What lawyers can learn from investment banking and manufacturing

What lawyers can learn from investment banking and manufacturing

This is the second of a series of three blogs looking at what lawyers can learn from other industries. In part one, we looked at the importance of putting the interests of your clients first (treating them like royalty, no less) and the need to make sure your financial acumen was up to scratch. In this part, I am going to pick on two more industries – investment banking and manufacturing – and explore risk appetite and the elimination of waste.

Investment banking: appropriate risk appetite

Diving straight in at the deep end this week, I am holding out investment banks as an example of an area we can learn from and improve what we do. In the current climate, this is perhaps “brave” (as Sir Humphrey would say), so it had better be good…

For all you can say about the investment banking industry over the last few years, you have to admit that it has generated vast amounts of income. Yes, I recognise it was not always legitimate and there have been plenty of controversies and regulatory issues, but there is something about investment banks that intrigues me – risk appetite.

If we were to draw a scale of risk appetite, most people would tend to put lawyers towards the end marked “cautious” and investment bankers towards the end marked “reckless”. Some lawyers would trumpet this as a mark of their value or intelligence but I do not see that this should automatically be the case. With a few exceptions (eg criminal activity), it is not the job of a lawyer to be the ‘Department of “No”’ or the arbiter of good decision making – we are there to apply the law, assess the risks and provide options to our clients and then allow them to run the business.  The options provided need to run the full gamut, from risky to those which are totally safe (if there are any).

Likewise, when your are negotiating a deal or arrangement, there is going to be a perfect position (which you will rarely achieve) and there is going to be a pragmatic, middle-ground which might not be perfect but will either get you most of the way or will entail taking a risk that you feel is unlikely to arise in reality.

And that is the key point – in the real world, outside of contracts,

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