I spent 18 years with a large law firm. It was, and is, a pretty good firm. I should know. I joined it after having been a client of the firm. As gratifying as it was being there, there are certain things that you can’t do at a big law firm. Like go out on a limb about some aspects of law practice that are pretty inside-baseball and don’t work on a website that’s mostly stock photos and rhetoric about the practice.

I spent parts of those 18 years thinking about what I loved about the practice, what I didn’t love about the practice, and whether there was room in a law firm’s concept of itself to tell clients what was on the firm’s mind. I took notes and kept them. I listened when colleagues said things that were particularly insightful. And I put most or all of them into this little declaration. I think, rightly or wrongly, that clients deserve to know what drives their lawyers.  Really drives them. Not clip art and rhetoric. A piece of the lawyer’s soul, both in the office and out of the office. Besides, where’s the fun in running your own law firm if you can’t have an opinion about the practice and share it with clients?

So here’s this law firm’s philosophy. An open letter about the practice of law, lawyers, clients, and life.

Your lawyer should do everything he or she can to keep overhead to a minimum. After all, you deal with pressure every day to keep your own overhead low. Why shouldn’t your lawyer?

  • Virtual presence and the ability to work from any location where there’s cell service and an Internet connection.

  • Ability to provide a traditional brick-and-mortar law office at a prestigious address on short notice, both in the home market and almost anywhere else in the world.

  • Privacy and data-security minded, using industry-leading VPN connectivity and encryption for your important information.

Your lawyer should understand your business and, where possible, be – or have actively been –-  in your business. Nothing informs talking the talk like having walked the walk.

  • Contract administrator for EDS, including the time of the split-off from GM, handling outsourcing, licensing, telecommunications, and professional services relationships.

  • Two FTE years seconded in-house with Fortune 50 enterprises developing new products, improving old ones, and working directly with teams like yours.

  • Pilot, flight instructor, check airman, and air boss.

  • Legal officer for a CAP (U.S. Air Force Aux) region including six states, 200+ units, and 6,000 airmen.

Your lawyer should regularly measure himself/herself against objective industry standards through ongoing training, professional certification, lecturing, writing, and contributing to the professional dialogue.

  • IAPP certified in US private sector (CIPP/US) and European (CIPP/E) privacy and data protection.

  • IAPP certified in technological compliance (CIPT).

  • Recognized as one of fewer than 700 Fellows of Information Privacy worldwide.

  • Commercial pilot and flight instructor.

  • ICAS-trained Air Boss.

Your lawyer should have a soundtrack. It should reflect precision, energy, and ambition. Or, at least, you should know that your lawyer has a deep connection to the arts and isn’t afraid to tell you about it.