The role of the lawyer: from myth to reality

 Philippe Gilliéron

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- Philippe Gilliéron
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“I am a lawyer. At these words, I perceived an imperceptible movement of retreat on the part of my interlocutor while he examined the business card that I handed him. The “ohhh” that followed spoke volumes about his dismay and his desire to get out of what he no doubt felt was an ambush. Uneasy, I then smiled by way of apology, adding “there needs to be some”.

Let the lawyer who has never found himself in such a situation during so-called networking evenings with a glass in his hand raise the other. If Me Derville, as portrayed by Balzac in Colonel Chabert, was a highly respected and feared notable, this Epinal image has largely been cracked. Today, the lawyer is only feared, for reasons that are moreover less respectable than those that justified the fear inspired by Me Derville.

There is no shortage of clichés surrounding lawyers: expensive, pursuing only their own interests, which are in reality far removed from those of their clients, and therefore dishonest and unsympathetic, lawyers are also dull and boring, and therefore not very pleasant to be around, whatever the context.

From there to say that if there is one person you should not trust, it is your lawyer, there is only one step, taken by many. From there, it is difficult to build a relationship of trust; lawyer, this unloved person…

Although partly responsible for the image he conveys, the lawyer suffers from the limited role that popular imagery devotes to him, which is not unlike the role assigned to Captain Flam :

« Au fin fond de l’Univers, à des années et des années-lumière de la Terre, veille celui le gouvernement intersidéral appelle quand il n’est plus capable de trouver une solution à ses problèmes, quand il ne reste plus aucun espoir : Le Capitaine FLAM ! » (lyrics : Jean-Jacques Debout)

A conflict solver, the ultima ratio when there is no way out, the lawyer would thus be a modern Captain Flam…

Even if we have to give up the flattering role of Captain Flam, this myth does not correspond to the role of the lawyer as we conceive it at Wilhelm Gilliéron Attorneys Corp. and as it should be perceived and felt by everyone in reality from our point of view.

While the lawyer may have to play the role of healer when he has no choice, he must prefer preventive medicine to curative one. The well-known principle that it is more effective and less costly to prevent illness than to cure it applies equally to business.

The earlier the lawyer intervenes, the better he can help you anticipate problems and make the right decisions. To confine the lawyer to the role of a man of justice is to limit him to a role that should only be his in case of failure. It is then difficult for the lawyer to untangle a series of bad decisions for which he has never been consulted; having to react afterwards is always more difficult than having a say before.

In other words, your lawyer must be your business partner, the one who helps you make the right decisions and focus your energy and efforts on developing your business. Understanding that the lawyer’s intervention is an integral part of your risk management process, by allowing him to assess the risks and advise you on how to minimize them from a legal point of view, is to give him back his role, a useful one where you enable him to offer you his real added value.

To be a lawyer is to accept to live in the shadow of his client, to aim never to appear for a very simple reason: our role is not to settle conflicts, but to prevent them by helping our clients to carry out their businesses. To appear on the outside as a lawyer, to become visible to third parties, is to acknowledge a failure, that of not having been able to anticipate a conflict that has broken out.

To do this, the client must restore the lawyer to his or her proper role as an advisor who helps you build your business on a solid foundation that can support the floors above. Needless to say, to succeed, the lawyer must be hired at the foundation stage, before the upper floors are built and begin to crack…

As a result, to be a good lawyer is to be closer to the Invisible Man than to Captain Flam. This is what we do every day at Wilhelm Gilliéron Attorneys Corp.: to help you move forward serenely in your business by anticipating and advising you in your legal risk management. Facilitator in business, that is our role.

Invisible Man or Captain Flam, we chose; it’s up to you.

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