“It’s the work on your desk…It’s the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.”
The above is a quote from Charlie Munger, Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a one-time lawyer. You may not have heard of Charlie Munger, who prefers to shine the limelight on his partner in Berkshire, Warren Buffet. Whilst Buffett draws the plaudits as one of the greatest investors to ever live, Munger is equally extraordinary, a unique thinker. A polymath who has had considerable success both with and without Buffett, to whom Warren attributes a lot of his success, and the reason for close avoidance of many nearly-mistakes.
[For what it’s worth, Munger was unable to talk Buffett out of a large share purchase in Anglo Irish Bank shortly before it’s nationalisation, but nobody’s perfect]
I’ve been reading a book on Munger, Poor Charlie’s Almanac, and Munger’s wit and ability to turn a phrase has been striking to someone working in the legal profession. The above quote can be correlated to another “Mungerism” which I will cover in a later post, but this quote is worthy on its own.
“It’s the work on your desk.”
To pull the curtain back on the legal profession today, the average lawyer has less and less time to think about the work on their desk. Between external considerations like money laundering, cyber-crime and a cacophony of other noise, a newly graduated solicitor may find that a job in the legal profession is less about digging into statute and precedents and more about managing their clients’ expectations, their bosses’ fee targets, social media on behalf of the firm, presentations and research papers. The list of jobs on top of the work on the desk can seem endless.
For those in upper management, competition is fierce for work and a firms’ ability to stand out, therefore raising their profile to attract more and more clients is a constant pressure. Which brings me back to Munger’s quote;
“It’s the work on your desk. Do well with what you already have and more will come in.”
Sometimes that means other issues can arise, such as not renegotiating a utility supplier or not getting your completed files to storage fast enough but for the success of the firm, the focus must be the work on your desk.
Most importantly, by focusing on the work on your desk, not prospective work, not tangential matters, we can deliver the best quality of work to you. If we do the work with diligence and full use of our expertise more will come in. Our own John Taylor has his own phrase for this; “Focus on what you’re getting paid for, not what you hope to be paid for.”
I hope you will forgive me for leaving it there for today. I would highly recommend people read further on Charlie Munger but in the meantime, I must get back to…you get the idea.
[You may wonder how writing blog posts and Facebook updates can assist in completing the work on our desk. The wonders of modern technology, most of which I’m still working out, make it possible to generate blog and social media posts and publish them at different times so work on our desks isn’t being superseded. Secondly, I feel the blog will make me a better communicator, which will ultimately benefit clients. Our social media posts, I hope, are less about self-aggrandisement and more about informing people of useful information, not just clients whom we are in direct contact with. Let me hear your thoughts! – William]
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