Intuition and the Decisions of Law Department Managers

I am intensely curious about how people make decisions.  Senior lawyers in law departments, all lawyers in fact, spend the common coin of making decisions, of choosing among various ideas and multiple possible actions. Should we sue or not; is the mark subject to registration; can we negotiate for this point; is the loss material?

So when I read in Consulting to Management (Vol. 16, No. 1, March 2005) the following, it seemed worth sharing:

A survey of over 2,000 top executives shows that they rely more on intuition than they admit.  They don’t admit it because intuition, being so subjective, is often mistrusted or negatively perceived as a decision-making strategy. [Citation to a 1992 article in Industrial Mgt.]

Lawyers, steeped through law school and practice in reasoning from cases and statutes, trained to proceed step by step and point by point, honored for incisive questions and discriminating distinctions, find it especially hard to go with their gut.  “Feeling” that a decision is right is “negatively perceived.” 

Yet, if you read Antonio Damasio’s Descarte’s Error or anything about neuropsychology, you realize that our decision-making apparatus partakes of as much cerebral order as it does genetic hard-wiring, chemical reactions, and bodily signals that guide us faster than thought. We are far from the rational creatures we pride ourselves to be.  (I wrote an article about decision traps as they affect lawyers.)  Intuition in law departments has a vital place and those who learn to listen and trust can often succeed where Spock falls flat.

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