The Human Lawyer is an interesting label. It is interesting because those of us focused on legal technology have now seen dozens of news articles, columns and blog posts about whether robot lawyers or Artificial Intelligence tools are coming for our jobs. Colin S. Levy’s insightful blog post is not about that subject.
I try to avoid the temptation to do a blog post about a blog post. But we all should understand that the humans working as legal professionals today are definitely under stress and that impacts, among many other things, the business and profession of law. Among the many insightful observations that Professor Richard Susskind has made is that our clients prefer, and are better served by, a fence at the top of a cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom. I recently listened to another discussion about stress and mental health challenges in the legal profession and thought that this also applies to our profession. While we certainly need the ambulances, and more of them, it is much harder to figure out how to construct the fences. I note the oft-repeated observation that law students begin law school with a very similar psychological profile to the rest of the population and graduate with many of the negative psychological challenges of our profession. This is not to throw all of our problems at the feet of the law schools, but those institutions must be involved along with the rest of us in building the fences.
Some lawyer stress is inevitable. If you have no stress defending a client on charges where the state is seeking the death penalty or while handling a complex multi-million dollar transaction, you wouldn’t be human. But we all understand there’s more to the problem than just this. We have to make important and impactful decisions when the law or ethics rules are unclear. But there’s more to the problem than that as well. Even as I blog about about this blog post, I am determined to avoid spoilers. But I do have two goals. I want you to take the time this week to read Colin S. Levy’s The Human Lawyer and I want you to share it with at least one other legal professional. It’s not an easy or short read, but for some (likely many) it may be very impactful.