There’s an incongruity between what lawyers are taught in law school, and what they ultimately end up doing.
Lawyers are taught to seek a position, stand their ground, fight, attack the other position and basically act as an unwavering advocate. And this works great in mock trials. Hell, it probably works pretty well in real trials. But for corporate lawyers, a courtroom is a pretty rare place to be.
What lawyers are usually asked to do is clarify a misunderstanding, persuade the other party to take action, hammer out a deal of some sort. In a word: Compromise.
Here’s the thing: Lawyers suck at compromise. They lack the vocabulary. They are taught to mock, to argue and to win. Whose fault is that? Law Schools. They are missing one very important 6-week course.
What lawyers need to learn is the vocabulary, the style of compromise. A letter from a lawyer is frightening. It’s a scary letter designed to cause fear. The problem with fear is that it paralyzes compromise. Because they always start like this:
Dear John Doe,
You are an asshole, a liar and a cheat.
Well that just makes people defensive. Most folks don’t think of themselves as an asshole a liar and a cheat (even if they are). So they respond with anger and hate. Anger and hate don’t coexist well with compromise. A letter from a lawyer never starts out like this:
Dear John Doe,
I’m guessing you didn’t intend to X, and that we just have a misunderstanding.
That sort of language makes people want to compromise, because it doesn’t instill fear and doesn’t make one defensive. It makes it less likely that things will end up in a courtroom. And for most business folks, a courtroom is the last place they want to be. Both sides usually lose.
So what’s the solution? A Six Week Course. Six weeks of teaching attorneys what compromise looks like, the vocabulary of compromise, the reality that in business fighting is not how you win.
What if you can’t reach a compromise? Well sure, then let’s kick some ass. That’s what the other 3 years of law school are for.