Increasingly those in law as well as in media are outing the profession: It's a business.
Today, for example, in THE NEW YORK TIMES, David Lat, who founded Abovethelaw.com, just says it, "Law is becoming more of a business." Lat adds, "And you will see more of an emphasis on results than in the past."
Last Spring, Jones Day partner Mickey Pohl had already taken that a step further to what might be called The Killer App. Pohl is best known for his July 1, 2008 win for client Sherwin-Williams in the Rhode Island lead paint public nuisance litigation. [Here is that RI Supreme Court ruling overturning the jury verdict of February 22, 2006 Download Statev.LeadIndustriesAssoc.,Inc.]
In Jones Day PRACTICE PERSPECTIVES: PRODUCT LIABILITY & TORT LIABILITY, Pohl issues a manifesto on "business-focused solutions." The job of a law firm is not to solve "a legal problem." It's to approach a client's legal situation, insists Pohl, "with an eye toward the overall health and strategy of an ongoing business, a business that has to worry about remaining in existence; satisfying customers, shareholders, and stakeholders; staying acceptably profitable; protecting its reputation; and resolving litigation disputes in a cost-effective manner." In short, brilliant legal strategy, at least in isolation, can make for poor business solutions for a company.
Clearly, though, there is a downside to recognizing that law is a business and that it should be focused on the business of its clients.
For one thing, the specialness of this profession ends. Like many religious organizations such as the Roman Catholic Church [RC], it loses its protective aura. Instead, it stands out there like, well, any other brand, competing for attention. The Internet, which makes connecting with minds and hearts more difficult, has made that a dog fight. Incidentally, with the brand identity eroding in developed countries, RC head The Pope has taken to YouTube to relate with consumers in a fresh manner. The legal profession will also have to promote itself more inventively and aggressively.
In addition, lawyers, even the most legally adept, will be called upon to put a human face on new business development, ongoing client interaction, and being influential with all other constituencies, be they judges or government agencies. That shouldn't be new.
Way back in 2000, Doc Searls et al. published "The Cluetrain Manifesto." They declared:
- "Markets are conversations.
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
- Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them."
Yet, this remains alien to many prominent lawyers and the lion's share of law students. I know. They address me in legalspeak or, worse, in the top-down tone and content of those who know far more than I but are patiently taking the time to bring me along. They lack more than a conversational mindset. They are downright deficient in Emotional Intelligence [EI].
Boosting EI of the individual lawyers, the law firm, and the classes in law schools seems like it's job-one in the business of law. Here is a complimentary copy of my e-book on how to do that at work and in operating your own enterprise Download CUsersjasneDocumentsjg.
The Board of Directors of this blog recently selected Kitty Ablaza of McDermott Will & Emery LLP for the EI Award for 2008. In addition, we also recognized Ablaza for being the Social Media Hero of January 2009. If she wants to chuck the business of law, she can make a bundle coaching those in all professional services, not only the legal one, in conversing in a human voice or finding that voice after it had been lost.