Build communities of lawyers: create the Waldorf salad

Build communities of lawyers: create the Waldorf salad

By Dana Denis-Smith

Two things always struck me in The Waldorf Salad, an episode from the 1970s British comedy classic Fawlty Towers. And they both remind me why lawyers often seem to find their clients’ demands unreasonable and, in turn, they feel undervalued by management. When Basil Fawlty is feeling put upon, he brings in his wife, whom he calls “my work horse” as if being in the service of your clients is as back breaking as taking a load up a mountain. Then, he says, it is “typical” that his clients would complain about the service not being satisfactory – he is, after all, offering what they came to buy: a roof over their heads, sometimes called a hotel. Why would anyone expect frills or politeness?

Warped by frustrations, Basil is, of course, not just a fictional character, but a caricature of what the services sector is all about. Every time I watch it, however, I am left with the question – can you be a lawyer and be satisfied; can you take pride in your work? If you are not satisfied in your job, how can you satisfy your clients?

A recent survey by recruiters Randstad showed that just over half of the lawyers surveyed took pride in the profession, a mere percentage point above the national average of 58%. It also found that less pride usually meant fewer work hours as well. Across the profession as a whole, the culture of long hours appears to be a self-perception problem for lawyers rather than a reality. So, why is it then that lawyers see themselves as wage slaves when in fact they appear to put in fewer hours than other groups such as social workers or those working in the media? Put another way, why do they sound so much like Basil?

The concept of the “team” has been at the heart of how lawyers have bee

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About the author:

Dana Denis-Smith is the CEO and founder of Obelisk Support, a legal services provider offering flexible legal solutions to FTSE100 and law firms with highly-skilled lawyers. Obelisk Support was listed as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Europe in 2018 by the Financial Times.

 A TedX speaker, Dana regularly speaks at industry events and in the media on gender equality, entrepreneurship and legal technology. In 2019, she was recognised by the Legal 500 for Outstanding Achievement in Legal Services and in 2018, she was voted Legal Personality of the Year at the LexisNexis Awards