State of Legal 2012

I want to start the new year looking at the state of the legal nation. Yes, I am borrowing the format from the constitution; which commands the president thusly:

“He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

— Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

I’m fairly certain that this is the first time I’ve cited the constitution here. It’s about time.

I will leave matters relating to the real Union to our President; you, dear readers, can be the Congress, though. And we know what the public thinks of Congress…

First, a definition. By “legal” I mean the corporate legal industry, i.e., that which is focused on the delivery of law to the enterprise. Like the president, I want to look at some important issues, and then see what it means for the corporate legal agenda this year.

So this is State of Legal 2012 item one: It takes a lawyer.

What I mean is that for all the talk of cost control, collaboration, teamwork, project management or social media “connecting,” nothing gets done unless someone does something. Each of those laudable concepts or techniques can get bogged down by the fact that often everyone is expecting someone else to take ownership and initiate action.

If any enterprise lawyer wants to stand out these days, try this: when someone asks “Who will take on X?” say this first in a confident tone:

I will.

Yes, everyone sitting around the conference room table will turn and instantly look at you. Many will think “Whew, I dodged that bullet.” And at least one will mumble almost audibly “What an idiot…”

What’s more, you do it without caveats, provisos, limitations or memos-to-follow. We’re talking pure, unadulterated commitment.

Responsibility involves risk, and yes, also involves work. Nothing will happen in 2012 without work, so the official sign for the road ahead is:

Taking this image literally, you need the right tools, and you have to dig in the right place. More about both in the coming days. If some lawyers want to take more responsibility publicly, there will be ramifications for legal departments, law firms, and lawyer training, I can assure you.

If there is any Opposition response to this, that can go in the comments. Not exactly equal time, but it’s the best I can do.