Does Aristotle have anything to teach us business lawyers?
I usually tell young lawyers at Berghco that being a business lawyer is among the most exciting things you can be due to two things: that you work with complex problems, one and the same business can affect everything from contract law to taxes and protection of personal data and (perhaps first and foremost) that you work with people.
Ultimately, every company is owned by a natural person (with the exception of foundations, but in foundations people also work) and in the companies it is people who lead and work.
A business lawyer must therefore be both theoretically skilled and able to practically apply the law together with people. But where do you learn how to apply your knowledge and how to work with other people in a good way? In any case, there is no course in law education called “applying practical knowledge and working with people”.
In recent years, gratifyingly enough, some universities have introduced training in something called practical knowledge, which is about how to use your theoretical knowledge when interacting with people. At Södertörn University, there is a center for practical knowledge that has just published an anthology with various publications on practical knowledge. The subject is far from new, already 2,300 years ago Aristotle wrote a book on the so-called Nicomachean ethics, something that is still very much relevant today.
How can a business lawyer act to be wise? Aristotle says that one must be prudent to be wise. Translated into our world, a wise lawyer should beware of drawing too quick conclusions but rather take the time to go through and discuss all the facts carefully.
Aristotle believes that one should deliberate slowly, but then quickly implement what one has decided. He emphasizes that wisdom is associated with compassion and good ethics. And that in compassion there is often the truth.
To act wisely
Acting wisely is simply learned through experience and it is not something you get in the blink of an eye, but if we are to learn from the good Aristotle, there are some tips that young business lawyers can enjoy:
- Learn from other more experienced colleagues
- Ask questions about why a certain decision was made
- Do not be in too much of a hurry, but carefully weigh different action options against each other.
- Discuss the different options with the customer, and always have kindness and good ethics in the balance for the decision.
Remember that the decisions that are made should help the customer in the absolute best way. It will contribute to long-term sustainable solutions.
At Berghco, we try to keep wisdom alive by working in teams; older and younger lawyers always discuss together what is the wisest and best decision for the client in each individual situation.
And thinking good ethics is a matter of course – if, for example, we think we can help the customer in a faster and / or cheaper way than the customer suggests, we will of course bring it up with the customer. Aristotle’s thoughts are very much alive with us.