On the road to lawyerdom and darting the game of one-upmanship

One of the things I enjoy about being on the road to lawyerdom is that it’s a profession people often have a lot to say about. Some of their thoughts are positive, some are negative, some fairly indifferent, but most people have an opinion of one sort or another.

One of the things I enjoy about being on the road to lawyerdom is that it’s a profession people often have a lot to say about. Some of their thoughts are positive, some are negative, some fairly indifferent, but most people have an opinion of one sort or another.

I was talking recently with a real estate investor when I mentioned that I was on my way to becoming a solicitor. Once he’d asked the standard “what area of law do you want to practice?” and “do you have a job lined up?” questions, he mentioned that lawyers were one of the most important parts of his business. He said that the pivotal element in any transaction was the behaviour of the lawyers.

“Sometimes,” he said, “you can walk in to the room on day one and tell that the lawyers have worked together before, or know the same people. The atmosphere is easy, and they both work towards the goal of getting the deal done with no problems. Those deals are often concluded with a minimum of fuss because if ever there’s something that’s gone wrong, it’s never a case of blame – they just get on with it.”

“Other times, though, you can get into a deal and know that each of the lawyers is treating the transaction as a competitive sport. They try to out-smart the other side, often losing focus from the purpose for which they’re being employed, and it ends up with a great deal more hassle for all parties.”

I couldn’t really believe this. I’ve long complained about how unrealistic some of the group exercises so beloved of graduate recruitment are. I’ve often said that I feel they’re unnecessarily antagonistic and go beyond simply having differing interests, yet here was someone with many years as a purchaser of legal services saying that he had seen lawyers acting in the childish way that I was so keen to avoid.

I realised then that the situation is less than 50% of that equation, and the people involved are far more important when it comes to the atmosphere in which a deal is conducted. I’m now sure that the experiences I’ve had of aggressive people who try to turn group exercises into a contest are due to the people who I was there with more than the way the exercise had been devised. I hope that, if I’m faced with someone determined to play a game of one-upmanship on a deal in the future, that I don’t forget why I’m there – to get my client the best deal possible.

As I said at the start of this piece, I love hearing people’s experiences with lawyers, good and bad. It’s a fantastic way for an inexperienced future lawyer like me to learn from mistakes without having to make them myself. I love hearing anecdotes from a client’s perspective; I hope that by taking on board some aspects of the lessons clients wish their lawyers had learnt, it could help to make me a better lawyer.

Ashley Connick is about to start his LPC before starting his training contract in August