‘Brain surgeon’ lawyering in crises isn’t enough
ABA Journal - 05/22/2014
One of us (Paul) had the opportunity last week to speak to Richard Susskind’s conference in Scotland on the future of law, enjoying one of the great expressions from Richard: “Most clients would rather have a guardrail at the top of the hill rather than an ambulance at the bottom.” While that’s undoubtedly true of clients, the professional culture in law (and other fields) tends to value the “brain surgeon” work responding to crises more than the civil engineer (or worse, “commodity”) work that simply prevents calamity.
The other of us (Jeremy) has had a series of conversations over the years with many leading attorneys who represented top management in large organizations. A common lament has historically been: “The hardest part of my job … is getting clients to include us in the early stages of a project so we could plan to keep things moving forward, rather than hearing from management only after bad decisions had been made.” Given law schools’ traditional classroom orientation to “causes of action” rather than problem prevention, it’s understandable that many lawyers found themselves waiting by the ambulance rather than at the top of the hill.