It’s deja vu all over again. Remember the 1980s when American autoworkers ceremoniously destroyed a Japanese-made automobile with sledgehammers because no one would purchase an American-made automobile? While it was true that it was not these autoworkers’ fault that the American automobile was inferior to the Japanese automobile, no one stopped to think that maybe we should design better cars. It took twenty-five years, a General Motors bankruptcy and the US economy going over a cliff for US automakers to come to the realization that maybe that industry had a design problem. But, hey! Eventually, Americans “get it”.
Or, maybe not. What we have heard over and over again in this Great Recession is that globalization is the enemy, the Chinese monetary system is the enemy, and cheap labor outside our borders is the enemy. Probably all true. Yet, I venture to say that when we look back on this time twenty-five years from now, we will find that we were our own worst enemy.
Last night, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show had as its guest Anand Giridhardas. Mr. Giridhardas is an American of Indian descent, an author (India Calling: An Intimate Portrait of a Nation’s Remaking), and reporter for the New York Times. During the course of the interview, Mr. Stewart asked if his guest thought the US would prosper in the future given the insurgence of globalization. Mr. Giridhardas answered that he thought the US would prosper in the future, but for now, the short term, “the bickering is dragging Americans down”.
He is right. We are not going to un-ring the bell. Globalization is here to stay, we cannot force the Chinese to change their monetary policy, and there will always be cheaper labor outside our borders. The question is, as Susan Cartier Liebel of Solo Practice University posed in her frightening post last week, what are we going to do about it.
I can tell you what we should not do about it. Like that red herring every law school professor works into a law exam, we should not succumb to bickering. Not only is it unproductive, it is unprofessional.
Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ordered two attorneys suspended and ordered them to take anger management classes based on abusive email exchanges. Aside from the fact that the emails were “not nice”, is it fair to ask clients to pay for an attorney’s time to participate in this nonsense? In an era when clients are demanding more services at less cost, this sort of conduct seems unwise if not overindulgent.
Granted, we all are exploring new business models for our law practices, i.e., flat rates, unbundled services, mobile law offices. It may be that what we really need is to purchase a copy of Miss Manner’s latest etiquette book to be competitive.