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A Dual Bottom Line

Law firms are businesses. Yes, the practice of law is a profession, but the day-to-day running of a law firm is a business endeavor--granted, a unique kind of business endeavor, but a business endeavor, nonetheless. And we all know that businesses are obsessed with the bottom line.

As I thought about the life of a lawyer (which I lived for almost 40 years, before recently forming The Mindful Law Group) I started poking around the Internet and came across a few articles examining something I had never heard of: A Dual Bottom Line.

The dual bottom line is based on the idea that the success of a business is directly linked to the personal development of its employees, and that being the case, both the financial welfare of the business and  the personal welfare of individual employees, should be measured and assessed, on a regular basis.

Query: Does the success of a law firm have anything to do with the development of individual professionals, beyond the obvious tasks of developing clients and new business? Or, do law firms exist exclusively to service clients, develop business and generate as much profit as possible?

I hear the chuckles--I know those chuckles-- but having no present affiliation with a law firm, I am free to ask the question without having to listen to the chuckling. Is there anything in addition to client service, business development and profitability that might help our law firms succeed and continue to burnish their reputations?

Business plans can (and do) change--sometimes by design, and sometimes in response to chance or circumstance. Being leaders (which is what lawyers are trained to be), I believe that our law firms should proactively reexamine their business plans. Not with an eye to reassessing past or future assumptions, but rather, with an eye to reassessing the present state of affairs--particularly vis-à-vis the development of individual lawyers.

The bottom line has traditionally been strictly financial. What about a dual bottom line that measures both financial performance and personal development? How about a budget and bottom line that measures not only the financial performance of the firm, but also, the goals of individual lawyers and specific actions undertaken to achieve those goals?

I will shamelessly nominate The Mindful Law Group to assist with that reassessment. In the meantime, I'll pass along a thought that some managers of law firms may find useful--allow your lawyers time (and space) to figure out what "development" means for themselves, and how that development might benefit not only themselves, but also, the firm. Allow lawyers to reflect. Encourage them to contemplate. Because their individual successes will fuel the success of the firm.

It may sound a bit Pollyannaish, but it's not. Much like meditation, it's simple but not easy. Maybe, our law firms should implement a dual bottom line?


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