One Lawyer’s Case Against the Law

31 May ’05

Fast Company has a piece on Covington & Burlington M&A partner Phillip Howard’s campaign against the U.S. legal culture of victimhood. The article dates back a while (and since then the battle over the lawsuit culture of the U.S. has become more intense); what caught my eye was a current link to the story from a quote by Howard: “Legal fear has become a defining feature of our culture.”

This resonates with me because I’ve long thought that a core value in the business model of many law firms is an exaggeration of the legal risks of doing business. This is not limited to law, of course – fear is a core selling strategy in many businesses. And in most cases I don’t think this is consciously ill-intended – it’s more a question of culture, and the creeping tacit acceptance of the status quo that comes with concern for one’s own bottom line. But I’ve often been intrigued by the inherent conflict of interest that lies in giving advice about the scope of risk and then selling services to manage that same risk. The more dangerous the world is, the more $ one needs to spend on managing the risk of being in it, etcetera, ad infinitum.

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