Legal cartoons and humorous comment (c) Paul Brennan. All rights reserved.

I decided on 101 reasons as I didn’t want to depress the entire legal profession by having 1,001.
Paul Brennan, Lawyer, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Sunday, April 20, 2008

# 6. They have trouble thinking outside the box


Lawyers must face the fact that the Gay Rights Movement appears to have made more progress in the last thirty years, in the acceptance stakes, than lawyers have made in the last three millennia.

They have attempted change. The “Plain English” push in the 1970’s was a call for lawyers to discard legalese and Latin. Since then lawyers have been demystifying the law only to find their clients have since adopted the “3 figure acronym” and text messaging. Clients have not really appreciated the move to “Plain English”, especially as financial institutions now insist on documents being read. So lawyers are understandably careful about what they try next.

Clients seem to want change. But what? Here are 5 suggestions to consider:

• A community focus. An unhealthy focus on “conflict of interest” e.g. Lessor/lessee, seller/buyer can double the legal costs and create a negative “us and them” culture? A Legal Community of lawyers, judges, police, victims and criminals could work together to foster compromise solutions. Under this inclusive approach even Axe-murderers would be stakeholders and surely that would be far safer for everyone.

• Improved listening? On the face of it this would drive fees up. Large firms could create Dispute Listening Departments and bring in specialist “listeners”, especially to cover for younger lawyers, who find this so difficult. Sole practitioners may delegate this to their secretaries.

• A value based pricing structure? Lawyers resist this but what firm would not gain valuable customer service points if they discontinued bills and just sought donations.

• More government funded legal programs? For instance, disputes between neighbours could be resolved by encouraging one party to move, using stamp duty concessions and assistance with estate agents’ commission.

• A new paradigm. Could legal issues be resolved by using visualization and meditative techniques? Well, could they? It is now generally accepted that in any journey, the universe can conspire to assist in achieving a goal. For instance, the stressful conveyancing process could be avoided if the seller died and unexpectedly left the property to the purchaser in his will. Rather than suing adversaries a client could just wait for them to die. A visit to a lawyer could be a more holistic experience combining legal advice and group client discussions. This could be followed by “add value” services such as massage, colonic irrigation and finished off with a Tarot reading. A visit to a lawyer, now so often rushed by the pressure of billable hours, may take up to a day and leave clients feeling refreshed.

Lawyers may argue that Shakespeare only wrote “Let’s kill all the lawyers” as there were no Financial Planners around at that time. They may compare themselves favourably to other professions. After all, unlike banker/money lenders, they have never been declared illegal or thrown out of the temple. However, the “writing has been on the wall” for a considerable period of time and change may be long overdue.

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