The Sound and the Fury

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At one point in his varied career, William Faulkner landed the job of Postmaster of the University of Mississippi.  He didn’t like it much.  He summed up his feelings in the following letter to his employer:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

What does this have to do with risk?  Well, just like frustrated postal clerks, clients can quit us just as easily.  A 2012 Acritas survey of a couple of thousand General Counsel in 45 countries, revealed that some 30% ended a relationship with an outside lawyer in the past year.  Many did so out of frustration:

  • “They were doing a bad job: no results and a lot of invoices.”
  • “Poor service. Lots of delay. When challenged, they were completely up front and just said [they] don’t have enough resources, which is pretty astonishing for an international law firm.”
  • “It has to do with quality and price. We paid thirty or forty thousand euros, more or less for nothing. So, they had to go.”
  • “The main client relationship [partner] left the firm. I find that often when partners leave, those firms neglect to contact clients to say we still want your business and we have signed a new relationship manager. They tend not to correspond with you. Yet the partner who leaves always contacts you from the new firm.”
  • “There was a severe lack of relationship between what the bills were and what the value delivered was.”

As to Faulker, he went on to do big things, including writing the screenplays for two of my favorite movies, “Mildred Pierce” (1945) and “The Big Sleep” (1946), the latter being one of the greatest movies of all time that makes absolutely no sense.  Oh, and we also think he wrote a book or two.  In his writing career, it appears that Faulkner was allowed to observe a dress code less rigorous than that required of a Postmaster: 

William Faulkner

As to the resignation letter, don’t believe me?  It’s on the internet so it must be true.