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Problem Solver

More than two decades ago, Stewart Levine left the practice of law to engineer a career focused on resolution. Not all lawyers can make such a radical transition, but many wish they could change the tone of their practice to focus more on agreement than conflict. What does Stewart advise—and how can lawyers prepare now for future changes in the legal profession?

Focus on the solution, not the problem. Hold firm with the idea that a lawyer’s job is to build a bridge between people who want to do something together. And help them do it in the shortest time, with the least pain, at the lowest cost—even if that “something” is ending a relationship. The legal process may have little to do with getting to the desired result. Focus on the real cost of perpetuating conflict. That is a key driver for me.          

Analytical, critical thinking skills will be essential in the future. But the lawyers who will be in great demand will have broad-based life skills: strategic thinking, innovation, creativity and problem solving. In times ahead, we will be looking for leaders—people with vision who will devote their energy to solving the challenges of global warming, globalization, terrorism, poverty, criminality and the affiliated spill-over. The best preparation: Focus on values, vision, contribution, character and self-awareness. Then you can lead from a grounded center and not be blown about by the strong winds of change.

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