Silliness about doing rocket science all the time as the primary goal for in-house lawyers

It’s easy to say, “In-house counsel should spend their time on the highest-value-added tasks they can identify.” An unstated assumption shadows that view: lawyers like tough challenges, they enjoy sophisticated legal work that demands of them full attention and all their faculties.

Then I read that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has concluded that “the activities that yield the highest for satisfaction with life require the successful performance of challenging tasks.” (Financial Times, Jan. 17-18, 2004 at W2). He calls those moments “flow,” “when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable.”

I do not believe that most in-housers yearn to be fully involved in overcoming challenges. That exudes and ratchets up stress.

The well-known value pyramid of legal services, with a few bet-your company matters at the tip, a goodly portion of useful and significant work in the middle, and much commodity work across the broad bottom, depicts well the balance lawyers in corporations seek: some cutting edge, high pressure deals, but a steadier diet of conceptually familiar questions and tasks, and a fair amount of routine so they can recuperate, run the marathon, stay sane and avoid cardiac problems.

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