Saturday, November 20, 2010

Issue spotting versus problem solving

In the "New Normal" column  of the online ABA Journal blog, columnist Paul Lippe notes that law school's emphasis on "issue spotting" trains lawyers to find reasons why the client's proposal won't work rather than help her find ways that it will.  Essentially, the client wants your help to move forward, not give her a litany of reasons why she can't.

One of the common critiques of law school and lawyers is the proclivity to “issue-spotting,” to identify problems in a proposed course of action.

In theory, issue-spotting helps sharpen understanding of a problem and application of a solution. In reality, it’s often a passive-aggressive way to express skepticism that can be pretty destructive and divorced from responsibility (“it could be risky to get in the elevator because it might fall out of the sky”…oooo-k, how often do these things actually fall, and are you going to walk to the 43rd floor?”).

. . . .

In today’s New Normal, inertia through issue spotting is a recipe for disaster. Global competition and technology are transforming the landscape for clients and lawyers – identifying low probability reasons why a particular action may not work is much less useful than obtaining a deep understanding of the problem and proffering solutions tailored to it.

You can read the rest of Mr. Lippe's column here.


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