Why no one cares about your hard work anymore
How lawyers can stand out in a world where we're judged on outcomes not effort
I fell into this trap. Growing up, my teachers and parents seemed to always value hard work. I guess hard work correlated with good outcomes. Study harder = higher grades.
And I think as a generation we have internalised this lesson. It’s pervasive.
As a result: if I don’t work hard, I tend to feel guilty. I can’t help it (I know a lot of people feel the same way!)
Another variation of this. As a team, if we spend many many hours on a contract mark-up for a client (and we charge fixed-fees) it’s really tempting to want to let the client know. Just to get some credit for our hard work!
But this logic starts to break down when we compete with a machine. For example, if your accountant wants credit for spending 10 hours on something that Xero can do in 10 seconds, that accountant should fear for their job, not expect praise.
What’s more. If your customers/stakeholders are used to getting things instantly, the work that’s still done manually, feels extra slow. So even if you spent all night on it, the stakeholder may still not be 100% happy.
They care about the outcome, i.e. ‘when can I sign this contract please’. Not the art of lawyering.
It’s scary, because we won’t get an A-grade anymore, just for working hard and applying our craft.
But it’s liberating too. If we can figure out how to get an outcome in 10 seconds that used to take 2 weeks, we do get credit for finding that innovation/hack/shortcut.
Case in point: for our SaaS Contract playbook tool (LexPlay) we used to negotiate standard SaaS terms. Would typically take 3 weeks of back-and-forth.
We then switched to open source BonTerms. Which are drafted specifically to be in line with market practice and lead to less negotiation. Now it takes just 2 days.
In the beginning it feels a bit weird. When you are so used to the groove of negotiating back-and-forth, when the work just disappears, it feels like something’s wrong, this must be risky!
But as lawyers we’re going to have to get used to this. This is what will be expected of us: to leverage the tools of tomorrow to find ways to do less legal work.
We’ll hopefully be rewarded by being able to work fewer evenings and spend more time with our families!
Thanks for being here,
P.S. I was inspired to write this post by chatting with Andrew Cooke yesterday (General Counsel at Travelperk).
He’s one of the most forward thinking GCs I’ve met and wrote an excellent article on Crafty Counsel where he talks about using Chatbots to reduce the number of tickets that reach his legal team (clever stuff!)
You can read the article here: https://craftycounsel.co.uk/real-life-stories-of-generative-ai-for-in-house-legal-with-andy-cooke/