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When Does Glory Fade?

“When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!”

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Rode the 600.

Alfred Tennyson’s eloquent poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” bears profound witness to how the miscomprehension of British commanders during the Crimean War in 1854 fatally led the now-fabled brigade to mistakenly charge Russian troops by riding down the hill instead of up.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die.
Into the Valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.”

And only 400 rode home.

When does glory fade? Far too fast for us mere mortals. Time is a fickle master, caring little for our own values or perspectives, constantly moving on, measuring itself in eons even as we’re staring down at our watches.

We first safely acknowledge human mortality when someone famous, from our grandparents’ or parents’ generation, passes away. Someone we didn’t know but knew of. We even make a joke of it, teasing our elders about how old they are after a famed singer, actor or athlete from their era passes. But as we age, it is no longer a joke when older generations begin to die but rather a signpost of the road ahead. When people only half a generation ahead of us pass, it is a shocking and sobering event. We wonder, do we mourn for them or for ourselves?

Life is short. May we never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us.

One such giant was Robert Denny, who died this past week at 88. I recall vividly our first telephone conversation. I remember his accessibility, kindness and thoughtfulness. For 45 years he provided management, marketing and leadership services to over 400 law firms and legal organizations throughout America. He was one of the great pioneers of law firm marketing, but I do wonder how many of today’s law firm marketing professionals recall his wisdom, or even his name.

He was already a legend when I came into the legal marketing profession in the late 1980s, a decade after the Supreme Court ruled in Bates v. Arizona that state bars could not prohibit law firms from advertising and marketing. Bob’s monthly Legal and Corporate “Communiques,” reporting on “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession,” was a must-read for three decades.

I am lucky to have worked with many of the early giants of the profession – Burkey Belser, Jay Jaffe, Sally Schmidt, Gerry Riskin, Diane Hartley, Mike O’Horo, Elizabeth Lampert, Deborah McMurray, Larry Smith, and the list goes on. I am blessed.

One of the things a long life teaches you is that tomorrow is promised to no one. Get in your kindness and heartfelt praise now. It may be Halloween this week but there’s no guarantee we can speak with the spirits.

This week on In House Warrior, the daily podcast I host for the Corporate Counsel Business Journal, Good Comes First authors Mark Babbitt, President of WordIQ, and Chris Edmonds, founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, lead a much-needed dialogue on how to build great cultures. How do we find balance in the workplace when angry and judgmental labels are thrown around to the point that they lose their meaning even as the underlying problems remain unaddressed? How do managers and employees work together to take responsibility and improve culture? Is your leadership microaggression in disguise? Are accusations of micromanaging really moments of misunderstood mentoring? The insights that Mark and Chris provide will help professionals on both sides of the equation manage the 21st Century workplace.

We cannot undo all that Facebook has wrought with its deliberate monetization of anger but perhaps we can defuse the vitriol with one kind comment at a time. Listening instead of speaking, patiently asking “What is driving that comment” rather than simply firing back with dismissive judgments and harsh criticism. We judge ourselves by our intent but others by their words. Perhaps it is time to reverse the process? Kindness begins with us.

When does glory fade? Not for at least one more day if I can help it.

“There’s a grief that can’t be spoken
There’s a pain goes on and on
Empty chairs at empty tables
Now my friends are dead and gone

Phantom faces at the window
Phantom shadows on the floor
Empty chairs at empty tables
Where my friends will meet no more”

– Herbert Kretzmer, Alain Albert Boublil and Claude Michel Schonberg

Enjoy the show.

Richard Levick

Listen to Good Comes First

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