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Brick’s Law of Simplicity

June 4, 2010

I think I may have stumbled upon a new law. There’s Parkinson’s Law, Murphy’s Law, the Peter Principle, Godwin’s Law and many others but, as far as I can work out Brick’s Law of Simplicity is a new discovery. Brick’s law states that whenever somebody remarks that a case, or task or problem is simple or straightforward or easy it almost  immediately becomes complicated, conflicted and difficult sometimes to the point of total intractibility.

I think the law has wide application but it is within the field of social work and family law that I have most often seen this Law in operation. For example; sometimes while waiting to go into court the advocates for another case will jump the queue and get in front of you with the words “ours is a simple matter – we will only be a few minutes”. A couple of hours later they emerge looking weary, with tempers frayed and muttering uncomplimentary words about the judge and each other. Their simple case has been adjourned for a lengthy hearing later at a time inconvenient to all of them and with a whole lot of orders from the Judge about what they must do in the meantime. This is Brick’s law at work – as soon as the case was defined as “simple” it became complex and difficult. Had they not jumped the queue but taken their turn because theirs was potentially a “tricky” case then they would have been in and out in five minutes flat. It was the fatal mistake of deciding their case was “simple” which caused the trouble.

At the local social work office a new referral arrives. The Team Manager considers it, decides it is “straightforward” and therefore allocates it to a student social worker. Brick’s law swings into operation and havoc ensues. You’ve all seen it, you know it’s true. So, unless somebody can tell me of a previous discovery of this law I claim the right to name it Brick’s Law of Simplicity.

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