While Jordan Furlong struggles with unbundling and rebundling legal services as if they were hemlines, because law firms are perpetually foundering on the edge of a precipice, apparently at risk from the weight of flowing receivables, a greater threat to the profession looms from below. South of the border, in a land built on swamps and inhabited by hobbit like beings and New Yorkers preparing to die, stands a man of curious stature. Yes, he’s standing, even if it’s hard to tell.
Obviously, I speak of Brian Tannebaum, whose invective has sliced and diced the youthful, the innovative, the fresh-faced and perky lawyer who seeks nothing more than to thrive in Furlong’s vexing legal universe. Tannebaum can’t stand it. Late at night, with the lights dim, he scours the internet for novel approaches to thwart, exuberance to quash and effort to belittle. He calls himself a bully, but not even a bully can suck the life out of a young lawyer like a Tannebaum.
The facile negativity of the Tannebaum, always as gloomy as the basement where he would resign young lawyers to wallow in their debt and dashed dreams, toward any effort to challenge the status quo, which invariably favors lawyers who have had a decade or two to spend developing their skills and referral base comes like night after day. Would he prefer they sit on a couch bemoaning their sorry choice, to become a lawyer at a time when jobs are scarce and clients even scarcer? Would that evil chuckle escape his thin lips, knowing that another young lawyer was left destitute and disheartened by his attack?
Some, the hard-hearted and vicious, will applaud the Tannebaum, his purported emphasis on horse-and-buggy ethics of the sort crafted when most residents of his chad-challenged state were young. But if there was merit to his sneer, we would still be wearing breeches and a waistcoat. The edge keeps moving, cutting, expanding, without regard to the narrow limits permanently fixed in the mind of the Tannebaum. And they are moved because of the youthful exuberance of lawyers like Rachel Rodgers.
Futurists in the law struggle to see what changes technology will bring, just as Bell and Edison pondered the implications at the birth of their devices. Perhaps not every new idea will be a game-changer, but some most assuredly will. And it will be both the seers, like Furlong, and the doers, like Rodgers, who lead the charge for change, and who will enjoy, or suffer, for their choices. Let them!
Why, oh why, must the Tannebaum feel as if its his responsibility, like the avenging angel, to always be the one to call out thought leaders as frauds and fools? What makes him so confident that they aren’t right, that they haven’t discovered, or at least promoted, a new and effective way to make the law more accessible to those most in need, and simultaneously bask in the glow of being the lawyer with the guts to push the edge away. Is it not right that those with the guts get to enjoy the glory?
Is there any one of us, any lawyer, any person, who doesn’t want to distinguish ourselves by taking risks and leading thought? Certainly, many are afraid of being wrong, not to mention being the target of the evil Tannebaum. Yet, that’s why the few who have chosen not to be afraid, not to cower in the face of evil, deserve both our praise and appreciation. To the extent we have a Rachel Rodgers hiding within us, we too could be bold enough to lead the charge.
But then, not every new idea will end up being a game changer. Not every cutting edge concept will serve to better serve clients or make our name a household word. In fact, it’s quite likely that much, perhaps even most, of what is propounded by those who adore technology will turn out to be massive and horrible failures, causing unforeseen and unintended consequences that could harm so many. And those of us who embrace our inner Rachel’s will have gone down the path, wreaking havoc with the lives and fortunes of others, and unintentionally have been the font of misery to so many.
If only there was someone who would remind us that his could happen, who would rein us in and calm our ferver. If only there was a lawyer who cared so little for being loved and adored by others, drawn to him by uncritical positivity and support, and would speak the words that so few want to hear, but so many need to hear. If only there was a Tannebaum to keep us from making these horrible mistakes and harming others.