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Fiddling While Rome Burns, Part I: Tradition-Bound Law Firms Have Much in Common With Symphony Orchestras (and That’s Not Good)

What could your law firm possibly have in common with your city’s symphony orchestra? More than you may think.

The L.A. Times recently published a fascinating story about the many challenges faced by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and other orchestras. As the Times describes the situation, “Orchestras across the country have been shaken by the loss of subscribers, aging audiences, declining corporate donations, labor strife and the struggle of remaining relevant in an era when technology is redefining how people spend their leisure hours.”

Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic

Gustavo Dudamel, the dynamic and innovative conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic. (Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times)

Looking at this list of five concerns, it struck me that orchestras and law firms are much closer in spirit than one might think, and that there are more similarities than differences in the challenges they’re facing. Many of the same long-term trends are dramatically affecting both businesses, and in ways that are more sweeping than incremental. Could it benefit lawyers to hear about the challenges facing orchestras? Quite possibly.

Hall-of-Famer Joe Sakic Proved That Nice Guys Can Finish First: The Four Leadership Lessons of the Former Colorado Avalanche Captain

“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”

~ Simon & Garfunkel

What would you like people to say about you when you retire? Here’s the test to see if you’re on the right track: Would they say all those nice things about you today? If so, relax: You’re doing well. If not, you need to get busy making whatever behavioral changes are necessary before you plan your retirement party.

Just a few days ago, on June 26, Joe Sakic was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. This honor was no surprise to any hockey fan, as the former Colorado Avalanche forward ranks ninth on the list of players who have scored the most regular-season points (goals and assists) in NHL history.

Joe Sakic

Joe Sakic

Additionally, Sakic was one of the best clutch players of all time. As proof of that, he holds the NHL record for the most overtime goals in the playoffs, with eight. These goals – and Sakic’s leadership as the team’s captain – helped the Avalanche win two Stanley Cups, in 1996 and 2001. (Having the unflappable Patrick Roy in goal and the dangerous Peter Forsberg on the second line also helped immeasurably, of course, but our focus here is on the team’s captain, who tirelessly worked to bring all the pieces of the Avalanche together into a cohesive, successful whole.)

For those of us who felt we knew Sakic – even if only from news stories – we always knew that there was much more than “just” his 625 career NHL goals that made him so special.

Indeed, there was the man behind the scoring machine. When Joe Sakic said, “I never grew up wanting to be in the spotlight, I just wanted to be a hockey player,” you believed him. Of course, nobody makes it into the Hall of Fame without being competitive, so you also believed ESPN hockey analyst Darren Pang, when he said of Sakic, “He’s one of the most likeable athletes of our generation, but when he gets on the ice, he wants to win.”

The words of no-nonsense Denver Post hockey reporter Adrian Dater are also meaningful. Earlier this week, Dater wrote, “I’ve known Sakic for 17 years now myself, and it’ll always be a great privilege to say I covered his best years as a player. Just to say I know the guy is a great privilege.” I would guess that in two decades of sports reporting, Dater has rarely said that about an athlete.

In this age where even high school star athletes all too often act like they’re entitled, “Super Joe” provides four great lessons for everyone in how a leader can be a true superstar: