It is not in my nature

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The design of legal products

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A scorpion asks a frog to carry it across the river. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung.

“But,” says the scorpion, “if I sting you, we will both drown”.
“I see!” says the frog. “Hop on!”
They wade into the river. Midway across, the scorpion stings the frog.
With his dying breath, the frog cries, “Why did you do that? Now we both will die!”
The scorpion shrugs. “It’s in my nature.”

A sense check one should always run before proposing a sensible, rational and logical change to a well-established process.

Rational, logical and sensible processes are not always the prime motivating force when you deal with another human. Especially a legal eagle. What is his nature?

Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this man you seek?

Clarice Starling: He kills women...
Lecter: No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What needs does he serve by killing?
Starling: Anger ... social acceptance .... and ... sexual frustrations, sir...
Lecter: No! He covets. That is his nature. And how do we begin to covet, Clarice? Do we seek out things to covet?

Silence of the Lambs

Now, let us imagine the same scene, in the legal operations team.

Lecter: First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. “Of each particular thing ask: what is it in itself? What is its nature?” What does she need, this legal eagle of yours?

Clarice: To innovate!
Lecter: No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing a legal eagle does? What needs does she serve by “innovating”?
Clarice: Er ... chatbots? ... document assembly? ... legal reference data? ... MIS... Sir —
Lecter: No! She covers! That is her nature.
Clarice: Covers? Covers what?
Lecter: Arse, Clarice. Arse!
Clarice: Oh, right.
Lecter: And how do we cover arse, Clarice? Do we seek out arse to cover? Make an effort to answer now.
Clarice: No. We just...
Lecter: We begin by covering the arse we see every day. Our own arse, Clarice. Don’t you see people dissembling daily, to explain why whatever just happened wasn’t their fault? And don’t you make excuses to avoid responsibility for the things you didn’t pay attention to?
Clarice: Just tell me how —
Lecter: No. It is your turn to tell me, Clarice.

Remember the dilemma of the agency problem. An agent’s first duty is to himself. Pat talk about sacred callings, legal obligation, trust, fiduciary responsibility is for the birds — no agent takes a forward step, or a backwards one, for that matter — without that being

See also