This series is about how the legal system’s subjective and arbitrary character constrains your lawyer from answering “yes” or “no”.
Sometimes your lawyer doesn’t want to be pinned down to a definite answer, and you, as the business client, need to nudge him or her for some specificity.
In this fourth post I address the ultimate “human factor” in the law: All legal advice and representation comes to business owners and executives through attorneys.
You see, attorneys are people (fill in your own lawyer joke here).
On my first visit to Paris I found myself at dinner with Dr. H. — a family friend and Princeton PhD in physics — a senior official with the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He peppered me — a newly minted lawyer with a New York firm — with questions about my work.
“You see, Dr. H., the legal system is riddled with subjectivity. It’s all about opinions — of judges, of regulators, of legislators, of disputing attorneys, of lay people acting as jurors.
“Unlike your discipline — there’s no empirical test by which to evaluate whether a judgment is valid or bogus. It’s nothing like nuclear physics, where a consistent scientific focus guaranties objectivity.”
[Cut me some slack here. I was 26. I had everything pretty much figured out, and saw everything in black and white. As I aged, I came to know less and less, until I became the dumb guy whom my kids will tell you they met upon their arrival in the world a few years later.]
Dr. H. (patiently) replied: