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!
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.
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.