“Distinct or Extinct.”
Your area of law is complex. It is replete with voluminous quantities of tightly worded statutes, case law and opinion. You go for the highest authority but, in some cases, that does not provide a ready-made answer to the factual situation that presents itself. Sooner or later you will be pressed to explain yourself or better still provide your valued opinion.
“Sitting on the fence” is one of those expressions that it is easy to label every professional with but, of course, lay clients (or in-house counsel) don’t have the burden of knowing that if you get it wrong, the pre-action protocol letter will be arriving in the next DX service!
Of course you go for safe, for the middle ground or commentate on the bleeding obvious.
In some cases, instructing solicitor will ‘go off to Counsel’ who then proceed to apply their learning to the problem. But you still have to interpret their opinion.
This trend is hardly likely to abate: defensive practice is here to say and perhaps the number one proponent of said service is the National Health Service.
But (there is always a caveat) clients are not all cast in the same mould. Yes, I know it is easy for me to say – you can never tell when someone is going to turn on you – but every practitioner should have a point of view of note – and something that is recognised beyond your limited territory.
I don’t just mean are you listed in one legal directory or another, but your point of view is known to clients and the market beyond the usual compass of instructions.
From a practical point of view, how many of you are:
- Speaking to a national or international audience about your practice area?
- Writing for the acknowledged leader in the print field?
- Using Scribd to publish a paper or two?
- Using Slideshare?
- Using You Tube?
- And simply getting on the road to meet people?
My experience is that most partners don’t want to put themselves out there. Risk aside, they view it as too much trouble or in some cases they don’t have the confidence in their own ability. Of course, getting to the point where you could aspire to some of the aforementioned requires you to be different, the best in the World (see The Dip by Seth Godin) and to have a point of view. You are hardly going to get booked to speak to regurgitate the latest case law although that said there is still a lot of that that unfortunately goes on.
What do you want your legacy to be?
Don’t tell me you don’t know.
People who rise to the top of the profession don’t do so by a process of osmosis. They have a vision of their professional life and they practice emulating it each and every day. They go to work on their professional life, and not in it. If all you do is the work then guess what, that is exactly what you will be doing in 10 years time. To have more, you have to become more, but you have to want for something more.
If you practice in an area where everyone has a credible point of view, then you don’t need to radicalise the market but rather look at the edges and see if something has been missed. I did this in my area of practice. Yes there were people out there who held a view but there was more than enough room for the two of us.
Next time you considered your point of view, think how far it might just carry you in the direction of career success.