I often tell young laywers at Berghco that being a corporate laywer is amongst the most exciting jobs you can have, mainly because of two reasons. The first reason is that you work with complex problems. One and the same transaction can concern everything from contract and tax law to protection of personal data. The second reason (and probably the most important one) is that you work with people. In the end, every company is owned by a natural person (except for foundations, but there are still people who works there).
Furthermore, there are people who work and lead the companies. A corporate lawyers always has to be both theoretically skilled and able to use the law together with people. But where do you learn how to apply your knowledge and how to work with other people in a good way? In any case, there is no class in law school with the name “to practically apply knowledge and to work with people”.
During recent years, some univerities have established an education in what’s called “practical knowledge” which concerns how to apply theoretical knowledge when interacting with people. At Södertörn University, there is a center for a practical knowledge who recently published an anthology with different publications on the subject. The subject is far from new. 2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote a book about the Nicomachean Ethics, a subject that still is highly relevant.
How can a corporate lawyer act to be wise?
Aristotle says that in order to be wise you have to pace yourself. Translated to our world, a wise lawyer should not jump to conclusions. Aristotle suggests that you should deliberate slowly but then execute the decision fast. He emphasizes that wisdom is connected with compassion and good ethics.
The knowledge to act wisely is simply taught through experience, and that is not something you get overnight. But if we learn from the good Aristotle there are som advices that young corporate lawyers may find useful:
- Learn from more experienced colleagues.
- Ask questions about why a certain decision has been made.
- Don’t rush things; carefully weigh different alternative courses of action against each other. Discuss the different options with the client and always keep goodness and good ethics in mind.
- Consider that the decisions made are to help the client in the absolute best way. It shall contribute to a long-term sustainable solution.
At Berghco we try to keep the wisdom alive by working in teams; older and younger lawyers work together to find the wisest and best conclusion for the client in every single situation. And to think in terms of good ethics is a given. If we for example think that we can help the client in a faster and/or cheaper way then the client is proposing we of course bring it up. Aristotle’s thoughts are by all means alive at Bergh & Co.