What beliefs do law department members take for granted, assume to be true without questioning, and indeed, never articulate? I thought about this after reading Dorothy Leonard and Walter Swap, Deep Smarts: How to Cultivate and Transfer Enduring Business Wisdom (Harv. Bus. School 2005). So-called “deep smarts” – intuition, judgment, experience, and knowledge stored explicitly and often tacitly in people’s heads – make good lawyers indispensable.
Legal deep smarts often rest on underlying assumptions. Some of these bed-rock beliefs law departments hold dear include:
Law is an intellectual profession. Ideas, concepts, analysis and rationality predominate. Smarter is better where corporate counsel are concerned.
Money motivates professionals. Paying more, dangling bonuses as incentives, holding out the possibility of promotion are all means to get more out of in-house counsel.
Professionals will learn on their own. The drive to gain mastery of an area of law applies to in-house lawyers.
Lawyers serve as checks and balances in a company. Everyone else wants to step over the legal line; vigilant lawyers haul them back from plunging into the abyss.
Words are privileged. Incantations, totems, magical phrases, and precise eloquence count. A good lawyer sounds and writes like a lawyer.