Friday, May 14, 2010

As Long As We're Keeping Score

This blog was my idea but its name was not. I was casting about for some title that might link the two main subjects that I anticipate will be discussed here (soccer and "the law"), and failing in a rather pathetic and uninspired manner, when Thomas McChesney, our marketing director, suggested Keeping Score.

It was perfect. The book I'm reading now, "Inverting The Pyramid" is a history of soccer tactics and of the game itself. A recurring theme in the early chapters of the book is the struggle between early purists of the game, who maintained that the way it was played, not the final result, should be paramount, and innovators who changed the game first by introducing the application of tactics and then altered their team's approach through their vision and competitiveness.

This debate played out at several different points during the development of the tactics and strategy of soccer, after it had evolved from village-wide melees to the more organized competition that grew out of the Laws of The Game adopted in England in 1863. The visionaries, whether steering their clubs away from the strict dribbling game that first evolved, the short passing game that followed, or the iron-clad 2-3-5 formation that was long the only way that squads lined up until the institution of the "WM", were decried for ruining the game.

Eventually, however, the new way became the established way as teams adopted the successful tactics of the leading managers of the day. The reason in every instance: Keeping Score. It is possible, although not likely, that soccer could have evolved into some form of intricate synchronized swimming on turf. But it did not. Ultimately, the competition was determined not by how pretty a player or team looked according to the aesthetics of the day, but whether they scored more goals than the other team.

But was some of the art of the game lost in the process? No doubt. I've been extremely fortunate as a high school soccer coach to have talented players who have always been able to play an elegant, attacking game that pleases at least me to watch. I suspect that, if push ever comes to shove, I will adopt a more defensive approach for my team if their abilities dictate it, if I believe that gives us the best chance of winning. I hope not.

So it is in the practice of law as well. We are bound by, and should willingly adhere to, principles that have been established, whether in the rules of professional conduct, the rules of civil procedure, or legislative laws or judicial rulings, that dictate what we can and cannot do. Questioning, examining, or even testing those limits can be fruitful, challenging, and rewarding. But if we conduct those exercises while simply attempting to stay on the correct side of those pronouncements without considering the reasons for the rules (the "soul" of the law, if you will) we may be successful lawyers but we will lose touch with who we are and (hopefully) why we became lawyers in the first place.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a Luddite and find excitement in change and new ideas. But not just for innovation's sake, nor at any cost. I understand that, whether on the field, in the courtroom, advising a client, or participating any other job, game, or endeavor, our success is largely measured by Keeping Score. I hope through this blog, however, to not just recount successes or failures, but to lend some observations regarding how I think coaches, players, litigants, lawyers, and employers ought to travel the path to that end result as well.