Guy Kawasaki, in his book The Art of the Start, has some choice words for lawyers. If you are a lawyer who represents businesses or you are in a business that uses lawyers, Kawasaki offers excellent insights into the lawyer/client relationship.
Consider this:
“[F]ind a lawyer who genuinely wants to do deals, not prevent them, and set the right legal framework. Many lawyers view their role as the ‘adult supervision’ that will prevent stupid deals from taking place. However, their bias is often that a deal is bad until proven good. Avoid this kind of lawyer. Instead, find one who views his role as a problem solver and service function for you, the customer.”
I recently spoke to a group of IT and business people about the Open Source licenses. I decided to take the approach that if you found good business reasons to implement an Open Source project, you wanted to decide how best to manage your legal risks and how to make the project happen. You didn’t really want to have your lawyer tell you “no, no, a thousands times no” no matter what the business benefits of the project might be. The group voted unanimously at the end of my three-hour presentation to let me speak an extra half hour after the original ending time and told me that I wasn’t like any other lawyer they’d ever met. Yes, it did feel like a standing ovation.
Lawyers are trained in law school to spot issues and are rewarded in exams for doing so. They don’t often get trained to help decide what to do about those issues if you want to move forward and how to balance the various risks. Unfortunately, unless you move past this bias in your training, you will be exactly the type of lawyer Kawasaki advises businesses to avoid. Is that the kind of lawyer you want to be? How do you become the other kind?