Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  How to build sustainable law firms and leave a legacy.

This age-old question befuddled philosophers, humanitarians and the great minds of many centuries.  Ok, probably not the great minds of many centuries (they’ve been worried about curing polio, small pox and cancer and things like that….).  But, it has been on MY mind a lot lately as we (my husband and myself) recently spent time with 4 out of 5 of our grandchildren and many of our closest friends’ are now becoming first time grandparents themselves.  How quickly they grow and develop and how much more independent they are than we are as infants.  They arrived helpless and so fragile.  It took them 9 long months to get here (glad I wasn’t the “carrier” or the one who had to “deliver” them. But, I’m sure the two wonderful mothers who did wished that the 9 months-time had been much shorter, but maybe not as I have been told it really is necessary to get your head wrapped around just what IS going to happen and to get ready for this precious little buddle of love to enter your life!), and then they arrive with no food and no instructions on what to do next.  We (meaning their mothers), immediately have them swaddled and then they try to nurse them and get them fed.  All the time the precious newborn is crying and terrified because they have entered the “cold new world” of reality called “life”.  We try to comfort them and cradle them in our arms, to try to surround them with people who love them and will love and support them throughout their life time.  When then, ultimately, all of the “extra” people leave, leaving Mom and baby (and sometimes Dad) to themselves for the first time – EVER.  This is the TRUE moment of meeting, the REAL introduction to the rest of their lives.

At the very OPPOSITE end of the spectrum, baby chicks are born and then separated from their mothers immediately, yet knowing instinctively what to do in order to fend for themselves, to raise themselves, to survive.  As human beings must rely/depend upon our mothers for EVERYTHING in order to survive, grow and develop even beyond the first year of life.  We require it on into at least our early childhood years and ideally beyond that into our teenage years and college years.  Chickens are entirely different. When we first got chickens 5 years ago, they arrived via the US mail in a 8” x 8” box, and it took them 2 days to get here, with no food or water, literally just after being hatched.  We immediately transferred them into a larger box, put them under a heat lamp and gave them food and water, they instinctively knew exactly what to do and have been doing exactly that ever since. After that initial 8” x 8” box, we moved them into a “hutch” type facility while their permanent “chicken coop” was being completed and again, they’ve flourished.  So, after only 4 weeks, they were been born, flew half way across the country in a cardboard box, and were moved into a new facility away from their parents with 10 other chicks that don’t look anything like themselves (We got 3 different kinds – 5 of each and they sent one extra – in case one didn’t make the long and arduous trip, makes you feel great about the odds, doesn’t it?), started growing in spite of the odds against them.  And, in less than 8 more weeks, they started laying approximately 108+ eggs per week!  All of this leads me back to my original question and thoughts…which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Do you think about these types of things with regards to your law firm and your life?  These really ARE the truly important questions.  And, the answers ARE the truly important answers because they are the answers that keep us “sustainable”.  Sustainability in our firms and in our lives and in this world are essential. Just like the infant who can’t survive on its own without parents to love, nurture, feed, clothe and raise it, so are your law firms.  They need to be built and developed with plans that are centered around leaving a legacy, something long lasting, beyond your tenure/your time practicing law and even on this planet.  It is important that those plans include and be developed so that the legacy you leave is clearly understood, outlined precisely, easy to carry out, malleable/adjustable for the times and obviously sustainable. It should be something that doesn’t require “nurturing”, “feeding”, “clothing” or “raising” like an infant, but should be more like the life of a baby chick, independent from birth.  Able to survive and “raise” itself.  The plans should develop on their own, with little input from outside sources, but should flourish and produce and continue on for many generations to come.

So, how do you answer these questions? Do you plan and want to be here for the long haul?  How are you building and growing your law firm so that it will “still” be here, not just tomorrow, but 20 years from now?  Are you just worrying about your future, or are you also worried about your children’s future and their children’s children future?  Are you leaving a legacy by using the things from the past?  Can you recycle things, reuse things and be more sustainable so not leave such a large carbon footprint on this planet when you go?  How you grow and develop your practice is up to you.  The foundation you lay is your decision.  It can be a firm and solid one that can last for generations (even if they aren’t your generations).  They can leave a lasting and positive impact on the world around you or they can simply take and use and consume the resources that are present and leave nothing to replace them.

Sustainability isn’t a trend or a fad.  It is a conscious way of life and it is here, permanently.  It has been around since the dawn of time.  Our ancestors gave it as a gift to us and we should leave it as a gift to future generations.  But, it is a gift and it requires planning, conscious efforts and hard work. It is a daily challenge.  One I know the chickens are up for.  The question becomes: are you?