Soon they discovered that without hope to compensate for their other troubles, humanity was filled with despair. So (as the tale goes) Pandora let out Hope as well.
In the myth, Hope was more potent than any of the other major evils.
Today, we don't consider Hope to be evil. It's what gets many of us through our worst days. What with lingering unemployment, repossessions, dwindling savings and businesses folding - any of these could make a person lose hope.
Fortunately, Pandora recognised the relevance of hope as an ingredient that is essential to our very existence.
In the current business climate, hope is what keeps us from giving up. I'm an optimist. And while hope and optimism are not exactly the same, they are inherently linked. ( as an aside my family motto is "Dum Spiro Spero" - While I breathe I hope)
For example, I am confident that the economy will eventually improve, and I am also confident that we can all learn lasting lessons from the events that led to these business challenges. But I can't just wait and hope. I have to help things happen.
In doing so, I've put forward some suggestions to partners in a variety of law firms about the direction that I think the law firm of the future should go in.
None of these are new and unique and certainly not all my own ideas. I've suggested doing away with the LLP format, offering fixed price fees, more and better web based services, better customer service, improved phone-answering techniques, offering guarantees, firing bad customers, more virtualised working from home and offering staff shares in the business.
To address the issue of access to law I've even proposed a social charter based on the German Medical profession where lawyers are required to do a certain amount of pro-bono hours per year; and yet the one word that I keep hearing is "impossible" or "..that won't happen…". Not, "good idea" or "maybe we could make that work"…but mostly just the one word "impossible".
There is a great inspirational book called Tough Times Never Last, but Tough People Do, which says:
"Understand the power of this word: impossible. When uttered aloud, this word is devastating in its effect. Thinking stops. Progress is halted. Doors slam shut. Research comes to a screeching halt. Further experimentation is torpedoed. Projects are abandoned. Dreams are discarded. The brightest and the best of creative brain cells turn off. In this defensive manoeuvre, the brain shelters itself against the painful sting of insulting disappointments, brutal rejections, and dashed hopes.
"But let someone utter the magic words, it's possible. Buried dreams are resurrected. Sparks of fresh enthusiasm flicker. Tabled motions are brought back to the floor. Dusty files are reopened. Lights go on again in the darkened laboratories. Telephones start ringing. Typewriters make clattering music. Budgets are revised and adopted. 'Help wanted' signs are hung out. Factories are retooled and reopened. New products appear. New markets open. The recession has ended. A great new era of adventure, experimentation, expansion and prosperity is born."
This advice, written more than 25 years ago, is just as pertinent today. In fact, when you consider the advances of the past quarter of a century, look at how the face of business has utterly changed:
Did anyone have a website in 1985? What was your mobile phone number? Were you video-conferencing with your other office with the touch of a button?
Some lawyers in 2010 are still reluctant to use e-mail, but that one innovation has completely changed the way we conduct daily business.
Never mind the legal world, what will the next 25 years hold for all of us in business?
I suspect that coming generations will use their technologies in ways we are just beginning to imagine are possible. I'm absolutely certain that future products and services will be developed that will make life easier, safer and better and like email, the internet or mobile phones, we won't know how we lived without them.
But in the legal world today we have these technologies .
I just hope that enough of us have the brainpower and the willpower to implement them; then we can even make the impossible possible.