::.law + strategy.::.law + governance.::.law + politics.::. ::.you get the jist.::
I recently got Called to the Bar and became a lawyer. It still feels strange. The phrase “I’m a lawyer” still doesn’t sit quite right on my tongue.
As well, I suppose, it has been years of saying “well, I’m actually NOT a lawyer, so…”
But now I am, which means I’ll have to re-formulate my disclaimers. People sometimes wonder why lawyers are so cagey about opining on legal situations.
It’s not just because we want to be paid for our professional services. It’s also because providing some sort of legal opinion will often import professional liability. This means that we need to be pretty sure of what we’re saying before we say it–and even then, there’s a good deal of uncertainty in outcomes once the matter gets brought before a judge.
Given all that, lawyers can’t really say much about a specific situation without looking at any relevant documents involved (this is, after all law. A tiny difference in wording can make a big difference in implications–one example in employment and copyright law is the vast and gaping ravine of a difference between a “contract OF service” and a “contract FOR services”). It means trying to make sure that we have all the relevant facts–not just the facts that the person at the cocktail party thinks are relevant–as well as looking up case law, and trying to be as thorough as possible in finding relevant jurisprudence. And finally, it means clarifying to clients which facts we had available to consider as part of our opinion. All of which takes time and thought, and none of which lends itself to a casual conversation at a party, alas.
Stay tuned for the new disclaimer: “I’m afraid I can’t give legal advice outside of a formal retainer…”