Dieter Rams' ten commandments

Good design is innovative.
Good design makes a product useful.
Good design is aesthetic.
Good design helps a product to be understood.
Good design is unobtrusive.
Good design is honest.
Good design is durable.
Good design is consistent to the last detail.
Good design is environmentally friendly.
Good design is as little design as possible.

Dieter Rams

When is enough

From the Motley Fool article by Morgan Housel:

That's the title of Vanguard founder John Bogle's fantastic book about measuring what counts in life.
Giotto -  The Seven Virtues: Temperance
The title, as Bogle explains, comes from a conversation between Kurt Vonnegut and novelist Joseph Heller, who are enjoying a party hosted by a billionaire hedge fund manager. Vonnegut points out that their wealthy host had made more money in one day than Heller ever made from his novel Catch-22. Heller responds: "Yes, but I have something he will never have: enough."

The relevance of this quote is that it should not be confused for the sour grapes syndrome, but taken as a sure and overall better way out of the logic so many subscribe to, yet only for the benefit of the chosen few. Capitalism without virtues is worse than theft.

The money machine(ry)

A recent comment to a NYTimes article about the a possible change in the legal profession, due to automating the work now given to junior employees, as the ones in the images, made me think the following describes the fate of many of the newly minted graduates, regardless of their choosing Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Accenture, or some law firm. It's the way character starts being tested/built, for there are not typically that many prior opportunities. And, by the way, it's also how the big houses generate a sizable chunk of their profits.

Alberta Romeo

I am an attorney, and think that this is a great idea. I know that law students are worrying, "What about my job as a first-year at Cravath, Davis Polk, or S&C?" Will I have that job? The answer is that, in a few years, those firms will need to recruit fewer "bodies" to do low-level work such as discovery. And that will be better, not worse, for the legal profession, and for you.

Big firms are slave camps. The large firms hire 50 or 60 new associates each year, usually top students from elite law schools. The firms then proceed to work those young lawyers virtually to death -- 60 to 80 hours a week, 2000 to 2800 hours per year (I know someone who billed that many hours). After three or four years, most of these young attorneys have quit, and of the 20 or so who are left, all but a few are fired ("asked to leave"). The big firms, in other words, are blood-suckers who exploit young attorneys, albeit at high salaries, to do their worst, most boring, lest productive work. A young lawyer will finish his stint at a big firm exhausted, sick, disillusioned and -- this is the point -- with virtually none of the skills that he or she actually needs to practice law. Oh, he or she will have written memos and parts of briefs, reviewed a few hundred thousand documents and maybe carried the litigation bag to court a few times. As a corporate associate, he or she will have drafted a few credit agreements and spent upteen nights rereading the same documents. The real practice, however, occurs at higher feeding levels -- senior associates and partners. The lower ranks are worse than soldiers; they are pack horses.

The big firm plantation culture is a disgrace to the profession and survives chiefly because big deals and big cases need grunt labor. Someone who comes of Columbia, Harvard, NYU, Stanford or U of Chicago -- the big schools -- should not start his or her career as a slave. Many people who go through this mill are scarred for life by the experience, and many leave the profession entirely. This is not a system for "training" young lawyers, but rather one for protecting corporate America, using young lawyers as commodities.

So great that we now can do the work via computer. Corporate America will still be fed, but not with young brains and flesh. The recruiters who swarm campuses will make speeches about seeking "only the best," but that most of the best -- one would hope -- would have incentives to go elsewhere. What those incentives will be, and how the profession will grow, no one knows. When I graduated from law school however, the admission's director of my top-4 school described what was going on at the big firms as "immoral." Money knows no value other than money, but now that the business value appears to be in technology, maybe human values will step in to rescue the legal profession from itself. 

Commencement 2009