was a drawing of a plant which bad or crazy people chewed on to "get high". But I quickly realized that anyone who actually knew about Thompson and his books and articles on presidential politics, Las Vegas and the Kentucky Derby--the event in his hometown of Louisville was "decadent and depraved"--would likely like me for having it.
I was right. The poster meant nothing to most people who visited my office, and it even helped me make friends. In the 1970s and 1980s, people read and loved him or had never heard of him.
So you either "knew" HST--or you didn't.
He either delighted, or was too disturbing to explore. A talented and comical writer, he drank too much, really did like chemicals, hated Richard Nixon, upset people on the press entourage, freaked out editors, showed up drunk for "speeches", and arranged for Ed Muskie to be severely menaced on a train by one seriously funny outlaw rich kid named Peter Sheridan.
He liked weapons. He was once accused of firing a military rocket at a snowmobile. According to a friend of mine who worked for one of the TV news networks, Thompson once mysteriously and suddenly showed a handgun to Secret Service agents and reporters sitting in a booth in a famously silly Capitol Hill singles bar, mumbling "just in case there's a firefight..."
Even with that public life, Thompson had a way of keeping anyone unfriendly to the very idea of him beyond even mere curiosity. Just unaware. In that case, you were a nice person doing the best you could. You didn't "need it"--anymore than you needed to become good friends with Andy Warhol, Ralph Nader, Harry Dean Stanton, or Dr. John the Night Tripper, whoever they were.
Even after Thompson became a character in Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury, saw two movies based on his work, and died by his own hand in early 2005, most people didn't have a clue or want to. One exception in later years: "beer hippies" and GenX stoners finally discovered Thompson--"Gonzo, drugs, liberal stances, hey Hunter's my man"--and my guess is that he secretly looked down on them.
Well, anyone can be in his club at this point. But I needed it all along. He was an angry but fine writer, a humorist, an innovator--and a big hillbilly like me who grew up on the Mason-Dixon line and all along just wanted to fall in love. He still makes me laugh and cry.
Maybe there is no Heaven.
Or maybe this is all pure gibberish — a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow — to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whiskey, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested.
November 28, 2013
Client Service still a bit of a joke all over The West. Retail banking/insurance/phone companies/utilities and "tech guys" are generally The Worst. Wonderful Exceptions: Not Many. But see, e.g., Trader Joe's and Geico. Suggestion: Start getting feisty at stores and on the phone. Remind them you have options and choices. You are The Man. Not Them. Act out a bit.
Customers Jay and Silent Bob try to Just Buy Something from you. Don't make them angry.
November 27, 2013
For what else can I do, a lame old man, but sing hymns to the gods?*
November 26, 2013
"Port of London, Night" (1894), oil on canvas, by Maximilien Luce (French, 1858 – 1941).
November 25, 2013
Dang. In 2017 we might see Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will have turned 69 just before election day in 2016, sworn in as the nation's first female POTUS. Her White Housemate? One William Jefferson Clinton, who will then be 70. No matter what your politics, it does sound like fun. What, if anything, do you think about this? Can we hear from commentariat-pundit-pollsters like Mike O'Neil?
November 24, 2013
Lawyers--especially of the corporate variety--are far from the Fighters and Alpha People portrayed in Television Dramas and in the Media. We're among the most Fearful and Insecure Creatures on Earth.
If you find this performance review idea preposterous, please ask yourself why. We first mentioned the title's idea in a 2006 post. It attracted attention--but many people thought we were kidding. We weren't.
Some lawyer-writers tried to even analyze it, which was strange, and kind of sad. Lawyers--after actors, junior high kids at that first dance, and aging beauty queens just discovering pharmaceutical speed--have to be the most insecure creatures on earth. They think in terms of scarcity--never in terms of plenty.
Someone else is about to get something that is theirs.
November 23, 2013
Laid out like a modern grid-form metropolis, Père Lachaise has the feel of a town--truly, a city of the dead--with tidy paved and cobbled "streets," complete with cast-iron signposts.
--Alistair Horne, in Seven Ages of Paris (Alfred A. Knopf 2002)
Père Lachaise Cemetery, 20th arrondissement.
November 22, 2013
A stick in me hand and a tear in me eye
A doleful damsel I heard cry,
Johnny I hardly knew ye.
Died November 22, 1963. 46 years old.
"Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye" is a popular Irish anti-war song written in early 1800s--and the basis for the title (replacing "I" with "we") of the 1972 Ken O'Donnell-Dave Powers memoir on JFK. O'Donnell and Powers were both aides to and personal friends of Kennedy.
November 21, 2013
Being a Pro. It's never about you.
November 20, 2013
More people have died for their drink and their dope than have died for their religion or their country. The craving for ethyl alcohol and the opiates has been stronger, in these millions, than the love of God, of home, of children.
--Aldous Huxley, "Drugs That Shape Men's Minds", The Saturday Evening Post, October 18, 1958
November 19, 2013
I have performed the necessary butchery. Here is the bleeding corpse.
November 17, 2013
You know any law firms like this?
November 16, 2013
The work of a bricklayer goes to the blue.
The knack of a mason outlasts a moon.
The hands of a plasterer hold a room together.
The land of a farmer wishes him back again.
--Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), author, editor, poet, Pulitzer winner.
But first: hearse horses, anyone? Do you love what you do? Step back from the canvas and try some simple tool sharpening. Bone up on your fundamentals, maybe. Your techniques. Do you need some new ideas? How does your firm do its work these days? Do you get things right? What do you teach associates?
Now step back further. What of this Lawyering Thing? Clients? What is it you really do for them? You serve, right? You mix your products and services with an overall experience that makes you unique, right? Or are you and yours indistinguishable from the rest of the generic law cattle out there? Is your firm really different?
Step back again.
Are you problem-solvers? Or just part of a "club" that needs clients as equipment to pursue a daily game? Does practicing law and serving turn you on?
Or is it just a past choice you, or your partners, made--one that hardened around you long ago--and now regret?
Too many people practice law who should not. Practicing law is hard.
Client service is just as hard. But many people with law degrees--there are way too many of us in the U.S.--don't get that. Or they don't love it. If either applies to you, or to your colleagues, it's not too late to "get it", to get it back, to love it (again or for the first time) or just to try something different and new.
The law is not for everyone. And to do it right day-in and -out is a hard order. A privilege, too.
If you wish to stay in the profession, try to make it what it can and should be. Visit our world-famous, annoying, counter-intuitive but dead-on accurate 12 Rules of Client Service. See "Rule Four: Deliver legal services that change the way clients think about lawyers".
November 15, 2013
An essayist at heart, American novelist, poet and playwright James Baldwin (1924-1987) wrote his experimental fourth novel about the life of Leo Proudhammer, a black stage actor raised in Harlem who moves to Greenwich Village. Proudhammer has a heart attack on stage. Published in 1968, and panned by critics but widely read, "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone" is an incredibly intense coming of age story set the 1930s and 1940s about racial prejudice, the American experiment, family, faith and sexuality.
November 14, 2013
Get off your knees. Imagine a Better Standard. Get to work.
"Client Service" for professionals. It got to be a joke almost right away, don't you think? But it doesn't have to be a joke. Client Service. In our view, that huge gap between the promise and the reality has rendered the term nearly meaningless. Even for those who deeply care about the crusade of delivering "it", and see its value for client retention, "client service" eludes the best of us.
We had no idea that building a client service culture and keeping it would be so hard.
It's a mantra we repeat to ourselves, to our employees, and to our customers. We believe that if we say "it" enough, "it" will come. With the best intentions, service providers really do institute--but rarely work at and enforce--regime after regime of Client Service.
The reason: Client Service is much much harder than it looks. You weave your skills into a buyer's "experience" of them, and deliver them together as One Thing. CS is a hard-acquired habit. It never was easy. Never supposed to be easy.
Most of us gave up. So we just talked about "it" in promotional materials and at meetings. We didn't establish and enforce it. (And lots of the time, if we were honest, we'd admit to ourselves we really didn't know what it was. It's just "being nice" to clients, right?)
What if the services sector, now King, competed for clients and customers on the basis of "Ease-of-Use"? Develop and apply ease-of-use concepts for products and goods to pure services? To our clients' services?
And to our services? Law. Accounting. Consulting. Advertising. Newer and non-traditional services, too. Anything where a service (something valuable but "invisible") or product-service mix is part of what you pay for.
In other words, Ease-Of-Use for services.
November 13, 2013
There is no joy except in creation. There are no living beings but those who create. All the rest are shadows, hovering over the earth, strangers to life. All the joys of life are the joys of creation: love, genius, action...
--Romain Rolland (1866-1944), Nobel Prize winner, in "Lightning Strikes Christophe".
November 12, 2013
Karl Nickerson Llewellyn
You expect me to tell you that you should be earnest about your work, and get your back into it for dear old Siwash, and that he who lets work slide will stumble by the way.
The above of course is from the opening chapter of the The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study (1931), which sprung from a series of introductory lectures Karl Llewellyn (1893–1962) gave to first-year law students during the 1929-30 academic year, when he was appointed the first Betts Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia. The book's title is from a poem "The Bramble Bush" by Robert Penn Warren, excerpted here:
There was a man in our town
and he was wondrous wise:
he jumped into a bramble bush
and scratched out both his eyes--
and when he found that he was blind,
with all his might and maine,
He jumped into another one,
and scratched them in again.
You're a servant. Whatever your client does, find out about it. And find out in 3-D.
The client, it seems, actually wants you to know him, her or it. Take time out to learn the stock price, industry, day-to-day culture, players and overall goals of your client. Visit their offices and plants.
Do it free of charge.
Associates in particular need to develop the habit of finding out about and keeping up with clients and their trials and tribulations in and out of the areas you are working in. Learn about your client--and keep learning about it.
Devise a system to keep abreast.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: Master Pretrial Coach. North Star. Exalted Teacher. Consigliere.
Yes, "read the rule..." The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are remarkable and, well, amazing. They vibrate, hum and glow with the hard work of the few who have worked on them over the years. In your first year. Tenth year. Twentieth year. Fortieth year of practice. They are shorter and better (i.e., much easier to grasp) than any non-FRCP-based state counterparts. There are flaws and ambiguities--but precious few. You notice something different every time. You never take them for granted. Look. At. Them. Every. Time. Read the Advisory Committee Notes, too. They, too, are to the point--and lean. Start with the Rule. Read the Note. And Onward.
November 11, 2013
Observed today as a day off work for many in the United States, Veterans Day is always on November 11, and comes to us from World War I, or the Great War. The first and most horrific of modern wars was officially over with the Treaty of Versailles in June of 1919. But November 11 is observed in about 60 (mostly Commonwealth nations) as Remembrance Day, Poppy Day or Armistice Day to mark the end of major fighting in World War I in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when Germany had signed the Armistice. As "Poppy Day", it derives its name from John McCrae's short but famous poem.
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
--John Alexander McCrae (1872–1918). Poet, physician, Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The poem first appeared in Punch in December of 1915.
McCrae in 1912
7. Know the client.
12. Have fun.
Copyright 2006-2013 John Daniel Hull. All Rights Reserved.
November 10, 2013
"Welcome back, Monsieur Hool." This is Hôtel du Jeu de Paume, the non-oath version. Erected in the 17th century, it once housed a tennis court built by Louis XIII, king from 1610 to 1643. Beams from the early 1600s cross the ceilings. An interior garden. The walls: old books, newer original art. Neither Left or Right bank. Save for your 5th trip to Paris. The longstanding and competent staff takes a "working" dim view of both Americans and Brits. They are wonderfully rude, Paris smart, and Yankee-style industrious. A haughty Labrador even lives here full-time. This is Hull McGuire's hands-down favorite since 2003. Brits never stay here twice. Too French. Be late to breakfast at your peril. The staff does not merely leer and grin when it is says "no" or "impossible!". They laugh, too.
November 09, 2013
Ten soldiers wisely led, will beat one hundred without a head.
--Euripides (480-406 BC)