“Law operates as a horizontal system of management, not a school of philosophy.”

December 3rd, 2011

From Legal Rebels on The New Normal:

If law is taught primarily as a system of reasoning, where every situation presents unique or near-unique legal problems for which lawyers consider and devise their own solutions, then it simply can’t scale. Yet for the thousands of things organizations do every day that have a legal component to them—hire, manage and fire people, make stuff, manage data, interact with customers, enter into contracts, buy or sell assets or securities—law operates as a horizontal system of management, not a school of philosophy.

In a networked, connected and largely transparent world, the challenge is not to constantly reinvent the wheel, but to best understand all the dimensions of the problem and then find the most similar solution that’s already been successfully applied, and refine it as required by any unique facts. Indeed, almost all legal discussions among clients, after first attempting to argue from first principles, end up simply referencing a previous approach the parties are familiar with.

Is this a different style of problem-solving than lawyers are taught in law school? I don’t know, but it is the only style they’ll be able to get paid for in the New Normal. More importantly, it’s the only way that organizations will be able to manage complexity in a global and highly regulated world.

This is something I hope to infuse in my classroom.