“Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue” – J.K. Galbraith

I have been to a breakfast debate on the Future of Professional Services organised by Yorkshire Business Insider magazine. These guided discussions can be a bit hit and miss, but this one was very good; a panel of senior regional managers in major accounting and legal firms sharing cogent and well thought through opinions.

One speaker compared the current state of the legal profession to the cotton spinning industry in the eighteenth century. Now this might be evocative imagery, and presumably the audience were meant to assume that change was therefore both inevitable and to be welcomed; indeed there is an obvious subtext that anyone disagreeing is a Luddite. But I wonder how many of the audience who lapped it up realised that it is they themselves who are the proud, self-employed craftsmen soon to be reduced to lowly wage-slaves in factories owned by others.

I always think the most amusing elements of these events is when a panelist, put on the spot by a question from the floor, says something patently ridiculous, but good manners preclude the others or indeed the chair from drawing attention to it. This morning’s was the somewhat odd claim by one of them – it would be unfair to reveal which – that the status of Leeds as a centre for professional services was held back by the reticence of the denizens of the city, and indeed the whole county, to tell everyone how wonderful they actually were. Just in case any of you are not already laughing let’s try a thought experiment. Close your eyes and try to bring to mind the last time that you were in conversation with a Yorkshireman and when you had finished you reflected to yourself “He seems OK, but I wish he’d been a bit more full of himself”. No, me neither.

“You can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much” – Anon

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