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Archive for June, 2010

The decomposition of legal work into discreet task has always fascinated me as in house lawyer.  The hypothesis was that by decomposing, or breaking down repetitive legal work into tasks, one could train non-lawyers to perform those tasks.

For example, one of the most repetitive tasks as a media lawyer for NBC and Telemundo was responding to requests by production to use video or images without a license or permission. The defense for this in news and sports is the fair use of the content. The analysis is too complicated for busy deadline fighting producers to learn. But an intern from law school or any intelligent person could easily learn it and apply it systematically. The methodology is simply breaking down the analysis into modules or task clusters.

Once the process of decomposing legal process begins to gain momentum, the resulting clusters or modules will become more or less standardized. These modules can be outsourced to legal process outsourcing (LPOs). The LPOs will bid for them based upon price, their available infrastructure (talent and systems) and past performance.

It is not inconceivable that these modules become units or widgets that can be processed in different parts of the world at different prices and smoothly supervised and reassembled by the client. This would in effect make legal services a wide open global opportunity. It would in effect erode the monopoly of locality and jurisdiction.

Are you ready?  How do you prepare for this?

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We all know that special forces undergo intensive psychological training.  But how is this relevant to a lawyer going solo?

Today, Donna Seyle lead a LexisHub/MH Connected twitter event: New Attorneys transition into new roles.  #MHJOB I came in late and caught some interactions regarding going solo.  As we can expect from our profession the focus was mostly on the “how” and much less on the “why”. On the “how”,  we excel as a profession, on the “why” we’re weak.

What do I mean by the WHY?

I’m referring to the emotional leverage, the emotionally compelling reasons, the myth or legend that drives one out of inertia and into action despite fear or apprehension. Lawyer events are all excellent about “how” to do this, and “how” to that – we’re very good at it.  However, fear, motivation, etc., are emotional responses that cannot always be dealt with the HOW tactics.

Years ago when I was still involved in martial arts, I met one of the best American martial artists. Today, he trains special forces throughout the world.  I asked him if I could mention him for this blog’s topic and he asked me not to, as his work is delicate and shrouded in privacy.  At the time, I met (call him Ryan), he was teaching the public what he had learned from the Russian system of self defense used by Russian special forces.  When the Soviet Union collapsed he was invited to join them in training. The training was intense and often brutal. I forgot most of the techniques over time as I stopped training about 6 years ago.  However, what is still imprinted in my memory is the emotional training I underwent.

After a day of training outdoors beyond the point of exhaustion, was when the real training began. Ryan would send 2-3 of his trained students to attack me.  As most people give up emotionally to defend themselves at this point of exhaustion, Ryan began creating scenarios in which he elicited intense emotional reactions from me regarding saving my wife or my brother or my children from certain death. What was I willing to do in that moment? War has proven that when we have given up on saving ourselves we will still fight to save others.

When the attack comes at that level of emotional arousal it is devastating. It elicits the often quoted image of a mother lifting a car to rescue her child. The only added ingredient was the WHY.

I was no longer defending myself, I was saving my family.  Exhaustion turned to unimaginable power, strength and speed. Thinking about what to do next did not enter my consciousness, the WHY was the only conscious thought. The “how” was simple to execute and already memorized by my muscles in a day of repetition to exhaustion. The attackers all become like a bush, thorny but permeable. I rushed through them like a charging elephant through the brush.  I felt nothing, I heard nothing…I literally executed them to save my imaginary family.

This type of training is not for everyone. The intense emotional stress creates an adrenalin dump  of unhealthy proportions.  But without years to train spec ops soldiers into masters of hand-to-hand combat, the fastest way to success is emotional training – the “WHY”.  Once you have access to this level of emotional arousal you can trigger it again in a moment of danger.

If you’re going solo and you have any apprehension you need a very strong WHY.  You need emotional leverage.  You need to know you will move forward without hesitation.  Remember  the SWAT team member in Die Hard 1, who pricked himself on a rose thorn during the raid?  In the next scene, he was easily picked off by the terrorists – you need to make sure you’re not that guy.

Whilst you’re not fighting for your life, you are dealing with emotional challenges very different from employment.  If you don’t have a strong “why” you will easily surrender and resort to inertia or some compromise job you will learn to hate later. What is your emotional “WHY” you’re going solo? If you don’t have one, I recommend that you do as the Lexis employee confessed yesterday in the event when faced with a solo opportunity – get a job!

Find the ”why” and the “how” will follow.  🙂

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