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Great Scott!

Photo by Chris Harrison, modified for LEVICK blog

“What makes Superman a hero is not that he has power, but that he has the wisdom and the maturity to use the power wisely.”

Christopher Reeve

“Great Scott!” Although it didn’t make it into many of the movies, this was a favorite exclamation of Superman (spoiler alert, AKA, Clark Kent) on radio and television from the 1940s through the 1960s. It seemed our superhero, despite all his powers, had the endless ability to be surprised.

We all know Superman came from the planet Krypton, but where did “Great Scott” come from? The book War Slang (1994) ascribes its development as a reference to General Winfield Scott, an American hero of the War of 1812 and a Whig candidate for President in 1852 (he lost to Franklin Pierce) while A Brower’s Dictionary (1980) disagrees and claims it is a derivative of the German “grüß gott” (pronounced “gru-ess got”) or “good day,” a common greeting of warmth amongst German immigrants to America. Regardless of its derivation, it became a Superman moniker for 30 years. When you heard him say it, you knew that crisis — and a heart-racing intervention — were coming, all before the end of the episode.

For a similar period — well over 30 years — we’ve had the honor to work with nearly 400 of the world’s leading law firms. The AmLaw 200, the Of Counsel 700, the Global 100 and some of the world’s leading plaintiff firms. High-profile litigation, transatlantic tie-ups, sexual harassment and false allegations, the loss of significant partners, existential threats, cyber breaches, DEI, revolts, mergers…the list goes on. When it comes to law firms, it is hard to imagine a matter where we haven’t been at the table.

During this period, we have all heard the challenges to law firms — pushback on fees; calls for far greater diversity in hiring and partnership; the threat to the middle market; grow or die; artificial intelligence; Alternative Legal Services; growing in-house practices; the Big Four and litigation finance, to name a few. This week, we interviewed four superheroes of the legal consulting world as part of our ongoing informal series on challenges to law firms and legal departments (other recent guests have included Trevor Faure, Paul Smith and Peter Zeughauser, among many others). They offered their perspectives on the new law firm cultural challenges, post-Covid re-emergence and making the transition to in-house counsel.

Protecting Your Legal Career During a Time of Great Disruption: Jeffrey Lowe, the Global Practice Leader of Major Lindsey & Africa’s Law Firm Practice Group, and the Managing Partner of their Washington, DC office, discusses what makes a great law firm and in house candidate, particularly today, a time of great disruption. Listen

General Counsels – Proving Themselves Worthy: John Gilmore, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of BarkerGilmore and Admiral (Ret.) A.B. Cruz III, a Senior Advisor and former CLO, GC, CECO, CRO and Corporate Secretary, discuss what makes a great general counsel, how best to interview for the job and how GCs are emerging from Covid tested and ready for even greater leadership roles. Listen

To Go Boldly Where No One Has Gone Before: Michael Short, founding Principal of LawVision, has counseled over 700 law firms of all sizes over the past three decades. He discusses the post-Covid challenges, real estate, Alternative Legal Services, DEI, financial pressure and the coming squeeze on the legal market. He ended the show with the advice that if you are not in the AmLaw 12, it is time to be bold. Listen

“What’s special about Superman is that he will always make the right choice.” – Max Landis

Enjoy the listens.

Richard Levick

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