Law Firm Organizational Assumptions

Organizational, business or personal assumptions are only as good as the time it takes to make new ones. New assumptions are triggered by the realization that the old assumptions failed to manifest an expected reality. Assumptions need to be thought of as ephemeral and not be codified in the lexicon of your culture, your goals, or your mind. The need for “structure” tends to reinforce the status quo with all of its assumptions. Lawyer jokes are a basic example of how the public at large reinforces an assumption. On an internal level, law firm “organization” reinforces an assumption of “hierarchy” as being necessary. This goes so far as to corrupt the word “partnership” and re-engineer the meaning so completely that when you say the word “partner”, it is understood to refer to “hierarchy”.

The word “partnership” implies that two or more people cooperate at every stage of a project to obtain a common result. Does this sound like your law firm? Does this define the relationship you have with your fellow attorneys? How about the word "collaboration"? Collaboration implies that two or more people cooperate at one or more stages in a project, but the overall result may be independent and different for each. Does this define your relationships with your fellow attorneys?

The assumption of “hierarchy” may be important in a “mentorship” phase of a project, but is it important or even welcome in an “ethical” phase or a “creative” phase? Does the “experience” important to a mentorship relationship follow through to a phase of the project when the question is creativity or ethics? It may, but it may not. Experience does not always create inspiration or wisdom. And yet there is an “assumption of hierarchy” implicit in law firms that presses down and imprints itself, even when not in the best interests of the project or the people. This unnecessary burden is purely a result of not focusing on whether or not the old assumptions prove out or fail.

I suggest that hierarchy is an unexamined law firm assumption that, when examined, will eventually give way to a “collaborative union”. Such as has time and time again allowed people to push through to greater success in the best of human effort and tradition.