The Final Say

Tomorrow I am speaking with law students at Robson Hall as part of a Do Law Differently launch event hosted by the MLSA and Canadian Bar Association. I’ve been invited to talk about my own career path, about lessons I’ve learned and what I look for when hiring.

I’ve prepared my 20 minute talk and can tell you it is full of optimism and hope for a new kind of legal profession that holds to old-school values like integrity and honour and generosity while boldly facing a new economic order that mostly values faster, better, cheaper.

Frankly, I’m not feeling it at the moment. I took a career hit this week, losing a long-term contract that perhaps I took for granted. It’s work that meets my “4/4” criteria: I love doing it; I work with people whose company I enjoy; it pays reasonably well; and it aligns with my values. While I know there will be other opportunities, other contracts, other people or even the same people in other places, it won’t be this. This was a very good fit for me.

But apparently, that was not the case for the contracting organization. I was reminded, in the most painful way, that those who pay the bills get to decide which works gets done and which doesn’t. Clients get to choose what they want us to do, and what they don’t. They get to decide if the work gets done and by whom. Ultimately, they have the final say.

I know this. I preach this. I forgot this.

I’m deeply disappointed with my client’s decision. My gut reaction (after thinking what a poor choice they made!) was to consider how best to advocate for what I wanted, not accepting that the client’s decision was valid.

Ironically, my presentation notes for tomorrow’s session wrap up with this:

Ultimately, Doing Law Differently is about doing it better – better for you, better for those you work with and for, and most of all, better for the consumers of legal services.

If you focus on putting them first, you’re already ahead of many in our profession, and well along the path to Doing Law Differently.

 I thought I wrote that for the students. I just realized it’s for me, too.

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