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Reputational Incentive

Several centuries ago, the economist Adam Smith wrote about how a man (specifically, a European man) would react if he lost his little finger, versus how he would react to news that China had been completely destroyed by a giant earthquake.

His conclusion? "If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them [the Chinese], he will snore with most profound security over the ruin of a hundred million of his brethren and the destruction of that immense multitude seems plainly an object less interesting to him than this paltry misfortune of his own".

Adam Smith was writing about capitalism-- but he may as well have been writing about law firm managers and the growing concern of lawyer wellbeing. Personal needs always seem to trump the needs of others. Sadly, that appears to have been true several hundred years ago, and it is certainly true today.

Economic incentive has, so far, prevailed in the legal sector, but what about reputational incentive? When will that become a factor in the debate about lawyer wellbeing? When will law firm leaders begin to think about their own reputation, as a matter bearing upon the initiation (and funding) of a fully realized wellbeing program?

Can personal incentive ever meet or match the interests of others? For decades the only overlap between the two, has been financial incentive (i.e., an increased salary) -- but you know what? We're no longer living in the year 17-something (no disrespect to Adam Smith), and there's another incentive that can/should be weighing on the minds of leaders in the legal profession-- reputational incentive.

One's reputation is every bit as important as the compensation one receives and becoming the first public champion of the lawyer wellbeing cause will go a long way toward burnishing one's reputation-- among firm peers, and the profession!


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