Why a conscious approach to law is needed

  1. Law is fundamental to the continued existence of organised society. I believe it’s Utopian to maintain that should the legal system disintegrate entirely, man would work things out with his fellow men. In brief, society has become too complex for us to survive without laws. We are so completely interdependent on each other for food, water, building of shelter that by necessity we’ve created a highly complex legal system to help us co-ordinate ourselves.
  2. The more complicated the legal system becomes, the more lawyers we need to run it and to serve as brokers between this system and those that need to use the system. There is a growing realisation that the concept of “progress” is a lot more complicated than we originally thought. Statistics show that as infant mortality declines (just one indicator of progress or “civilization”) the carbon emissions of that country go up. In brief, as we save the people we’re destroying the planet. We produce genetically modified crops to feed the millions and in the process we wreck the eco-system. As society changes, law needs to change to keep pace.    From the simple “do not intentionally take the life of another” law we now have to work out laws on cloning people to harvest their organs and how that fits into our definitions of murder. We have atomic bombs which, in an instant, ended the lives of 250 000 to 350 000 people. How do our murder laws deal with this?  They become increasingly complex.
  3. Civil law or contracts between people, have likewise become increasingly complex. Whereas law once provided for who had legal responsibility for the children born to a man and a woman, now we have so many variations on this theme, from test tube babies, to surrogates, to same sex parents, to frozen embryos of women now deceased – it’s COMPLICATED!  This has required lawyers to specialise in niche areas of law.  The amount of legislation in each area of law makes a general practice unthinkable.
  4. Law firms still tend to be based on a now antiquated notion that law is simply a public service. It is a public service but it’s also a way of earning a living. History shows that in the UK lawyers once considered it an insult to have law considered a “trade” but today we must acknowledge that it is very much a trade and that much of what lawyers now do is inseparable from other professions such as financial advisors. Legal advice cannot be neatly put in a box – it’s too intertwined with finance, economics, psychology, medicine, biology…
  5. We need to think about law in a new way. We cannot solve the problem at the same level of thinking that created it. (Einstein) Therefore we must re think the notion of lawyers as a separate profession and start looking at a more integral, multi-disciplinary approach to legal matters and legal training.

Law is fundamental.

Law is complicated.

It’s time for lawyers to embrace some of the advances in other professions, whether it’s different ways of thinking about things (De Bono), systems for creating values based organisations (Richard Barrett) or business models other than the traditional partnership model, for profit or not for profit (see John Lewis Partnership).  Including lessons on ethics, morality and leadership in law school curricula should be a no-brainer, as all advanced business programs have already realized.

There are only going to be more laws and more lawyers.  It’s time for a conscious approach to transformation in law.

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