There's an expectation that something I said ten years ago is still as correct now as it was then. By contrast, being a weather forecaster or an economist doesn’t seem to carry the same weight of expectation. I've lost count of how many times various supposedly learned economists have 'revised their forecasts [upwards][downwards]' in light of subsequent developments. What's clever about that? Ever since the recent recession began, I've been meaning to keep a record of every economic forecast reported on the BBC website, and then track (i) how quickly it's revised; and (ii) the extent of the revision. Needless to say, I've been too busy dispensing legal advice (hopefully accurately) to get round to keeping such a nerdy record, but anecdotally, the speed and extent of the revisions is significant. Likewise, I've lost track recently of the number of times that the weather forecast has been for dry weather, I've gone out looking forward to a decent (by British standards) day and then been soaked half an hour later. If the forecasters can't even forecast what's going to happen in thirty minutes, what's the point?
So am I saying that my advice is always correct? No, of course I'm not saying that. I'm human and sometimes I make mistakes, but I'm prepared to stand behind my advice, even though the law is rarely black and white. Also, we have a system of checks and balances here so that the risk of mistakes is minimised. Anyway, you might say that economics and meteorology are arts rather than sciences, but when I did my law degree, law was sometimes classified as an art (as opposed to being in any other faculty). However, that doesn’t seem to allow me the same degree of latitude as the economists or the meteorologists. If you know the story of Group Captain Sir James Stagg, you'll know that he was the chief meteorologist advising General Eisenhower on the likely weather on the intended date of the D-Day landings in 1944. Armed with little more than a pencil, some very rudimentary pressure readings and a fantastic knowledge of the atmosphere, Stagg recommended on 4 June that the landings should be delayed from 5 June until 6 June, by which time he forecast that the weather would be much better-suited to the beach landings. He did that without satellite photos or modern super-computing power and with minimal weather observations during a time of war. That's quite an achievement and puts our 21st century forecasting in the shade (if you'll pardon the pun).
Back in July I mentioned that my team was working on various deals including a company sale and two private equity investments. I'm delighted to say that we completed the two private equity investments, plus a third one that came along at short notice, and we also completed the share sale. The completion of those deals coincided with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and it’s somehow symbolic that The Ladyboys of Bangkok have just packed up; their marquee on The Meadows, just outside our office, has been taken down and they've returned to Thailand until next year. It means that the summer is coming to an end and now that the Scottish schools have returned, our desks are filling up with the transactions that will keep us occupied until Christmas.
So, getting back to my economist/meteorologist moan, what's my point? I suppose my point is that when you choose your lawyer, make sure he/she has the courage of his/her convictions. A good lawyer should be able to give you the full range of options but also be prepared to say what he/she would do in your shoes. "It might be raining, it might be sunny, but it could well be mixed" isn’t useful advice. "The economy may grow between 1% and 2.5% in the next 12 months" is equally unhelpful (especially if a month later the estimate is revised down to 0.9% in light of prevailing 'economic headwinds' (to mix economics with meteorology)).
Make sure your lawyer is prepared to get off the fence.