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The Agile Attorney Podcast, Season 1, Episode 3: The Voice of the Client, Amy

Podcast Episode 3, Voice of the Client: Amy

podcast voice of the client Jul 07, 2021

In Season 1 of the Agile Attorney Podcast, we are focusing on the Voice of the Client.  I am bringing you the stories of real people in their own voice talking about the challenges and successes they have had dealing with lawyers.  

Today you will hear from Amy who only has good things to say about the lawyers she works with on a regular basis.  For me it highlights what's possible when there's strong mission alignment and open lines of communication between attorney and client.  Amy also disavows me of a false dichotomy that I was trying to draw between lawyers and scientists so I will go ahead and take my lumps on that one.  Overall I really appreciate how she thinks about the role of her lawyers in helping her frame the important business decisions she has to make.

Some of my favorite quotes from the interview include:

  • “I see scientists and our legal team similarly, in that they are essentially our headlights. Our scientists look up, look forward, and they are helping us understand what risks are coming through through the ecosystem. They're helping us understand uncertainty, where we have uncertainty, where we need to mitigate that uncertainty. And I see our legal team really doing the same thing. They’re our headlights around policy issues and legal risk, and they just do an excellent job of flagging it without engendering fear.”

  • “We have a joke that lawyers are splitters from Splitsville. They're hair splitters, and they're exceedingly careful with their language. They know where the weeds are and they are happy to go and dig into them, which is really kind of the opposite of policymakers. Policymakers are generalists and we work at a level of generally: how can we do this? And it's more about bringing new ideas together or packaging multiple ideas in a way that meets multiple needs—either stakeholder needs or multiple ecosystem needs or multiple outcomes. And that thinking—that policymaking thinking of, of bringing things together to sort of meet the need—is really different from how I think our lawyers think about it. They're sort of interested in teasing it all apart and putting things into smaller chunks that they can address. So they are two different ways of thinking. [The lawyers] do a nice job of sort of using their expertise to tease it apart and then help us rebuild it so that it makes good legal sense.”

  • “[The lawyers’ and the scientists’] job is not necessarily to solve the problem. The scientist is not the manager and the lawyer is not the manager. The manager has to solve the problem. And the manager must look to the science and must look to the legal components of it to make the best management decision. But science doesn't offer the answer. Science offers a suite of risks, uncertainties, past experience probabilities. But I don't know of a single case where science is so clear that you say, ‘oh, I know the management choice because I read the science.’ It just doesn't work. There are other things you have to weigh. And that's how I feel about the legal side: when the lawyers bring us the analysis of the problem statement that we're wrestling with, they don't have ‘the answer’ either.”

  • “In my mind, the greatest gift of our lawyers and of our scientists is to give us their best thinking and their best professional judgment about how this might play out from their perspective, but not to be so heavy handed. To lay it out without assuming they know the full suite, because they're carrying a very large basket, but it's only one of the multiple baskets that the managers have to weigh.”

  • “One thing that I appreciate enormously from our legal team is their commitment to mentorship. … When we are working on allocating resources, these are relationships and negotiations that have been ongoing for 40 years. So that legal counsel that we've had, these great thinkers with this enormous historical knowledge—they know where all the, all the little ticks and twitches are in these agreements—and they're retiring. And our legal team has really taken on the approach of mentorship as they bring new people in, and those new lawyers sit with us and they are silent for maybe a year. And then they take a little bit and they take a little bit more. And we… I see the enormous benefit of that mentorship.”

I'd love to hear what you think, so please listen to the episode and then drop me a line via email or on social media.

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