The development of digital technology and artificial intelligence has given rise, if not to a real revolution, at least to a real transformation of our profession. Automation, robotization, research and organization of data are optimized and accelerated. Like other professionals, the lawyer finds himself “augmented”, now assisted by artificial intelligence.
We can congratulate ourselves on these developments which allow us to find time to focus on what has always been important but has now become essential: content, analysis, advice; briefly on what makes the added value of our intervention. This major technological advance should also allow us to better consider the role of emotional intelligence – much forgotten in our courses – as the other side of the scales, to find the right balance between the implementation of the law and the support for our customers. It is for us, practitioners, an exercise to deepen regularly. It is for the young generation an imperative to work.
Like you, we have been trained in the law and its techniques for years. Like you, we came out of our courses armed with academic knowledge, technical know-how and legal skills. Like you, we handle rigor, master the rules and procedures. But a few years of practice and daily experience have taught us humility and the need to develop other skills and qualities.
Beyond codes and procedures, every day we move forward on less marked grounds, which require less rational approaches, where understanding of others and of the environment becomes central. The rigor of legal practice must therefore come to terms with a fine understanding of the human or emotional dimensions that underlie all professional relationships, all the more so when the subject is sensitive, critical or strategic.
Working on an acquisition, a sale, a restructuring or a criminal procedure, all these moments are made up of tensions and emotions for our clients, our colleagues, and within our teams. Knowing how to apprehend psychological profiles, understanding what is not verbalized, having an understanding of situations and relationships, constitutes a burning obligation which greatly contributes to the success of our missions; it is almost the guarantee of their smooth running and conversely of their failure.
We are no longer just practitioners who strictly apply the rule of law; we are deal makers, facilitators of complex operations. Empathy, the art of negotiation, the rules of diplomacy or project management, all of this, the law does not teach us. However, all of this plays a key role. And in fact constitutes a major part of the interest of our profession.
The part of humanity that hides behind the entrepreneurial challenges of our clients, the acceptability of administrative and legal complexities, the fine understanding of individualities, we must not only assimilate them but we must better assume them, and impose them as dimensions central to the full exercise and good practices of our profession.
The mastery of law is our basic baggage, our common language. But the difference now lies elsewhere. In what our courses have unfortunately not sufficiently integrated as essential skills for business life: empathy, listening, pedagogy, communication, conviction, even creativity! Because our interventions are strategic, because they affect sensitive areas, because a project can succeed or, on the contrary, fail or become more complex due to the lack of emotional analysis of the situation, all these skills linked to interpersonal skills the Anglo-Saxons designate under the name general skills are to be developed. These are the only ways to move forward with agility and success.
If the lawyer really wants to be “increased”, then adding the services of robots or software that are more efficient every day will not be enough. And, as technique and technology take precedence, the difference will be even more on relational and emotional capacities and skills. To be a lawyer is above all and above all to want to accompany men and women in moments of life, professional and personal, sensitive and strategic.
The question that remains open once we have recalled this principle is the following: is it better to have The path to yes (R. Fischer and W. Ury, Getting to Yes: Negotiating a deal without giving in), Where The art of War of Sun Tzu as a bedside book when one is a business lawyer? I lean resolutely for the first option, but leave each reader the freedom to choose the method that suits him best.