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The Beyond Branding blog

September 10, 2003

Help! The lawyers have run amok! 

One of the reasons I didn't become a fully paid-up member of the Bar was I couldn't in good conscience lie for a living.
   And as I work more in ethics and branding, I realize I made the right choice, though plenty of damage has been done by the legal profession.
   The quest for billable hours means that there are law firms that will assign work to the wrong people to maximize returns.
   The problem goes, sadly, deeper. Here in Sweden, my colleague Stefan Engeseth told me how Swedish agreements used to be a single page. Then the Americans came in and showed them "how it should be done". Now the Swedes are affected by legalitis as most westerners.
   Yet I know from experience that there are more than enough people in the US quite happy to do work on a handshake. I don't agree that the bigger the firm, the less likely the handshake can work.
   However, there are enough suspicious people in these larger firms that do not know how to trust, having grown up in an environment driven by duress and fear. Such duress and fear are locked in by legal contracts.
   In such a society, how can people freely and happily go about their work?
   How can the presence of duress make work easier? Are people then sincere about what they deliver?
   Probably not. It makes any work one does akin to being a lawyer.
   As someone who works in the United States as well as other countries, I don't agree that I need a 15 pp. document telling me what my obligations are.
   I operate on an exchange of duties, which is how we would be operating if we were making an agreement over our garden fence. The phenomenon of contract is still based on this, as much as lawyers might tell us otherwise. Paper contracts are only for proof, but they do not affect the consensus ad idem that forms the nexus of the agreement.
   I say screw up the contracts and start working like people with self-governed duties to one another. The strange thing is, unless you confront the suspicious types, this actually works. And has worked. Even in the United States of America, where 'land of the free' in the national anthem has no superscript number next to it with the corresponding note, 'subject to provisions in the Third Restatement of Contracts and other formal documents.'
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