Lawyers could save the world, mirabile dictu...

Female lawyers: please imagine this image as a female "super lawyer"

Last week I facilitated a workshop involving over thirty in-house counsel from a large global corporate business. They were no different from any group I have encountered over the last ten years.

At one point I said, more or less what I always say: " You all realise, I'm sure, that you could be key players in enabling better decision-making in organisations across the globe and potentially save them and the world from self-inflicted economic and other harm and even prevent another global crash.”

They looked at me blankly. One said, brusquely: "We don't do compliance. That's a separate department".

T'was as if I were speaking Martian. This was not an unusual response. I've tried variations of this statement with different groups of lawyers with virtually the same reaction, except from the a-typical lawyers.

A-typical lawyers are lawyers who exhibit the following three characteristics.

- they are scarily bright, in IQ terms AND

- they have one major fault-line in EQ terms, and they know it even if they don’t admit it AND

- they are chomping at the bit "to break the mould" in how legal services are delivered

Most groups of lawyers contain a small number of a-typical lawyers, say ten per cent, initially cool if not hostile but, as workshops progress I usually notice in them a grudging acceptance, nay excitement, that there is a third way to run legal services.

These groups reflect the statistically proven (I'm told) change ratio: 10% stars, 20% resistors, 70% on the fence. As explained to me many years ago by an excellent change consultant, the best approach is to celebrate the stars, try to ignore the resistors and woo the fence sitters.

Once I persuade lawyers that conduct risk, pre-decision, is not a compliance matter but a risk register matter, they are half way towards accepting that they have more power than they wield.

Halfway, because the other half concerns matters about which they feel deeply uncomfortable: behaviour and feelings. Talking about behaviour and feelings makes many lawyers, except the most a-typical, very twitchy indeed.