Why don’t our lawyers give us straight answers? Why can’t they just give us clear instructions on how to proceed? I’m fed up with the “on the one hand and on the other hand” -monologs – I want a one-handed-lawyer!
We lawyers are highly educated experts. The expectations for the added value we provide are also high. Many of us have a strong identity of being an expert in a narrow field of the law. That may be one reason why many of us fail to support our clients with all of the knowledge and experience we have.
Have you ever asked your lawyer what the likely outcome of a potential court case is, but not received any useful answer at all? Sorry to say, but that is often how we lawyers are; risk aversive and focused on identifying risks but not necessarily opportunities. Against this background our predictions of the future tend to be overly pessimistic. That is, if we are willing to predict or even guess any outcomes at all.
Lawyers often find that they cannot give any estimates, because they just don’t have all the facts. There are too many moving parts, and it is likely that there is legally relevant information out there that we are not aware of and that could affect the outcome. We lawyers have been educated to only consider legally relevant facts. That is why we would like to stick to them and feel reluctant to share our broader insights. Why would a lawyer share something that is not legally relevant?
We lawyers are not clairvoyant – but as a lawyer we may be the single person in the world with the most information, insight and experience relevant to the client’s situation. We may therefore be in a better position than anyone else to judge what the client should do. Our clients need our guidance and we should share what we know about a matter, even when we don’t have all the relevant facts. Incomplete information is after all the norm, not an exception. CEO’s and other business leaders are used to making decisions based on incomplete information. Decisions need to be made before all the facts are known. So why not share all our insights?
The traditional task of lawyers has been to mitigate and eliminate risks. It may also be a reason why many lawyers are so focused on not taking any risks in rendering their advice. We typically prefer to boil an issue down to a clear legal question and frame our answers so that we can ignore all the difficulty and the complexities of reality. But life is complex and the environment in which our clients operate is fast-moving. There are always a large number of interdependencies in any question our clients are faced with. Still, our clients need to make decisions on how to move forward.
Some lawyers may fear that they expose themselves to risks if they utter anything outside of their legal core competence. I’m convinced that that risk is much smaller than some may fear and that it is always manageable. We should be very clear as to what our advice is based on, what is our professional interpretation of the law, and what is our broader view and insights based on our experience.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we should be imprecise in our legal advice. I’m just saying that if we are best positioned to have a view on the matter at hand, then we should share all our insights since they may be valuable to our client. In difficult situations our clients need all the support they can get.
So why not use our experience and share all our insights with our clients in a situation we are familiar with, but which may be new to our client?
At D&I we want to create exceptional and sustainable value together with our clients. We are committed to working closely together with our clients and to always sharing any information and insights which may be useful, whether they are legally relevant or not.