Law – The fire within…
I must confess: I am not a legal expert and my closest encounter with a courtroom is through the safety of a television screen.
I realised recently however, that inside my brain I have multiple and conflicting views of “The law”.
I grew up in Athens and, even though my grandfather was a lawyer (or maybe echoing his cynicism), I have grown up with an inherent mistrust of all thing ‘legal’: Legalese language that seeks to confuse and befuddle the average mortal; vulcher lawyers that procrastinate in order to maximise their hourly fees; legal cases that run for years and years because scheduled court hearings get postponed on technicalities; the list goes on…
In another compartment of my brain lives the virtuous, almost glamourous, world of TV courtroom drama with a very diverse portrayal of reality, ranging from Rumpole Of the Bailey and Kavanagh QC to Ally McBeal and Law and Order. Where young and old conscientious lawyers are burning the midnight oil, over endless stacks of case law books, looking for the one nugget that will exonerate their Ill-accused client and where honour, ethics and the omnipotent sage of the presiding Judge, prevail to save the day.
Many many years ago, I was involved in the delivery of early, bespoke Document Management systems to large law firms, such as Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Cameron Markby Hewitt (as it was then…), and others, which gave me yet a different perspective: One where Law firm partners are considered akin to deity, hordes of hopeful legal students and young lawyers work through endless hours of menial tasks in order to establish themselves on a career ladder, where information is king but information systems are a foe and where laborious, manual processes represent the status quo. Admittedly that experience was over ten years ago, but it was a cut-throat business then and I doubt that much has changed since.
More recently, I have been marginally involved with the world of electronic discovery and reading about legal proceedings on both sides of the Atlantic, often through the excellent commentary of Chris Dale’s insightful blog. Through this, I have seen a more earthy view of litigation, where monetary considerations, negotiations, common sense (if such a thing exists….), judgments written in plain English, project management, geopolitical variances and the general admission that nobody, not even judges, are immune to the complexities of technological innovation, paint a picture of a legal environment that looks, well… almost business like! Commercial reality (and the associated astronomical costs of litigation) often dictate that cases are assessed, negotiated and settled on the merits of cost and objectives, not just “fairness” and “justice”.
Which of the views in my brain is more realistic? I don’t know. I find all of them fascinating: I am intrigued, watching an industry which is thousands of years old, constantly evolving and seeking to learn new tricks, acknowledging its own shortcomings and fighting to keep up with technological innovation – just like the rest of us!