None of them is earth-shattering, but they’ve certainly been useful in my efforts to keep commercial transactions heading in the right direction:
- Exchanging emails is not a conversation/meetings are king – sending an email is like posting a letter. It’s a means of getting a document from A to B, only faster than using snail-mail. If you’ve something crucial to discuss, go and discuss it face-to-face. If that’s not feasible, try a video-conference, or failing that, a phone call;
- Identify the key objectives early. I had a client who always set out the 3 key commercial objectives at the start of each transaction. Every time he had to make a decision on a commercial point, he was guided by the objectives; my job was to advise whether in legal terms, we were being taken closer to or further from those 3 objectives; and
- Lawyers are a form of insurance – linked to lesson 2, we should identify risks, highlight them to our client, discuss the client’s appetite for risk, draft to reduce the risk as far as possible, and propose alternatives. The client then decides whether to accept the risk and proceed, stop, or choose an alternative.
It’s taken me 30 years to learn what some may consider obvious, but it’s important that as commercial lawyers, we realise that what we do is a commercial exercise and not an academic exercise in drafting perfection or points-scoring.