Document Type


Publication Date



This Symposium marks an important milestone in legal scholarship and education: The spotlight falls on business lawyers for a change. Ten years ago, when one of us first wrote about what business lawyers really do, no one had devoted much attention to this part of the profession. In his broadside against lawyers, Derek Bok, then President of Harvard University and formerly dean of its law school, reserved his invective for litigators and the litigation process. Business lawyers captured the attention of very few critics; even on the unusual occasion when we were noticed, the criticism was at least funny. If the litigators got Shakespeare's incitement to legacide, we got Kurt Vonnegut. Some of you may remember Vonnegut's primer on the lawyer as transaction cost engineer, in which a popular law professor tells his students that to get ahead in the practice of law "a lawyer should be looking for situations where large amounts of money are about to change hands." Give Vonnegut credit he saw the central importance of a transactional focus only a few years after Coase. Vonnegut goes on:

In every big transaction [the professor said], there is a magic moment during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the man who is due to receive it has not yet done so. An alert lawyer will make that moment his own, possessing the treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it, passing it on. If the man who is to receive the treasure is unused to wealth, has an inferiority complex and shapeless feelings of guilt, as most people do, the lawyer can often take as much as half the bundle, and still receive the recipient's blubbering thanks.


Law | Legal Education | Legal Profession