Will GAL Come Out?
Blawg Review #95

Lawyers can be the Most Unreasonable People on Earth

The practice of law is a hazardous profession. So many lawyers get rundown by the billable hour machine implemented by their own firms. Big law "chews ‘em up and spits ‘em out" knowing there are fresh summa cum laude graduates waiting in line, ready to take the place of any casualty. The pressure of providing results for important clients is over emphasized by many firms (not that results aren’t important but too many firms are so focused on the prospect of losing clients, that they place unreasonable expectations on the lawyers trying to do good legal work). There is alcoholism, affairs, and all the rest…

One of the hazards of our profession is more subtle. Many lawyers are so desensitized by the fact that they have to take "positions" in court on behalf of their clients that they forget to determine whether those positions are in fact reasonable. We have all been there. You end up in case and the facts go sideways. You have to protect your client’s interest in court and you take a position. The judge rules against you, you lose and go on with your life. But I think many lawyers are so accustomed to taking unreasonable positions on behalf of their clients that they start taking unreasonable positions in life as well. And then, of course, there are those lawyers who could take reasonable positions, but have no ability to determine what is in fact reasonable. Their ability to sort good arguments from bad arguments is compromised by the fact that they get paid by the hour either way. There is no incentive for good strategy in a traditional hourly billing setting.

I always thought that my dad must have lost the identity he had as a young man as a result of the legal profession. I remember him growing up as 110% trial attorney. He took strong positions on just about everything and never backed down. There are a lot of positions that he took that caused me to scratch my head. He has softened somewhat with age. But I do think for many years he was afflicted with many of the unwelcome personality traits that come with being a lawyer.

How do we know when to turn off being a lawyer? Assuming we know when to turn off, can we?

How do we build a business model that rewards attorneys for taking reasonable and strategic positions?


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