Sometimes certain words or phrases get under a lawyer’s skin. Following the lead of Lake Superior State University’s banished words list, I propose voting one off Law Island. (Maybe next year we’ll even have a vote).
First, a quick note on methodology. There wasn’t any. I just kept a list for about three months. It hovered around 10. These three kept coming into focus:
1. Alternative Billing. When talking about the billable hour gets outside counsel thrown out of a GC’s conference room, there has to be a different way to put a new shade of lipstick on that shopworn pig. That just might be alternative billing. It sounds a bit like leasing instead of buying an automobile. There’s still the question: how much does it really cost? Do I need a BMW M3 or a Chevy Malibu for this trip?
2. Jumped the Shark. This is one that you see in mainstream media, but it has a certain panache when talking about lawyers. I think it means reaching acceptance, or wide adoption. (But it really started with Fonzie of Happy Days; yes, we have the video).
3. Thought Leader.This one isn’t entirely legal, and you heard it first in the business press. In Wikipedia, it sounds almost benign. However, it has over 51 million hits in Google, and the phrase “legal thought leadership” has over 2.4 million entries. With that many leaders, who is left to follow?
But these three didn’t quite make the cut (but I will appropriate one of them). Therefore, the Wired GC 2009 “Jumped the Shark” Legal Term for Exile is:
Rainmaker. Oh, this one just rolls off the tongue so easily. To be known as one of the lead rainmakers for a large firm back in the day was to have your partners be envious, the associates lobby for assignments, and clients return your calls promptly. But in the last few years GCs realized where the rain was coming from.
To be clear: the legal industry needs to find new ways to price services, and someone could jump the shark and provide thought leadership. But action is ultimately the litmus test.
And if you still want to be a rainmaker in 2010, you better keep it to a tight circle of friends. “Making it rain” has an entirely different meaning to the up-and-coming general counsel set. Trust me, or Google it yourself.
Or as Fonzie would say the next time you try to call yourself a rainmaker: