How Henry Ford Would Run a Law Firm

old fordIs your firm considering a new strategy given the regulatory and competitive changes in the legal market? If you are, Ford’s wise words are worth reading. He was a relentless technological innovator, based on his commitment to creating “the best possible goods at the lowest possible price.”

He focused on making ongoing changes in design and production that would drive down costs while improving the product.  For instance, the inaugural Model T, released for sale in 1908, cost $825 (about $22,000 in present-day dollars); by 1916, he had reduced the cost by more than half –  to $360, while increasing safety, reliability and speed.

Many law firms could benefit from ‘doing a Ford’ and finding more efficient processes for delivering their products!

Here then, for your reading pleasure: some inspiring quotes from this remarkable man and how they might be relevant to law firms:

FORD: Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.

Reiss comment: How good are your lawyers at working together across practice areas? What about across offices? Clients will choose firms that can offer them a truly effective team.

FORD: Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.

Reiss comment: Firms can be a bit lackadaisical about carrying out learning reviews – both with the client and internally. There must be a way of doing the work 5% better or 5% cheaper. Ideally both!

FORD: You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.

Reiss comment: There is huge scope in law firms for associates to be encouraged to be leaders on matters. Too many firms molly-coddle their 30 year olds. In many careers they’d be a vice-president of something at that age!

FORD: Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.

REISS comment: Too many partners think they’ve got to the end of a journey when they make partner. That’s just the beginning. Your careers are likely to ebb and flow depending on market changes. You’ll need to keep inventing yourself and keep learning to stay ahead.

FORD: If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’

REISS comment: Don’t wait to be told what your clients want. You should know them well enough to know. Be bold!

Here are other great Henry Ford quotes:

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars.

Vision without execution is just hallucination.

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.

There is no man living who isn’t capable of doing more than he thinks he can do.

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.

I cannot discover that anyone knows enough to say what is and what is definitely not possible.

A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits.  They will be embarrassingly large.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.

To do more for the world than the world does for you – that is success.

There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: make the best quality goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.

Employers only handle the money – it is the customer who pays the wages.

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.

If you’re interest in similar thoughts, have a look at how Tesco (a large grocery retailer) would run a law firm at


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