Optics: How your actions are perceived.
Nope, that’s not the way any dictionary would define the word, but today, in this business environment, it is a term that has been redefined. Today, optics refers to the lens through which your actions are viewed.
In recent days, we have a financial services firm canceling a (perceived) boondogle in Vegas, another canceling delivery on a $50 million jet, that same firm contemplating canceling their sponsorship of a major new ball park, a different firm’s now-resigned number two burning through bailout funds to buy some fancy furniture, and myriad other examples of actions that, well, simply look bad.
How does this relate to our industry? Last week in Southern California, a panel of general counsel discussed what mattered to them. One told the story of the perfectly lovely hotel across the street from corporate HQ, but noted a more luxurious property in a tony suburb less conveniently located and twice the price. He chose to criticize the lawyers that visit his company that don’t stay in the more modest hotel, but rather “waste” money on the fancy one.
Another GC on the panel has the privilege of flying on the corporate jet, but flies economy-class commercial simply because in this economic environment it’s the right thing to do.
Recently I visited a senior in-house counsel soon to become the general counsel. His office is 8×10 and filled to the brim with files and documents; and that’s how many, many corporate in-house counsel exist.
In a time where law firm’s actions are scrutinized, perceptions matter more than ever.