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Glenn Frey: There’s Plenty of Room at the Hotel California

Posted in Law Firm Leadership

As you know, Eagles leader and songwriter Glenn Frey passed away recently. I saw many articles about him and the Eagles. One I liked was a CNN opinion piece: Why Glenn Frey’s death shakes us.

Even though I grew up in the 60s, I really get why Glenn Frey’s death shakes those who grew up in the 70s.

The CNN piece includes a lot of background information including when Frey and Don Henley played backup for Linda Ronstadt and a great discussion of why Hotel California was an important song.

You may recall I wrote about it a few years ago. This is a good time to reprise what I wrote.

Is your law firm becoming like the “Hotel California?”

A friend sent me the link to Steven Harper’s book: The Lawyer Bubble. That prompted me to read the American Lawyer article: What’s Wrong With the Law—And How Lawyers Can Fix It. That article focuses on the book and many things Harper writes, including:

He makes the indisputable point that many law firm managers began running firms with their Am Law 100 numbers in the forefront. This led to (you pick) mindless growth, heartless treatment of colleagues, a depressed workforce, gross pay disparities, and, in some cases, spectacular public failures caused by leaders who believed their own malarkey and by the partners who followed them.

In those words,  Harper painted a picture of many law firms that have been in the news over the last several months. Reading about those firms reminded me of the  The Eagles hit Hotel California.

Nancy and I saw the Eagles in concert shortly after they recorded the Hotel California. They opened their concert with it. I am still in awe of the guitar opening and the guitar ending. But, for our discussion today the lyrics are important.

Many have shared their thoughts on the meaning of the lyrics. Don Henley in a 60 Minutes interview said:

I know, it’s so boring. It’s a song about the dark underbelly of the American Dream, and about excess in America which was something we knew about.

I am confident most law firms will not will not  experience a “spectacular public failure.”  But, how many law firms are so intently focused on money, that they are experiencing “mindless growth, heartless treatment of colleagues, a depressed workforce, gross pay disparities.” Will those firms ultimately face a “tipping point?”

I am reading a book I strongly recommend to lawyers I coach. The book is How Will You Measure Your Life by Harvard professor Clay Christensen. (There is so very much more in this excellent book. I will write future blog posts on some of those important topics.)

You can watch this 20 minute TED Video to get some of the ideas from the book. At about the 11 minute mark, Christensen describes why successful companies (law firms) fail. He says:

The reason why successful companies (law firms) fail is because they choose to invest in the most immediate and tangible evidence of achievement. (Profits per Partner and AM Law Rank)

Is your firm choosing to invest in the most immediate and tangible evidence of achievement? If so, keep this line from Hotel California in mind.

And she said ‘We are all just prisoners here, of our own device’

So why does Glenn Frey’s death shake us (especially those who grew up in the 70’s)? Here is what the CNN writer said:

When we mourn for Frey, are we mourning our lost selves and a time when we all thought we could live hard and stay free and surf and bike and run and jump and love and never lose because we were forever young.

God bless, Glenn Frey. You were part of our dreams. Now, truly, you belong to the night.