Playing Law Firm Politics

By Scalzi, Jeff; Hoff, Melissa | Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing, October 2010 | Go to article overview
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Playing Law Firm Politics

Scalzi, Jeff, Hoff, Melissa, Strategies: The Journal of Legal Marketing

He Said

The three places where I have lived in my lifetime, thus far, are each very different, but they have one thing in common: Politics is always front-page news. In Boston, it feels like the races get more heated with each passing cycle. In New York, if a candidate makes one false move, he or she ends up being parodied on Saturday Night Live. And then there is Washington, DC. Say no more.

As I exited a Washington hotel on a recent trip, I passed throngs of visitors hoping for a chance at a White House tour that autumn day. I continued on to K Street, bound for another day of battle on the front lines in that other very political arena: the law firm.

The law firm is not unlike a governmental body. The matrix structure lends itself to all kinds of power levels created across a diverse terrain, whether these factions are divided by stairwells or by oceans (or both). To succeed and be effective within the firm, independent of position, one must understand the politics. And the roadmap to navigating through those dynamics is not always found on the pages of an HR orientation manual.

I've never thought of myself as active in politics. It's not that I don't care about issues or who is leading us, because I do. Do I vote? Always. Would I stand on a street corner wearing a gorilla suit to garner attention from passers-by in favor of a particular candidate? Unless my children run for office some day, I probably won't. But as I walked up K Street that morning, I realized that the old adage that politics are local really is the truth.

While I'm not going to start printing 'Scalzi 2046' bumper stickers just yet, I am actually quite active in politics that affect me--every day (heck, every hour) at the law firm. Each time I assert an opinion (of which there is no shortage), make a decision or pick up the phone to lobby for a client, I am making a political overture. The way I prioritize my daily, weekly or monthly activities and those of my team is driven by politics.

The political game is something we all must play each day, whether we choose to be aggressive with our opinions or not. And I don't care what position someone has in the firm, when the phone rings and it's that partner, you pick up (either literally or metaphorically with skillful triage). I like to think that perhaps one measure of success at the firm is whether those on the receiving end of our phone calls are doing the same.

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