Peter Kalis: Lawyers as robotic bores? It’s not the English way

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  • "In future columns you’ll see me challenge those who regard lawyers and their firms as anachronistic and those who would reduce us to automata and algorithms." A high bar indeed. Biglaw breeds automatons and measures human value with algorithms. Mr. Kalis should tell readers how his firm is different, if it is at all. Examples please, not exceptions.

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  • Good luck with this but persuading lawyers is easy as they would like to believe what you say but the issue is clients and the truth is, in true cowardly fashion, firms have responded to client demands by exactly reducing lawyers to automata and commodities.

    Lets look at fee and panel arrangements as an example . Generally applying downward pressure on fees , the result is to see the work and those who do it as nothing more than a commodity as a result .They formalise recognition of how much control the client has and encourage even greater demands on time , while at the same time killing any sense of a real relationship My experience of fee deals with clients was that the more formalised the arrangements were, the more they thought they " owned " you and the more excessive demands could be.

    There is no respect for your time or priorities, particularly with banks as clients . If we were analysing the relationship between a law firm and certain teams at banks or even a whole bank in the same way we might analyse a domestic relationship, it would be considered abusive in many instances but firms put up with it because there is no alternative and they fear loss of fee income as there is always someone else who will do it,so will take the abuse. Firms are complicit in all of this, going along with the reduction of lawyering to the sale of a commodity. They do not see any other option, faced with the competition that is ready willing and able to take over should they baulk at compliance with the latest turning of the screw by the client.

    Many in-house counsel in banks, including up to the level of GC, see subjugating firms as the way they justify their existence, coming up with ever more complex form filling and rules for this and that on top of billing arrangements. Much of this is inane and pointless and could be dealt with much more simply by someone who was confident enough in their own role , to know how to manage a relationship with a firm without having to hide behind a manual of rules that a firm has to follow . Basically the concept of real " relationships" is largely dead and it was relationships with clients that often made demands and associated moments of stress bearable. But now, as clients ( particularly banks and large corporates ) seek to have firms recognise they are just commodities, there is not that counter weight to stress,

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  • I can see the line here and look forward to reading more. Two things that Mr Kalis should perhaps allow for. Daniel Kahneman's powerful insights on the delusion of validity (Thinking, Fast and Slow) and Upton Sinclair on "how difficult it is to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it".

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