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The Mentality and Attitudes of Lawyers

I Want to Be a Fire Truck

Adults often ask young children what they want to be when they grow up.  I knew one child who insisted that he wanted to be a fire truck. Nobody could convince this fellow that he could not be a fire truck. You can be a “firefighter” they told him. But no, he insisted that he wanted to be a fire truck.

The adults persisted. They argued with the lad to try to convince him that his dream could not come true. Eventually he gave in and admitted that he could not be a firetruck. Relieved that the child had come to accept reality, they asked him, “now that you understand that you cannot be a firetruck, what do you want to be when you grow up?”  He replied, “a police car.”

This is a true story. I think. I remember it this way. (The wannabe fire truck who is now an adult admits to the fire truck part of the story but claims that the police car episode is a later add-on by an inventive sibling.)

In any event, you and I have both met people like that. They get an idea in their head and they just won’t give it up. All the logic in the world does not help.

I can accept this worldview when it comes from a three-year-old. When it comes from a lawyer who is being paid big bucks to get a deal done, it can be more than just a little bit annoying. In that vein, if you are a lawyer, I offer the following questions to help you determine whether you are an adult or a three-year-old in expensive clothes:

  1. Is your goal to “win,” or to address the material risks in the most cost-effective way possible?
  2. Is your way the only way that things should be done?
  3. Does “give and take” mean that the other side gives and you take?
  4. Can the other side have a legitimate concern if you don’t agree with it?
  5. Is it important for everyone involved in the transaction to know that you are smartest person in the room or on the Zoom?

We all bring our psychological baggage to our careers. Good counsel figure that out and mature.  Others do not.

On the subject of three-year-olds, Emily is my very independent granddaughter. She recently had a melt-down, as a three-year-old is apt to do. Her mother handed Emily a piece of a banana. Emily did not like that. She wanted to bite into the banana whole. For a time, she was somewhat inconsolable.

You see, Emily likes things the way she likes them. She will most likely grow out of that. Some children will not.  I once closed a deal with the name partner of a law firm who was well into his sixties. At the closing meeting he asked me to provide an opinion letter. I said no for the simple reason that the agreement of purchase and sale did not require us to provide one.  He had a melt-down, not unlike Emily’s melt down, but not nearly as cute. Then he kicked a filing cabinet and stormed out of the room.

You see, like Emily, this partner did not like when he did not get his own way.  He wasn’t that good a lawyer.  He really should have been a fire truck.

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