Tag Archives: De Bono

It has always been frowned upon to feed lawyers

It has always been frowned upon to feed lawyers, but it was always considered worse to interact with lawyers. To touch lawyers. But for me interacting with lawyers is the only way to truly show what lawyers really are, and they are beautiful and amazingly intelligent animals. These interactions are opportunities to share with the world the other side of lawyers. A curious playful animal that sometimes enjoys a nose scratch just like many other species of animals do. The bottom line is people will save what people love, and with lawyers’ current image, it is hard to love lawyers. But what if there was a way to show the world that lawyers are capable of being loved? Well that’s what my life’s journey and work is all about…

Ok, so I plagiarized the above paragraph. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out what the original paragraph was about.

Thinking that all lawyers are aggressive, out to make a quick buck, and are morally dubious is an example of what Edward de Bono terms “Adversary Thinking”.  With adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago.

Let’s not fall into Adversary Thinking.  I don’t want to engage in this debate at the level of “you are wrong and I am right”. In other words you say “lawyers are sharks” and I say “lawyers are not sharks”. Instead let’s engage in Parallel Thinking, described by De Bono as follows:

With ‘parallel thinking’ both sides (or all parties) are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is ‘designed’ from the parallel thought that have been laid out.

Let’s agree that some lawyers are sharks. No doubt about it. There are indeed morally bankrupt, devious, greedy and exploitative lawyers out there. Let’s move past this to a full scan of the situation and begin to ask why the profession in general tends to be so misaligned. Let’s ask how current situations might be contributing to creating money-hungry and unscrupulous lawyers. Let’s widen our view not only to include ‘good’ lawyers and ‘bad’ lawyers but some of the categories in between: intimidating lawyers, obnoxious lawyers, incompetent lawyers.  Let us ask questions, all manner of questions to learn more.

  • What might we be missing in the way we educate lawyers?
  • In what way might the structure of various parts of the legal profession be contributing to this problem?
  • How are lawyers affected by the fact that most law firms still resemble the form of law firms in the United Kingdom 100 years ago?
  • How might the fact that law is still a largely male-dominated profession be contributing to the problem?
  • In what way does the dominant thinking pattern in law, black & white, right or wrong leave very little room for new forms of legal solution, such as mediation?
  • It’s understood by many that being wrong in the legal world is seen as failing. How might this mindset prevent lawyers from exploring their full creative potential when drafting contracts or looking for ways to resolve clients’ disputes?

Like it or not, the average Joe is going to have to have contact with lawyers in his lifetime. You will have to feed the lawyers at some stage whether it’s getting an ANC drawn up, buying a house or starting a business. You may find that actually dealing with a lawyer is an opportunity to change your mindset about lawyers in general. But perhaps not. More often than not people hold a construct or belief and then look for evidence of it. Beware of what negative views of lawyers you may be holding when you walk into that consultation.

I’m hoping that the work I do around the transformation of law will allow me to dive deeply. To probe the depths of this habitat of “sharks” and develop an understanding of why they act as they do. I’m ready to dive. Without a cage. 😉

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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.