Getting vertigo

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged Brighton. Why is that? Not much to moan about I guess.  Scratch that.  Loads, LOADS to shout about.

Especially today. Played badly scored late winner, that’s promotion form isn’t it?

I love an away day to Elland Road. In the main part, that’s for the company (a triumvate of Brighton (me), Leeds (BMF) and Bradford (Bman) fans). And because we always get something. As it’s BMF’s home game we sit with the Leeds fans. Not an easy place to be when the ball hits the goal and it’s not Shearer or Cole. But I also love Elland Rpad because it’s “proper”. Proper football club. Revie and Bremner statues. An atmosphere with a bit of frission. Walking there through the Elland Road terraces. Club legends Eddie Gray and Norman Hunter out and about in the stands.

imageBack to the lack of blogging. Ah yes, lack of stuff to moan about. After all, for a club that’s been to the brink and back, we’ve not really had much to moan about for a few seasons now. Except last season of course. But this season…

We know it’s not time to get carried away. Possibly the toughest league in the world to get out of. We’re not playing with the swagger of league leaders. We’re possibly a tiny bit light on firepower. We’re drawing games we should win. We uncharacteristically looked shaky at the back at Leeds. But. We. Are. Top. Of. The. League. Say we are top of the league.

Before today, I’ve been joking after the last 3 draws that this is our bad spell of the season and we’re still top. Maybe that’s not so funny because it’s true. Missed penalty against Wolves, 94th minute equaliser against at Bolton, missed a hatful at home to Cardiff, won arguably despite ourselves at Leeds. And we’re still top.

Let’s just analyse today a little bit. Dunk had a poor first half. Entire defence looked rickety on set pieces. Rosenior didn’t look on the pace. March’s distribution was loose. Greer lucky Leeds didn’t score from a terrible clearance (more of a pass to the oppo). Stockdale almost victim to a comedy clearance. Baldock anonymous. Only Stephens and Bruno looked really on it plus some new signing called Bobby someone.

But we won. And how. There are dinks over the keeper and there are dinks over the keeper. There are badge kisses and there are badge kisses. There are legends and there are legends. And we are top.

We all know what the big question is and we’re too scared to think about it properly. Can we sustain it?

I’m less focused on the 4 point gap to second than I am the 8 point gap to seventh. Rationally, I don’t think we are top two. But nor did Bournemouth fans last season. And we’ve got that all important thing in any top team, a strong spine. Stockdale, Dunk et al, Stephens and Hemed. Quite fancy those four (well, we’re Brighton so we can say that and yes, small in fact tiny minority of Leeds fans, your “we can see you holding hands” gag was as hilarious as it was original).

Can we sustain it? Dunno. But the bad spell has to end soon, the quick fire passing attacking and swarming men in the box approach we saw in the first few games will return. I’m not ready to predict if we’ll be top two. My personal hope is we are top four by Christmas which will stand us in much better stead than we could ever have hoped for and I’d like Uncle Tony to buy us one more striker for Christmas please. But I do predict we’ll batter someone. Soon. They have been warned. The “bad” spell will end and let’s see what happens then.

In the meantime, we’ll enjoy the view. Getting a bit of vertigo being this high up for so long but I think I can get used to it.



I’ve never blogged about anything remotely political, economic, charitable or campaign-driven before. I’m making a rare and brief exception here (don’t worry, normal service will be resumed in the next blog post).  And for the first time ever I’m going ‘pay per view’ for this post.  It will cost you £5 to read – click here and pay up first (if you haven’t, I’ll know, I’ve got those cookie wotsits installed and stuff like that and your screen will explode in 60 seconds).

This week, via Twitter, I saw these four things.

First, the tragic picture which distressed the world and made many of us sit up and take proper notice not only of the refugee crisis but also the scandalous apparent lack of co-ordinated governmental approach to help those poor, desperate human beings fleeing desperation beyond description.

Second, the FT, a newspaper which does not publish firm calls to action unless it believes in them, published a leader which I believe had no small part in prompting our Prime Minister into what looks like a change of heart and government policy.

Third, that wise friend of many lawyers, Paul Gilbert, made his own small but powerful contribution to the debate.  Another call to action.

And finally, Sean Jones QC he…..well, he did what most of us didn’t do whilst going about our oh so busy lives.  He bloody well did something.  He did something simple.  He did something clever.  He did something which will make a little bit of a difference.  He did this.

I don’t really know Sean, I’ve met him once briefly, but he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who wants loads of back slapping and ‘well dones’.   He wants action.  He wants us to do something.  So if you’re a lawyer and even if you’re not, please donate again (coz you did at the top of the page, right, otherwise your screen will have exploded?) to the #billablehour campaign  by clicking here.  It won’t undo the desperate tragedy of Aylan Kurdi’s death.  But it might just go a small way towards helping make lives better.

Tomorrow’s law firm: has anyone asked its clients?

The quality of a blog post can often be measured by the quality and quantity of the comments appearing beneath it.  Recent articles in The Lawyer examining the most desirable structure for tomorrow’s law firm do not disappoint.  Nor would one expect them to, given their authors, Bruce MacEwan of Adam Smith Esq and Mark Brandon of Overture.

It’s fair to say that Bruce and Mark aren’t exactly on the same page.  Bruce walks us through a four-pronged argument in favour of the demise of the traditional partnership whilst Mark disagrees, highlighting the weaknesses in corporate structures and reminding the reader that the Magic Circle hasn’t exactly fared badly over the last 25 years.

I won’t attempt to summarise the well-argued points that both Bruce and Mark make in more detail but I would like to highlight an important omission from the debate.  Which is the voice of the client.  What does the client want from ‘tomorrow’s law firm’?

As someone working in so-called ‘new law’, you’d be forgiven for assuming that I’d join Bruce’s side of the debate and be quick to dance on the grave of the traditional law firm structure.  One of my own most-read (but least popular!) posts dates back to 2011 when I still wore a GC hat and decided to have a pop at law firm PEP so I’m not beyond a poke at the law firm model myself.  But, I’m not going to do that.  In fact, I’m not going to take sides in this debate becauses as Jeremy Hopkins of Obelisk rightly notes in the comments:

“The whole structure thing is a red herring”.

I spent 13 years working in-house and what mattered to me when working with legal service providers (I deliberately avoid using the term law firms) can be summarised as output and value.

When undertaking complex M&A or litigation, did I care about the partnership structure of the Big Law firm I instructed?  No.  When I needed additional bandwidth for business-as-usual work, did I care about the corporate structure of the ‘new law’ service providers I turned to?  Of course not.   And I bet very few GCs give the whole structure issue very much thought at all.

What matters more than structures is business models.  What matters is legal service providers deciding what it is they do well and how best to deliver that in the simplest way possible for their clients.

Look at most of the ‘new law’ providers like the LODs, Obelisks and Radiants – we know what we are good at, we know where we want to be fishing and our business models facilitate that.  Look at the Magic Circle or law firms which are grown up enough to recognise they have sector strengths – equally they know what they are good at too and their partnership structure is no obstruction to them achieving that.

Bruce’s article is merely the hors d’ouvre to a wider debate at the The Lawyer’s Business Summit which I hope takes more time to explore the client’s perspective on this.  Mark certainly asks the right questions in his post:

“Why would clients be better off if law firms acted like corporates?  Would the client get better service, lower cost, better product?  There isn’t a shred of evidence nor any reason to think that law firms would deliver better service or products if they were constituted as corporates instead of partnerships.”

Mark may be right, but equally where is the evidence to demonstrate that traditional partnerships are the most effective vehicle for service delivery?

Both Bruce and Mark conclude with a quick look at the usual reference points for corporate success – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google et al.  Bruce suggests part of their success is down to their corporate (non-partnership) structure.  Mark disagrees.  The red herring has reared its rotting neck again.  The Amazon et als do not succeed because of their structure.  They succeed because they not only know what their customers want, but more pertinently they continually invest in knowing what their customers don’t even know they want until they have it.  This is called product development or R&D in most sectors.

When I was a GC looking at professional life through a client lens, the best external advisors helped make my job easier.  They did this by knowing what I needed, in the very best cases before I did.  As someone helping to run a client-focused business, this is always front of my mind.  Business models and product development facilitate effective client service far more than corporate structures ever will.

Spare a seasonal thought for the lawyers

You can spot a lawyer a mile off at Christmas.

They’re usually the ones not enjoying themselves (well, I guess you could say that the rest of the year too).  At the time of year when the rest of the office winds down, with the exception of the execs driving towards the year-end chequered flag at break neck speed, the lawyers wind up (and get wound up).

While the Communications and Marketing teams tune in Spotify to their Christmas playlists, the only music the lawyers get to listen to is the hold muzak on the numerous conference calls they’ll be dialling into during the December run-in.

As the sales teams stumble between client lunches to the sounds of laughter, the lawyers only get to enjoy black humour engendered by the knowledge that what should be the most fun month of the year isn’t meant for them.

While the IT team worry about how long the free bar will hold for at the office party, the lawyers worry about how much work they are not doing by being there and how tired they will be the next day as the latest round of drafting summons them from their slumber.

And as the office gets deserted increasingly early, the lawyers get left alone in darkened, desolate conference rooms feel increasingly lonely negotiating clauses that no-one else but them will read.

Whilst we all shudder the first time we hear Slade’s Noddy announce that ‘IT’s CHRIIIIISTMAS!’, the lawyers almost break-down, knowing what the month is going to bring for them.

One thought keeps the lawyers going during these dark December nights.  The thought that next year, it won’t be like this, they’ll have changed the way they work, gained more control, learned to dictate the timetable, resourced things differently, forced clients to help themselves more, and just generally taken a big picture January review of the changes they will make so that next year is easier.  It will be better next year, they say.

Maybe they even believe it.

Except usually, that thought gets lost the moment the monster deal is inked or the revenue targets have been hit or (most usually) the non-lawyers decide they want to stop for Christmas after all and stop answering their emails.

The lawyers breathe, crank up their Amazon shopping basket (Prime account, obv), shoot to Waitrose for the organic three bird roast, grab the Hunters for the mandatory Boxing Day walk, chuck a load of money at the Boden sale (you can never have too many chequered garments in your casual wardrobe), fall asleep on the sofa as Jools plays out New Years Eve and before they know it, they’re back at it, the horrors of the December run-in forgotten once more for another 11 months.

Remember folks, a lawyer is for life, not just for Christmas.  Be nice to yours this December.  And remind them this year, just to hold that thought they had about making things better for next.

Badge of (dis)honour

This post was originally published by The Lawyer in November 2014

It’s time for GCs to forget the heroic ‘I do everything myself’ culture and concentrate instead on driving their business, and that means outsourcing.

A significant privilege of what I can no longer call my new job at Lawyers On Demand (LOD), is the number of GCs and other in-house counsel I get to meet, of all shapes and sizes (the in-house teams that is, not the lawyers themselves).

But one of the flip sides of life on the sell-side is that occasionally meetings I’m looking forward to can get rearranged on short notice, because the in-house lawyer we’re scheduled to see has been called to fight a fire.

I can’t help but put on my *ironic smile face* when this happens.

Those of us who work in or with the in-house side of our profession hear all too often about the pressure that in-house teams are under.  The amount of work they have to do.  The increasing focus on corporate governance.  The reliance on them by the board to stay the right side of the line.  The sometimes unfair passing of responsibility from ‘the business’ to the in-house lawyer.  The long days and late nights.  The lack of light at the end of the tunnel.  The inability to stop and take stock.  The contractual churn. The lack of resource to do all this with.  This is a running machine which never gets switched off.

But at the risk of stretching the theory of the challenger sale, I sometimes wonder if in-house lawyers bring some of this onto themselves.  Or at the very least, if they don’t do as much as they might to resolve the position they invariably find themselves in.

It’s a truism that many in-house counsel do face the pressures referred to above.  They’re difficult to deal with every day.  It therefore surprises me how in-house counsel often, in fact almost always, feel compelled to say, “we keep as much work as we can in-house”.

Those of us who’ve worked in-house have all said this mantra.  It’s a badge of honour, you’re not a real in-houser until you’ve said it out loud, “I do it all myself”.  Maybe it’s a form of addiction therapy, “My name is Tim and I’m a workaholic”.  Or less succinctly, “I’m an in-house lawyer with more work than I can ever hope to do and we do as much of it as we can ourselves sitting on this burning platform”.  Done, well said, you’re now a proper in-house lawyer, you may wear your badge.

The fact that work might occasionally be outsourced, that the in-house team sometimes is thinking about asking for and may even get outside help, is like the in-house lawyers’ omertà.  No-one in the family must admit that happens, because that is tantamount to admitting failure, to giving credence to the belief that the in-house team is not capable of doing it all.  Because that’s why we were hired isn’t it?  To do everything.

This feels like an early nineties flash back.  Back to an era when lawyers who left Big Law for the then relative novelty of the in-house legal department were whispered about as lawyers who “couldn’t hack it” in a law firm.  Even by 2000 when I moved in-house, there was still a sense from some that I was leaving the first class lounge for a career trip at the back of the plane.  As a result we did do as much work as we could possibly manage in-house, because it countered the view that we weren’t good enough.

The world has changed.  It’s now the in-house lawyers who have the most coveted positions in the profession, who are dealing with the category ‘A’ work, who have the ear of the CEO, who are working on deals that tomorrow will make the front pages of the newspapers (or iPad app, if you prefer).  Yet even though everyone now recognises it’s the GC whose career is at the front of the plane, many in-housers are still unable to let go of the belief they must do it all.

As lawyers, we don’t like to think of ourselves as mere service providers.  Yet in a corporate context, this is certainly where the legal team sits.  We are no more or less special than our colleagues in IT, Finance, Marketing, Communications and HR.  It’s funny isn’t it.  You don’t ever see any of those teams trying to do everything on their own.

But in the in-house legal team, we like to do it all ourselves, so we can keep polishing that badge of honour.

In-house lawyers can arguably learn a thing or two from our colleagues in IT.  The CIO is in many ways a curator of technology services.  The routine big-infrastructure stuff tends to get outsourced.  Contractors may be used for specialised skill gaps.  The big suppliers come into play for high risk projects.  And the IT Executive team drive the technology strategy.  It’s a sensible mix of in-house and external expertise, a horses for courses approach.

My guess is that many GCs would see themselves as having failed if they were seen as curators of legal services.  But I don’t think this is right.  I think it’s time to consign that badge from the early nineties to the dustbin.  Conduct the orchestra brilliantly, don’t be a one man band, unable to play anything to a decent standard.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favour of the in-houser who outsources everything, the so-called ‘telephone operator’ as I once heard that type of lawyer memorably referred to (great phrase).  But I am in favour of looking at how to put out the fires which constantly burn in most in-house teams which, in many cases, are easily extinguishable with a little thought.  I’m in favour of taking a step back, of looking at who is doing what, where and why.

Does it really make sense for that lawyer over there to be submerged in sales contracts?  Do you really want junior lawyers churning through NDAs that no-one ever reads anyway?  Why is that transactional lawyer having to get involved on the DD on a project when they could add far more value elsewhere?  Does it make sense to always use your panel firm for most things, just because you always have and they discount their “standard rates”, whatever that means?  Does your in-house team even need to be touching that bucket of non-strategic contracts?  Why aren’t they spending more time on the strategic work over there?  And the perennial old chestnut, how long does overflow you can’t get to have to be there before it ceases to be overflow and becomes value-reducing BAU which can suck the life out of the legal team.

The last decade has seen the rise and rise of the in-house lawyer.  It’s a privileged position.  The quality of work has never been higher for GCs and other IHLs.  But neither have the stakes.  The best in-house legal teams help drive their business forward by deploying expertise efficiently and allowing themselves time to understand and influence the business drivers.  But many can’t achieve this, because they are drowning in ‘too much work’.

The CEO didn’t hire you to do everything yourself.  The CEO hired you to help drive the business forward as quickly as possible, whilst keeping it safe.

It’s time to throw out that badge of (dis)honour and decide what type of legal team you want to be part of.  For those who don’t take the time to just stop a minute and have a look around, there’s a risk that someone else might end up doing it for them.

It may just be time to get a new badge.

It’s time for ‘hei hei’ Hyypiä

It’s been apparent since the first time Sami sat in the Albion dug out on 9 August 2014 that something seems to be missing at the Albion this season.  It’s the ‘L’ word.


Gus, for whatever faults he might have had towards the end of his reign, he had leadership in spades.  The players would run through brick walls for him.  The fans would have done too.

Whilst Garcia did not have it in the same way, he did at least have an air of quiet authority and would get off the bench to make his feelings known.  No-one who was there will forget the passion shared by players and fans at the City Ground last season, and Oscar must take some credit for that.

But Hyypiä does not seem to have that ‘L’thing.  He sits on his bench passively for most of each match whether we are winning, losing, pressing, defending, in control, off the pace, whatever.  When we have a game by the scruff of the neck, like we did for the first ten minutes against Fulham yesterday, the players don’t know how to seize the moment.  When we’re being bypassed and outfought in midfield as happened during much of the second half, the players don’t know how to react.

I am not one to call for managers’ heads simply for failing to deliver instant success and nor do I want passion for the sake of it without tactics. This is not a knee-jerk blog post of Angry from Hove.  However,  I’m beginning to worry.  Although so far this season I’ve discounted the possibility of relegation on the basis we’re “too good to go down”, we are now beginning to sleepwalk into what could become a relegation dogfight before we even realise it.  Shiny new stadiums offer no defence against a lack of points.

Before continuing, it is only fair to put the case for the defence of Hyypiä.

First, the spine of our team has gone, anyone would struggle to refashion a side which over recent seasons has lost players like Kuszczac, Upson, Bridcutt, Barnes and Ulloa.  Not to mention Murray, Bridge, Spanish Dave and Orlandi.  Second, he is trying to mould what amounts to a brand new team, or at least two thirds of a brand new team.  Third, he is new to the Championship (which was no secret to the board which appointed him), which is one of the hardest leagues to escape from (out of the right exit, anyway) and requires a certain knowledge of how best to go about doing it.  Fourth, Brighton have arguably over-performed since we arrived at the Amex and as a result expectations amongst fans of what the team should achieve this season are quite possibly unrealistic. And finally, us fans don’t get to see him in training, where for all we know the players could be prepared to die for the guy.

But, and there is a but coming I’m afraid…..

But, notwithstanding these mitigating factors, for me it is time to say “hei hei Hyypiä” due to that apparent lack of the “L” word.  He must have something deep down, he did as a player, you don’t command the central defence at Liverpool for ten years without being gutsy, but at the moment he hasn’t found his managerial mojo.

Saturday’s second half against Fulham is the evidence-in-chief against him.  Darren Bent did what he’d been brought in to do, we saw some class positioning from him in and around the box, when his chance came, he didn’t need the second touch which our beloved CMS usually takes and unlike so many wasteful shots we’ve seen this season, Bent both hit the target and evaded the keeper.

Yet instead of at least consolidating our position or even better pushing on from it, we melted and Fulham bulldozed or passed their way through us for the rest of the second half.  Brighton looked like a team not sure how to convert a winning position into a win.  For the third time in three games.

As we huffed and puffed our way to trying to stop Fulham, as we misplaced passes, as we wasted set-pieces and as we failed to make the most of Bent’s clever movement (okay, fair enough, the rest of the squad don’t know too much about how he plays yet), what did Sami do?

Sami did what he almost always does.  He stayed sitting down, looking on like a somewhat detached observer who has somehow by accident found himself sitting on a bench inside a football stadium.

Surely it would help our players to look up and see the gaffer at the side of the pitch, cajoling them, advising them, berating them, encouraging them, applauding them, engaging them, reminding them, maybe occasionally even intimidating them, but most of all leading them.

As for the fans, we recognise it.  I don’t think I’ve heard a single chant in favour of Sami since he arrived.  No Gus Poyet my Lord, No Oscar Garcia drinking Sangria.

In fact most tellingly of all, we’ve heard the Albion faithful on away days singing that they are Tony Bloom’s blue and white army.  Whilst it is right to give thanks to The Lord our God and King (aka TB), this in itself is recognition by us, the fans, that Sami is not the man.

Sorry Sami, but it’s time to say hei hei (or näkemiin if we’re going to get formal about it).

Over to you, Tony.

This post also appears on North Stand Chat, the chatroom/message board for all things Brighton & Hove Albion

What makes a good lawyer?

It’s September and the lawyers are back from holiday.  You can tell, the trains are busier, less friendly and humming with the tappy tap of smartphones.

Like most, I love my holidays, but the idea of booking one always fills me with horror.

It’s not the idea of the holiday I don’t like, but the knowledge that I’ll spend more time and effort searching for it than I did when I bought my last house or car.  I’ve known lawyers put more hard yards into the due diligence they undertake about holiday destination than they would ever consider doing for a client deal.  We’re all driven by a fear of finding out that someone else found a better holiday than us at a better price.

As buyers of holidays we can pretty much get hold of perfect information with a few clicks of the mouse.  Not just about geographic location, but potential accommodation, nearby restaurants and random stuff to do.  Last year I even pre-booked a ranger-led walk in the Highlands several weeks in advance (since you’re asking, it was rained off).

A lot of us make our buying decisions by subscribing to the wisdom of crowds theory, which in holiday land manifests itself through the data available through Trip Advisor.  On the whole and in particular where there is strength in depth of reviews, the Trip Advisor community knows what constitutes a ‘good’ holiday.

We choose our holidays based on readily accessible crowd-sourced management information (we used to call it ‘a recommendation from a friend’).  Big Holiday Data is filtered for us to use, analyse and base our decisions on.  It makes it easy for us to decide what is likely to be a ‘good holiday’ before we click-to-buy.

So we lawyers either know, or know how to find out, what constitutes a good holiday.  But once we’ve exchanged our swimwear for our grey suit and are back in the office deciding who to instruct, who to hire into our team or who we might recommend, do we know what makes a good lawyer?

If you ask a lawyer what makes a good lawyer, you’ll get a range of similar answers. “Excellent technical skills”, “someone who can be commercial”, “an ability to apply the law practically”, “deep client knowledge”, “sector specialist” and so on.

But none of those descriptions remotely answer the question of what makes a good lawyer.  They merely state the characteristics of what lawyers think makes a good lawyer.  They don’t actually describe what, for example, constitute “good technical skills” or how well someone must know a client before they are said to have “deep client knowledge”.  The descriptions are subjective by nature.

Lawyers in traditional law firms have generally had their performance measured by metrics like billable targets, billable hours, hourly rates, recovery rates, WIP and the golden goose that is PEP.  But none of these metrics actually measure lawyer performance, they merely measure lawyer activity, which is quite a different thing and all too often confused with being about quality.

Neither are in-house lawyers immune from the inability of the profession to “rate” its constituent parts.  The best in-house teams will tell you that they aspire to lead by and implement best practice.  And you will hear GCs tell you that they have a “first class” legal team, I’ve done it myself.  But how do they really know?  Concepts like “best in class” are laudable but all too often flawed by subjectivity.

We live in a world of Big Data and the legal sector can look embarrassingly out of date when you compare the legal sector with verticals such as marketing where ROMI (Return On Marketing Investment) is such a recognised concept that McKinsey specialise in it, or with sectors such as education and medicine, where qualitative league tables are readily available for prospective customers to review before making a buying decision.

Change is however on the horizon.  A few of Lawyers On Demand’s (LOD) more innovative clients are starting to use a two letter acronym in the conversations they’re having with us.  MI.  Management information.  These clients are asking LOD to curate MI specific to their teams and business.  For example, how our LODs are spending their time and what on.  And not solely as a reason to see how long a particular task took and query why.  But also because they are interested how their own “end users” of LOD’s service are using our LODs.

Clients want to know if, for example, there is a significant variance between the amount of lawyer time required by their marketing team, compared to the sales team.   They want to find out why a particular individual may require our LODs to spend 25 per cent more time in internal meetings than the average.  They want to see which end user clients are releasing a steady pipeline of planned work to our LODs and which are creating the daily fire fight by throwing ad hoc buckets of petrol onto the fire as and when they feel like it.  And also, yes, because they are interested if Lawyer A gets through more work than Lawyer B and to find out why.

One reason why our clients are interested in how our LODs spend their time is because it is likely in many cases to replicate how the core in-house team is being asked to spend its time too.  Inefficient instructions are likely to lead to inefficient lawyering.  Or to use a data analogy, c**p in, c**p out.

The use of MI and data is a step in the right direction away from subjective judgments.  But even then the focus of MI is often activity dressed up as performance.  For example, whilst a Sales Director might rate Lawyer A higher than Lawyer B, because Lawyer B gets more contracts concluded, a Finance Director might prefer Lawyer B’s approach to assessing contractual risk.   Perhaps better to have a slower pass-through of robust contracts, rather than a fast pass-through of flaky ones.

Even better to have a fast pass-through of robust ones, but how do you measure the robust bit?  What is a “good contract”?

Perhaps the legal profession can learn from academia where no paper worth its salt is published without being put through a rigorous tyre kicking by the authors’ peers or even, in a research context, his competitors in a field.  How about a similar system where the lawyers at Firm A spot check a small percentage of Firm B’s work to verify that it is indeed of Magic Circle quality?  And vice versa, of course.  Or perhaps more realistically, where an in-house team subjects it’s work to oversight by one of the firms on its panel or maybe by another in-house legal team.

I have a view on what makes a good lawyer and I bet you do too.  We may even think the same things make one.  But it doesn’t mean we’re right.  And even then, we may both agree that a well drafted liability clause makes a good contract, but we might not agree on what that clause looks like.  But if ten lawyers reviewed a contract and gave it an average mark of 7 out of 10, I think we’d feel pretty comfortable that this peer review proved that the contract was at least “good enough” which likely reflects well on the lawyer who negotiated it too.

Of course, we live in a real world.  Magic Circle firms won’t be swapping drafts to ask for a mark out of ten.  Nor will in-house teams.  Enlightened law firms and their clients might do occasionally.

But the answer to what constitutes a good lawyer or contract is in the data.   If legal service providers can invest in curating MI that helps their clients interpret the data that is created in the process of a contract negotiation, then that can only be a good thing for providers and clients alike.

Lawyers will often tell you that what keeps them awake at night are the unknown unknowns.  Well perhaps MI is one way of turning some of those unknowns into knowns.  It’s the colour by numbers approach to lawyering if you like.  Join the numbers and paint the picture.

Risk management without subjectivity, whatever next.