James E.Brill 2015-03-25 12:05:25
If the sound of the trumpet is uncertain, who will prepare for the battle? This paraphrase of the Scriptures asks a compelling question in a military setting that has a clear relationship to law practice. In its early years, the Astrodome scoreboard was an over-the-top combination of noise, flashing lights, more noise, and then, a highly upbeat trumpet blast that was followed by everyone screaming “CHARGE!” There was no uncertainty with the sound of that trumpet. The February issue of the Texas Bar Journal focused on leadership, and for several pages, it featured a number of attorneys describing their concepts of leading. It was particularly satisfying to me to learn that so many newer lawyers were willing to pick up and wear the mantle of leadership in our profession. Some will chair committees and hold office while others will write and make presentations to enhance the skills of their fellow lawyers. Others will work behind the scenes providing support to their colleagues. While so engaged, all will gladly forego the dreariness of billable hours and the never-ending treadmill on which a life is measured and sold in 10-minute increments. The trumpet that those lawyers hear is not uncertain. It is a clarion call to give of themselves for the betterment of the profession, the improvement of the law, and the development of their fellow lawyers. They know that they can make a difference because they have heard the trumpet and are prepared for the battle. Far too often volunteer organizations are overpopulated by “generals” and are in need of “privates.” Of course, the privates do most of the work, and the easy way to get to be a general is to be a really good private. Promotions come easily to those who are performers. The concept of leadership by example that now has morphed into “servant leadership” is an easy way to get started. It is as simple as the idea of getting your hands dirty. Without leadership, those volunteers would be motivated but aimless, enthusiastic but uncertain, and, just as surely, would lose interest and fade away. How will all that energy be harnessed? Consider water at 211 degrees. It is certainly very hot, but it does nothing. Increasing the temperature by just 1 degree produces steam, a force so powerful that when properly applied, it can propel a train or operate machinery. True leaders are those who add 1 more degree of implementation. They have helped to identify the strengths and weaknesses of competing firms as well as their own firms. Based on their analysis of those characteristics, they have developed goals and objectives as well as the strategies to reach them. These are not trivial or easily accomplished items on a to-do list. These are the lofty goals and the ones that insist on excellence—like those that will enhance each client’s experience or emphasize the need for the lawyer to be a great listener and to respond to the client with as much empathy as advice. Consider also a championship athletic team. Could it succeed without skilled players, proper training and support, and a clear plan? And what about the space program and the early astronauts? All of them and many of us would want to go to the moon, but none of us, and very few of them, would have been willing to go without proper equipment, proper training, proper support, and above all, a proper plan. And so, in a law firm, the leader is the one who has the necessary talent to develop (individually or with others) the goals and objectives and to incorporate them into written procedures and a plan for implementation, all of which must be explained, formalized, and agreed upon. As the pieces fall into place, the level of enthusiasm increases. By their participation in the process, all who are involved become self-motivated to do their part to reach these goals on a continuing basis. The trumpeter has begun to play. The sound of the trumpet will not be uncertain. The notes will be loud and, like the plans, they will be clear. All who hear the sound will prepare for the ultimate effort to provide more caring service for their clients. They will embrace the goals and will be a part of the continuing effort to improve themselves and their practices for a renewal of respect for our profession, and for the ultimate benefit of the public we are privileged to serve. JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
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