Arena lawyer

10 May 21

It is the rare lawyer that takes a keen interest in a topic to the point of research and publication. Even rarer is the lawyer who courts criticism and reaction. By teaching, and accepting challenge, such a lawyer becomes an arena lawyer, willing to put herself out there.

The arena lawyer becomes an expert, and in doing so, adds to the collective knowledge of our trade.

And experts—even lawyers—are experts first, and competitors second. Law firms large and small go to great lengths to source original content, as a means of demonstrating expertise. This expertise can be easily appropriated by the competition, and yet the freely shared legal content flow never ceases.

This coopetition between lawyers is akin to that between software developers participating in open source software projects. Like lawyers, developers are valued by their time, exercise technical judgment on a daily basis, and use words and language as the tools of their trade. And like lawyers, they and their clients and employers can be extreme competitors.

And yet developers freely share valuable work in open source communities, with robust management encouragement. Why? Because collaboration—teaching expertise and accepting challenge—produces better code.

By challenging and teaching expertise, the arena lawyer becomes a better lawyer, and in the process, elevates our profession.