You Can’t Teach Vision is John Morgan’s follow up to You Can’t Teach Hungry, which I favorably reviewed here. The sub-title of the book is the Twenty-First Century Law Firm, which Morgan continues to build. It could have been titled ‘what I’ve learned from thirty years in the law business.”
The book contains twenty-four short chapters on a range of topics related to law firms. In the last chapter, fittingly titled ‘Windows Open, Windows Close’, Morgan opens up about what set his fanatical drive in motion.
Growing up in Lexington, Kentucky both Morgan’s parents were alcoholics and his home life “was a real shit show.” As a young child Morgan broke a tooth. At the dentist’s office his father told the dentist to pull the tooth because they could not afford the $50 price tag for a root canal. Morgan vowed that money would never again block something he needed and started working as a paper boy.
Morgan turned out to be an entrepreneur and ended up helping support his family. The motivation and drive that started as a child apparently continues to drive Morgan today. If I had made enough money to buy $25,000 in Amazon stock every month I would have gone to the house by now. Morgan is obsessed with getting it to the next level.
How many people had heard of Morgan & Morgan ten years ago? Today, it’s the largest plaintiff law firm in the country and continues to grow. Like it or not (and I don’t), the large law firm is the future of plaintiff law.
One of the biggest changes in the profession since I have been practicing is the takeover of complex litigation by large plaintiff firms. The light bulb went on for me on this topic in 2010 while I was researching this post on the steering committee for the BP Oil Spill. Aggregation of big cases in MDL’s has made solo and small firm low-volume/ large-case plaintiff lawyers like me dinosaurs. It’s a model that worked much better in the past than the present and future.
Morgan has done it bigger and faster than anyone.
That’s not to say that I agree with Morgan on everything. He loves being constantly connected and likes lawyers who send out emails at 2:00 a.m. I don’t like how people have become tethered to their devices and expect immediate responses to routine emails.
As for 2:00 a.m. emails, for me, they are always a mistake. I have trouble staying asleep and am up in the middle of the night a lot. One of the most frustrating things about it is the fact that my brain is not in working shape. I can write down a bunch of ideas or even send out some emails. But when I read them the next day, they almost never are great thoughts. Sort of like no matter how awake I felt, part of my brain was still asleep.
Plus, whenever I see a work email that was sent at 2:00 a.m., I think that the sender must be on drugs or something.
Similarly, I read a lot and usually have 2-4 books going at a time, but I can’t get quality reading done in the middle of the night. I think this is why I, and many other insomniacs, end up watching TV in the middle of the night. The Bloomberg business channel is my go-to middle of the night program. It’s Goldilocks: interesting enough to hold my attention, but boring enough to put me to sleep.
Morgan has an engaging writing style and sense of humor that makes his books quick reads. Along the way he answers many questions people have about Morgan & Morgan, like their advertising budget is up to $40 million and last year 60,000 people hired the firm.
There is a lot of wisdom in the book and I highly recommend it. It reminds me of Rick Friedman’s on Becoming a Trial Lawyer more than Morgan’s previous book. Both are must reads for plaintiff lawyers. Non-plaintiff lawyers who think about the business side of the profession would probably also find the books interesting.