Clients are from Pluto, lawyers from Mercury – huge personality differences mean change is due

Peter Kurer, the former chairman of UBS and before that its general counsel, spoke at the Legal Week Corporate Counsel Forum last week. One portion of his remarks sketched a typology of behavioral and psychological differences between business people and lawyers. Here are my notes.

  1. Business people seek closure; lawyers are perfectionists.

  2. Business people want simplicity; lawyers revel in complexity.

  3. Business people focus on opportunities; lawyers focus on risks.

  4. Business people are optimists; lawyers are cynics.

  5. Business people are proactive and set the agenda; lawyers are reactive and question it.

  6. Business people want certainty about the future; lawyers see only mists and possibilities.

  7. Business people care about emotions; lawyers, rationality and arguments.

  8. Business people build trust and confidence; lawyers subscribe to caveat emptor.

  9. Business people believe lawyers are boring; lawyers proudly confirm it.

His understated conclusion after listing these contrary natures, worlds apart, was that to be successful in-house, lawyers need to shift their style. They need to work and deliver their work differently.

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