THE MAGAZINE      May/June 2002
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Two Words With a Great Payoff

By Martha Fay Africa

Assume that a law firm wasn’t constrained by precedent or internal politics and that money was no object. What truly innovative practice management activity would you love to see implemented?

Something happens to many lawyers when they walk through that fancy law firm door: They forget their manners. How difficult would it be to make one’s dream of civility become a firmwide reality?

When an associate or staffer works until 2 a.m. on Saturday to make sure a document is ready for your most important client on Sunday afternoon, why not leave a heartfelt thank-you note on that helper’s desk? Why not take it an extra step and write a note to the employee file—with a copy to the client—saying how much you appreciate this person’s work? Even if you just have time for a few hurried words of gratitude, those words will be better than none at all.

"Thank you." What delightful, and powerful, words. Saying them is but one of many ways to invest in your people—an investment that will pay off in ways too numerous to count.

Martha Fay Africa ( is a founding member of Major Hagen & Africa in San Francisco, CA, a law firm recruiting and consulting firm.

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life."

— Anne Lamott