I am a huge fan of 37 Signals and their product line of mind-freeing, software-killing, reality-driven SOLUTIONS. There, I said it – SOLUTIONS. As lawyers, we tend to only see problems. Problems are meant to be solved, not lawyered, and sometimes we simply forget the value in achieving something. Recently I had a case in which my client was charged with a very serious crime. The certain outcome – at least it seemed so to me – was the end of his useful life. He would spend most of it in prison if the law had its way. And when prison has its way, well, nobody ever rehabs in prison, they just do time.
But somehow I was dealing with a prosecutor who had a different view of life. She thought the life we were about to grind up could be saved. That was what she decided to do. Recognizing that the law is sometimes an "ass" she came up with a SOLUTION. The kid’s life will not end and he will pay a price but he will have a real chance, because we were able to look past the expected resolution and move toward something different. A solution.
I have been looking forward to 37 Signals’ founders Fried and Hansson’s new book – REWORK. Like that prosecutor, they have a way of coming up with stuff that is better. Stuff that works – or as they say – Reworks. We have used their Basecamp product for years, to keep clients better informed about their cases and in the loop at all hours of the day. Better than email – the messages function in Basecamp insures that your concern will get to me and my response will get back to you with the least grief possible. If you are a lawyer go check out Basecamp and think how easy life can be for you and that client. And you can post documents to the client’s project for review without the grief of sending a fax or the worry of lost emails. No $6 faxes needed!
REWORK is full of great advice for all of us. Consider just this one take from the book on the truth about planning. It is guessing.
When you turn guesses into plans, you enter a danger zone. Plans let the past drive the future. They put blinders on you. “This is where we’re going because, well, that’s where we said we were going.” And that’s the problem: Plans are inconsistent with improvisation.
And you have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to pick up opportunities that come along. Sometimes you need to say, “We’re going in a new direction because that’s what makes sense today.”
We spend lots of time "planning" for trial when often it is the improvisation that settles, wins, and solves cases. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t plan for trial, but the truth is our best plans will likely leave us empty when we actually get to trial and the witnesses start testifying. The stuff you plan for may happen, but it is the understanding of the case – its facts and the law governing the facts – that will allow improvisation and solutions. The testimony you did not expect is the testimony that will sink your client’s ship.
Make some time and read REWORK. We can learn to underdo the competition, ditch meaningless meetings and stop working so hard.