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November 23, 2008


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Mark Bailey

Grammatically incorrect?!Ok, so who cares? (and that's not a complete sentence - so shoot me). The significance here is 'attitude'. A Firm is an entity comprised of the synergistic intangible value of multiple individuals acting in concert to make the Firm's value greater than the sum of the value of it's individual parts (and yes I know "it's" is incorrect and can't be a possessive). For far too long small firms have been sole practitioners sharing overhead under a common name but with no entity value.

To me a 'Firm' is all of those individuals acting in concert. The synergy of professional knowledge workers organized into a professional knowledge FIRM.

A firm is nothing but a bunch of individuals acting in their own self interest. But a Firm is something to celebrate and capitalize!

Susan Gorham

Michelle - Loved your comments about not capitalizing "firm," "company," "partner," etc. Halleluja!

Michelle Golden

Susan, thanks much!

Mark, I totally get and appreciate your value of the firm as a living, breathing organization, I really do. (readers should know that Mark and I are dear friends and I know his firm well...) And I do agree that achieving what you describe merits a feeling of pride. I cannot concede that a sense of pride overrides the grammatical incorrectness of treating firm as if it were a proper noun (like the Church!?). Additionally, someone outside of the firm would NEVER know the reason the Firm captitalizes firm is because it celebrates a cohesive feeling.

Sorry, my friend, I cannot agree with you on this one. :-)

Adrienne Gonzalez

Continued slaughter of the English language aside (sadly, I think that's the trend), I really liked this line in particular:

"as well as giving the "Firm" the appearance of massive self-importance."

We're so caught up in "titles" (which are almost always capitalized, my own included) and I doubt people are intentionally trying to self-aggrandize the "Firm" but it's great to bring this to your readers' awareness.

Suzanne Lowe

Michelle, thank you for using such a succinct point to make such a big observation. I say "Hurrah" if you can help people to STOP for a nanosecond to consider themselves (their role, function, or value) in relation to their organization. If we all did this more often, we'd be clearer about our mutual aims for the enterprise (and make those all-important course corrections). This doesn't happen often enough!

Amy Campbell

It's true! The first things I do when I prepare an attorney bio for the web is reorder it in reverse chronological order (newest experience first), edit for a more customer focused approach, and remove capitalization of titles, degrees, boards, etc. It is usually enough to justify it by saying, this is the style we use on the web site based on AP style, and it is required so that your bio is consistent with the rest of the site.

Hot topic, no?

Bill Kennedy

With the stock market as it is, I think it could be argued that firms need more capitalization rather than less ;-)

Larry Stratton

Michelle, I must admit that I always capitalize the "Firm" and "Partner." My first reaction to your post was that it was a silly distinction. HOWEVER, after thinking about it, I wonder if (as a marketer) perhaps it belies a tendency to oversell the organization, and to undersell the marketer (i.e., the person who actually puts the human capital to work for the client). I am still thinking about this...


Haha, it makes me feel as though I'm reading one of those old documents where they capitalize randomly, and spell everything with "ie" on the end.


God bless this post. I cannot tell you how many times I've done a mental eye roll when a "Partner" at my "Firm" has suffered a seizure fit of the triple underscore (you editors will know that's the shorthand lingo for the editor's capitalization mark) on a document for the sake of misguided self importance.

This is an interesting ailment of the professional service industry that doesn't seem to transcend into other business lines. When was the last time you saw the Doctor at his Office, or the Dentist in the Chair, or the Manager at the Restaurant? You get my drift.

Enjoyed the read!

Becky Mochaface

For so many years the AP Stylebook has been my work Bible. And the habits it has instilled are still there. I cannot bring myself to capitalize any title unnecessarily or to add a comma before the 'and' in a series.

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