Meta-Blog

SEARCH QandO

Email:
Jon Henke
Bruce "McQ" McQuain
Dale Franks
Bryan Pick
Billy Hollis
Lance Paddock
MichaelW

BLOGROLL QandO

 
 
Recent Posts
The Ayers Resurrection Tour
Special Friends Get Special Breaks
One Hour
The Hope and Change Express - stalled in the slow lane
Michael Steele New RNC Chairman
Things that make you go "hmmmm"...
Oh yeah, that "rule of law" thing ...
Putting Dollar Signs in Front Of The AGW Hoax
Moving toward a 60 vote majority?
Do As I Say ....
 
 
QandO Newsroom

Newsroom Home Page

US News

US National News
Politics
Business
Science
Technology
Health
Entertainment
Sports
Opinion/Editorial

International News

Top World New
Iraq News
Mideast Conflict

Blogging

Blogpulse Daily Highlights
Daypop Top 40 Links

Regional

Regional News

Publications

News Publications

 
Strategic Incompetence
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Via GeekPress, this article tells us why so many upper managers are clueless about fax machines. As I've long suspected, it's not that they can't do it. They simply pretend incompetence so that others will be forced to pick up their slack. That way, they can keep on doing what they're best at, such as schmoozing clients on the golf course.

According to the article, lawyers are experts at this technique:
For any employee, the soul-stealing complexity of office machinery such as fax machines, copiers, PCs, voicemail and even coffee makers gives everyone ample cover to studiously never learn how to use them. But the same blank stare accompanies nonmechanical tasks, too. Claire Wexler, an accountant who used to work at a law firm, says lawyers "pretend to be completely flummoxed" by all of those machines as well as "everything related to accounting except for billing." Their message: "I have so many lofty matters on my mind I can't be bothered with mastering this small task," she says.
That agrees with my experience. Lawyers in general do seem to consider themselves above most minor tasks.

Of course, this has a political angle. Most politicians are lawyers. Strategic incompetence could explain why they seem so clueless about many issues. If you think about it, the only skill they really need is the skill to be re-elected. Knowing about conditions on the ground in Iraq, or how the minimum wage really works economically, or whatever, is beside the point if they get elected without knowing that stuff.

Politicians also get away with strategic incompetence because of their enablers, er, I mean, their staffs. My impression is that most politicians depend on their staffs for analysis of the bills they vote on, and for expertise on any relevant subject.

No wonder politicians often sound like they don't know what they're talking about.
 
TrackBacks
Return to Main Blog Page
 
 

Previous Comments to this Post 

Comments
Pero el presidente es el presidente del MBA. Esta teoría no explica cómo él hizo el rey absoluto de la incompetencia.
 
Written By: Pedro the Illegal Alien
URL: http://
Pero el presidente es el presidente del MBA. Esta teoría no explica cómo él hizo el rey absoluto de la incompetencia.
In the immortal words of a villain from Miami Vice, "We speak ENGLISH here."
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
That agrees with my experience. Lawyers in general do seem to consider themselves above most minor tasks.
How would you feel about paying your lawyer anywhere from $250 to $600 an hour to do things like faxing or making copies? I know my clients get PO’d anytime they see something on the bill that looks like a secretary should be doing, which tasks are not chargeable directly to the client (i.e. there’s no hourly bill rate for support staff).
That way, they can keep on doing what they’re best at, such as schmoozing clients on the golf course.
Building business is one of the most important things that any business owner does. Lawyers are no exception. Time spent faxing or mailing letters or doing other routine tasks that could be spent getting clients in the door is just time and money wasted.

Comparative advantage exists even in our modern, white-collar world.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
You’re a lawyer aren’t you MichaelW?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Ok your point about efficiency is well made, HOWEVER there is also a case to be made for effectiveness. All things being equal, yes, the PA or intern should photocopy or make the coffee, UNLESS, you’re the first person in the office every day, then YOU make the coffee, irrespective of the possession or non-possession of a Juris Doctorate-that is if you drink coffee. The lawyer ought to make the copies or ’fax when the PA or AA busy doing something else of equal importance and the document(s) need to be ’faxed or photocopied.

What Strategic Ignorance is about is avoiding ALL such duties, not just the duties when the PA or AA is tied up. It’s about getting people to do their jobs and then do your job, or rather you give them work, "Here do this NOW" and then say, "AND here do this now, TOO!" If both duties are equally important and must be done simultaneously, then the Lawyer needs to "man up" and do the "scut" work. Because that’s what’s really happening, here, they don’t DO scut work, they’re LAWYERS. Dudes, we’re all members of the team attempting to make the firm a profit/advance justice/get our pay cheques (you choose) and as such team members must be willing to fall in and do whatever is necessary.

At my firm I make coffee, make copies, ’fax, and do the substantive white collar work that I am paid to do….because I’m not too good to use the Xerox machine or the ’fax machine or the like. Sometimes, it’s necessary, if the client is going to be pleased in a timely and effective manner, that we do that sort of thing. And Strategic Ignorance is just a way of ducking out of duties that people find, "Beneath" them.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Michael, my consulting rates are in the same range as what lawyers charge. But I still do my own copies, because it’s faster than finding someone to do them and waiting around until they’re done.

I consider it disrespectful to expect others to do my dirty work, unless they were specifically hired for that purpose so that I can concentrate on other things. If the water cooler is empty, I’ll put more water on top of it.

In my opinion, strategic incompetence as exhibited by many businessmen and lawyers is far more about setting themselves apart from the peons than it is about efficiency. They can run their businesses and law practices however they want, of course. But treating others like peons is not the best way to give them satisfaction in their jobs and make them their most productive. I know several people in my own social circle that once worked for lawyers and quit because they didn’t like the way they were treated.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Every husband should have an instinctual understanding of the concept of strategic incompetence.
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://
What I bristled at was the "lawyers in general" primarily because I am one and your description does not at all jibe with my experience. I’ve also mostly worked in small offices where, when something needs to be done, the first available does it no matter one’s title. The reality is that I can’t charge for my time spent faxing, etc. and I have been reprimanded in the past for not having the staff do such things. Lawyers I know who work at the bigger firms are strictly forbidden from doing the tasks that are routinely assigned to support staff because it’s a waste of their billable time. Of course, when something just needs to get done, the first-available rule kicks in.
I consider it disrespectful to expect others to do my dirty work, unless they were specifically hired for that purpose so that I can concentrate on other things. If the water cooler is empty, I’ll put more water on top of it.
Well, I’m with you there and the very reason that law firms have support staff is to do those things like faxing, copying, etc. I don’t look down my nose at anyone, and especially not the people with whom I work. It is quite apparent to me that I can’t do my job as well without those who support me so I treat them as my co-workers and colleagues instead of as my servants.

Are there lawyers who do look down upon and treat their staff as lesser beings? Of course! But that isn’t some attitude reserved specially to lawyers. Personally, I see it a lot more amongst people involved in the restaurant and real estate businesses than I ever have in the legal field.
I know several people in my own social circle that once worked for lawyers and quit because they didn’t like the way they were treated.
Fair enough. There are a lot of a-hole lawyers out there. It does tend to be a profession that attracts people with big egos ... ahem. But don’t discount the fact that the vast majority of people have an attitude about lawyers to begin with. Sometimes no matter what we do we get dinged for it (c’est la vie).

My real issue is, why single out lawyers? Some lawyers are elitist jerks, but not all elitist jerks are lawyers.
Ok your point about efficiency is well made, HOWEVER there is also a case to be made for effectiveness. All things being equal, yes, the PA or intern should photocopy or make the coffee, UNLESS, you’re the first person in the office every day, then YOU make the coffee, irrespective of the possession or non-possession of a Juris Doctorate-that is if you drink coffee. The lawyer ought to make the copies or ’fax when the PA or AA busy doing something else of equal importance and the document(s) need to be ’faxed or photocopied.
Agreed, as I said above.
Every husband should have an instinctual understanding of the concept of strategic incompetence.
Well, there is that.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
The worst part was that you lumped me in with the common politician, Billy. POLITICANS! I’ll never get the stench out now ...
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
The worst part was that you lumped me in with the common politician, Billy.
I suppose you can console yourself with knowing that, while almost all politicians are lawyers, the reverse is not true.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I remember my first week on the job, and the presentation made by one of the senior lawyers, and him saying "you shouldn’t be the one opening or closing your envelopes." And I remember saying "my God, if I ever turn out like that . . ."

Five years later, and I absolutely don’t write names on envelopes or send faxes, or make copies, or put edits into documents, unless I absolutely have to. This isn’t about making my PA feel low or myself feel important. It’s about exactly what MichaelW was talking about — efficiency. Every .1 I have to put down for that kind of stuff is a .1 that usually gets written off. So instead, it goes to someone who doesn’t bill by the hour, and I spend the time doing .1 of something that my firm can actually get paid for.
The lawyer ought to make the copies or ’fax when the PA or AA busy doing something else of equal importance and the document(s) need to be ’faxed or photocopied.
I actually disagree with this. In this circumstance, you borrow someone else’s PA to do it, and go back to drafting your motion in limine or whatever.

The amazing thing is that clients will gladly pay a $50,000 bill for a brief, but complain about the $80 of that you charge for filing it (a paralegal job).
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
The amazing thing is that clients will gladly pay a $50,000 bill for a brief, but complain about the $80 of that you charge for filing it (a paralegal job).

Dude, just charge them $51,000 for the brief and tell them there’s no filing fee.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
I know. This pesky conscience of mine. ;-)
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
The amazing thing is that clients will gladly pay a $50,000 bill for a brief, but complain about the $80 of that you charge for filing it (a paralegal job).
Dude, just charge them $51,000 for the brief and tell them there’s no filing fee.
Joe - what? are you teaching "American Politicians 101" this semester?


 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The lawyer ought to make the copies or ’fax when the PA or AA busy doing something else of equal importance and the document(s) need to be ’faxed or photocopied.
I actually disagree with this. In this circumstance, you borrow someone else’s PA to do it, and go back to drafting your motion in limine or whatever.
You mean watching the latest GGW video or setting up your brunch date at some hoitie-toitie bistro with the hawt young intern...you lawyers don’t fool me none.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
"You mean watching the latest GGW video or setting up your brunch date at some hoitie-toitie bistro with the hawt young intern...you lawyers don’t fool me none. "

Paralegals Joe. Interns are so 1995.

Incidentally, and this is a total threadjack, but apparently they put the GGW producer in the same cell as a cop killer:
(Francis) is having "full-blown anxiety attacks" and is "breaking down," his lawyer tells the News-Herald of Panama City, Fla. He is isolated in a cold cell with only a towel and a blanket to keep him warm. And the poor, poor multimillionaire’s plight is being exacerbated by his jail ward-mate, Robert Bailey, who has been sentenced to die for killing a police officer. Bailey, according to Aaron Dyer, Francis’ lawyer, "would sit there and yell, ’Girls Gone Wild! Joe Francis! Whoo!" Last week, Francis missed the medication cart and "went into a full-blown anxiety attack."
This strengthens my faith in God.
 
Written By: Sean
URL: http://www.myelectionanalysis.com
"Every husband should have an instinctual understanding of the concept of strategic incompetence."

I tried, but my wife is too competent to fall for it, and she thinks I am too smart to be stupid. I could probably get some references here testifying to my incompetence, but I don’t think she would go for it.
 
Written By: stimactual
URL: http://
I could probably get some references here testifying to my incompetence, but I don’t think she would go for it.

Written By: stimactual
URL: http://
Well, you did spell you name wrong. Maybe that’ll do it.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
This post brings to mind a story I heard many years ago. The subject of the story was a young man who I knew only as a friend of some of my friends. I knew his name then, but I no longer recall it, so call him Bill.

Bill graduated from law school and accepted job as an associate at a large, prestigious law firm. Bill’s first assignment from one of the partners was a huge clerical job. He promptly delegated this job to one of the secretaries (Executive Assistant? Whatever they were called that year). She complained to the partner, and the partner called Bill into his office to explain why he had dumped this project onto the secretary. Bill gave the partner the very explanation I am reading from the lawyers here: He assumed that his time was too valuable to spend doing clerical work. The partner looked at him and said: "Bullsh*t. You’re wrong. You’re fired.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
That’s not a story, Aldo, that’s a fairy tale.
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
I prefer the term "apocryphal."

This was a real person, who really did get fired from a law firm shortly after he started the job, and this really is the story he told about how it happened. Beyond that, I cannot attest to it.

Whether or not it is true, I have always admired the partner’s streamlined performance review.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
"Well, you did spell you name wrong. Maybe that’ll do it."

*sigh*
Sometimes it is not good to be right.
 
Written By: stimactual
URL: http://

 
Add Your Comment
  NOTICE: While we don't wish to censor your thoughts, we do blacklist certain terms of profanity or obscenity. This is not to muzzle you, but to ensure that the blog remains work-safe for our readers. If you wish to use profanity, simply insert asterisks (*) where the vowels usually go. Your meaning will still be clear, but our readers will be able to view the blog without worrying that content monitoring will get them in trouble when reading it.
Comments for this entry are closed.
Name:
Email:
URL:
HTML Tools:
Bold Italic Blockquote Hyperlink
Comment:
   
 
Vicious Capitalism

Divider

Buy Dale's Book!
Slackernomics by Dale Franks

Divider

Divider