Executive Thoughts | Lawyers Aren't Special

As a lawyer, I have noticed a phenomenon. People tend to assume you’re right and what you say holds special weight. Even if I am just brainstorming on possible downside scenarios, people assume what I am saying is gospel and that the path forward is doomed. On the other hand, if I say everything is a-okay, few people push back.

If you have noticed yourself doing this with a lawyer, or doctor, or any professional for that matter, please, for the sake of your company or yourself, stop. Sure, lawyers have special training, but lawyers aren’t, by virtue of being a lawyer, special or right. And you are doing yourself and your company a disservice if you treat them that way.

I will never forget my first orientation meeting at law school. A Dean walked into the room of new law students, and she said: “Look around you. At the end of law school, some of these people you will trust with your life. Others you will not trust to watch your dog for a weekend.”

After closely working with lawyers for about a decade, I can honestly say, she was absolutely right, which is terrifying.

Lawyers are meant to protect your legal rights. In some circumstances they are protecting your freedom, in other circumstances, they are protecting your livelihood. The idea that some of them are mediocre at best, and just plain terrible at worst, is a thought that shouldn’t make a person feel warm and fuzzy. But it’s the truth. All lawyers are not created equal. Just because someone graduated from law school and passed the bar, does not mean they are a great lawyer. Most law school classes don’t teach the law of the state or jurisdiction that a person practices law in, and most law school classes don’t pertain to the area of law someone practices. Not only that, the bar exam is a standardized test. It can’t possibly capture the complexities of the real world or all of the skills it takes to be a great lawyer.

So, what does that mean for you?

It means that, like with everything else in life, you can make better decisions on behalf of yourself or your company if you do your homework and are scrutinizing. When you are hiring a lawyer, don’t just pick the only lawyer you happen to know. Dig deeper. Research their firm’s website. Find references. Interview them (they shouldn’t charge you to do this). Familiarize yourself with the issues, and then try to get your potential lawyer to demonstrate that he or she understands them far better. Once you are working with a lawyer, make sure that you continue to scrutinize. And if you ever start to get a hint that you aren’t getting the legal advice you should be, don’t hesitate to say goodbye.

Lawyers have credentials, yes. But that does not mean that they are special, or that they are always right. Always question, always scrutinize, and always look for the lawyer who you “trust with your life.” Because there are lawyers out there who you should. And they are absolutely the person you want on your side when it is all on the line.

Katie Treadway is the Head of Regulatory Affairs at One Energy.

Learn more about Katie and the One Energy team.