People first

I don’t think many of us understand what makes us good at our jobs. We tend to think of ourselves as brains in a jar, very clever intellectually but that’s about it. A powerhouse of intellectual and commercial knowledge, largely disconnected from the human elements of ourselves. Much of the fuss about machine learning is about this part of lawyering - a machine that can read a contract 6 times faster than a human! A machine that can scan thousands of documents for content 100 times faster than a human! A machine that can write a contract based on simple prompts 10 times faster than a human!

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Fionn BowdLaw, Lawyers, Firm, Talent
A (love) letter to law firms

Dear law firms, It’s hard to be you. No, it really is, I am not being sarcastic. You give so much to so many people, but no one ever says thank you. You and the partners who create you, you are created by sacrifice. The sacrifice of time with family, the sacrifice of sleep, of creativity, of life outside of work.

And all anyone ever talks about is how much money you make, and how they never want to be like you. If life were a Disney film, you would be Beast. Alone in your gilded tower, with everything you could ever need, except the understanding and kindness of others. I want to tell you that you matter. And I want to say thank you.

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Lawyers, and Being Really Useful

Thomas the Tank Engine and corporate lawyers have a lot in common. The highest praise for Thomas is to be a Really Useful Engine. When he does well, just like a lawyer, he is rewarded for his good behavior by being given more work. His punishment for poor behaviour is to be forbidden to work and all of the engines live in fear of being left to rust in a siding, never to be useful again.

I can’t be the first person to be curious about whether Reverend Awdry, writing in 1945, was attempting to send a particular message to a particular social class about their appropriate station in life... However it has recently occurred to me that the good vicar might actually have been trying to teach all of us something even more profound.

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Those who can, teach

If you stayed long enough in a law firm to supervise others, or if you came back again in your later years as I did, you will know how hard it is to teach.

Let’s be honest. Marking up a piece of work and giving it back for a junior to amend takes more time and energy than simply doing it all yourself.

But we teach our emerging lawyers because it matters. We teach them because it is a way of making them a part of ourselves, which in turn makes them part of a profession. We teach them because we were all taught.

A profession is a calling. It carries duties to others above duties to self. And part of the ethos of our profession is that we teach those who are rising up so that they will be worthy of our ranks.

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