I’ve played many roles in my life and like all of us, who I am today and how I think about and approach many topics reflects those experiences and life lessons. You’ve already read about the implications of my race driver role in legal service delivery.  And yes, I still am a race driver. But perhaps one of the most significant roles I played was well before I became a lawyer.  I was a lifeguard.

I like to recall this particular role first and foremost because that’s how I met Marie, my lovely wife for 37 years. But upon reflection, there’s another reason why this role was so important and so instrumental.  For the three years I was a lifeguard, I went in the water to help someone only once.  Now, while diving into the water with a rescue float might conjure up imagery of Baywatch or The Guardian, in my case, that certainly wouldn’t have been warranted.  I was a good swimmer but I was a skinny, lanky kid.  More importantly, the heroic rescue, while applauded by those onshore, is actually the last resort.  Lifeguards are trained to NOT go in the water – unless there simply is no other option.  Even more significant is the realization that having to effectuate a rescue, any rescue, often is the result of bad judgment or inappropriate behavior of the swimmer.  As such, while I went in the water only once, I blue my whistle a lot, a whole lot.  A whistle is the lifeguard’s physical manifestation of prevention – it’s the tool used to stop someone from engaging in an inherently unsafe activity that could result in death or physical injury.  So, while the rescue might be exciting and might be heroic, it’s the stoic lifeguard, vigilantly watching those in and around the water with that that pain-in-the-butt bleat of the whistle that protects and serves.

To summarize, as counsel qua lifeguard,  using  once again  our PRT approach:

  • Principle: Lifeguard – We protect and save lives, but we believe that every accident can be prevented. Lawyer – We help you with legal issues and problems, but we believe that every legal problem can be prevented.
  • Rule: Lifeguard – Stop the injury or accident before it occurs. Go in the water only as a last resort.  Lawyer – counseling before an activity can prevent legal problems while achieving objectives.  After a crisis or problem, what we learn can prevent recurrences.
  • Tools: Lifeguard – line of sight, whistle, hook, line & buoy.  Lawyer — P3 discipline (Plan|Perform|Perfect), including the Hot Wash and Formal After Action Tools.

We created ValoremNext, in part, because we believe that prevention should be the next focus areas for law departments and the legal industry.  After all, the best legal problem is the one you never have.  We know it works because this vision and resulting  focus was a primary component in driving  industry leading legal team performance at FMC Technologies for over a decade.

That said, while we believe the concept is sound and scaleable for larger or smaller companies, experience tells us that there is scant data available on whether companies are truly focused on prevention, and if they are, how so.  So, we’ve created a short survey that we are asking people inside companies (not limited to just lawyers) to enlighten us. We know your time is valuable – it should not take more than 3-5 minutes to complete.  We’ll gather data and we’ll publish results in this blog to date

Heres the link: -www.surveymonkey.com/r/ValoremNextPreventiveLaw-HTB95DX

Since more data is useful, we hope you’ll tell others to participate in this survey and hope that you’ll forward this blog and link  to your social media followers/LinkedIn groups or directly to those you know who are in-house at other companies.

Thanks for being part of our grand experiment. Stay tuned for the results.