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A new type of lawyer is emerging alongside today’s new economy. The entrepreneurial spirit associated with the dot-com revolution has become infectious, and some now seek the freedom to pursue their own ideas outside of the profession. Some lawyers have deserted the law to create e-commerce startups. Many more have chosen to continue a legal role in-house. The new breed of lawyer, however, enjoys the best of both worlds — part lawyer, part entrepreneur. Elaine Bradley, head of tax at Dorsey & Whitney in London, divides her time between her legal practice and Byabiz.com, a marketplace for buying and selling businesses, which she devised last year. She claims that the idea was conceived as a result of the experiences she was having as a lawyer and that the two aspects of her career complement each other perfectly. “My clients couldn’t find a way of buying and selling businesses efficiently, which gave me the idea for Byabiz.com. I am now in a much better position to advise my dot-com clients because of the experiences I had setting up my own venture up. “Although they come to me primarily for legal advice, a lot of the issues facing them are practical. I learn from my clients, and they learn from me,” she says. However, while Bradley acknowledges she is lucky to work for a progressive, more forward-thinking firm, other London lawyers have had different experiences. Many top-tier corporate firms have strict rules with regard to their clients’ outside interests, and the concept of part-time lawyering is an alien one. “The time-sensitive nature of big deals and the necessity to be working and to be seen to be working would frankly rule it out at my firm,” says one partner at a major London firm. The problem of conflicts must also be overcome. Bradley does not have clients investing in Byabiz.com, and there is no pressure for clients of Byabiz.com to use Dorsey’s for legal advice. She feels there is no conflict. Nonetheless, most partnerships are inherently suspicious, particularly of staff who accept board memberships. Russel Shear, corporate finance partner at London’s Edwin Coe, is a non-executive board member of Internet Preferential, a role he carries out in addition to providing legal advice to the company. “The policy at my firm is that we do not generally like partners sitting on City boards. However, due to the relationship I had with Internet Preferential and the synergy between their business and my practice, the partners here felt comfortable with the idea,” he says. Shear refers investment opportunities to Internet Preferential, which he learns of through his private practice, and fits business meetings into his schedule as a lawyer. He feels inspired to be involved in the wider entrepreneurial business community and claims that Edwin Coe is constantly assessing its attitude to more flexible working patterns for its lawyers. NEW BREED The new breed of lawyer is dissuaded from leaving the profession completely by an inherent love of the law. One London IP lawyer decided to return to work after resigning briefly to run her fledgling dot-com startup for journalists. She found that, despite her love of the entrepreneurial life, there was something missing from her working day. “I thought that leaving the profession would offer me a great opportunity to do something outside of law for the first time; yet, I really missed it. I found that I was really losing touch with legislative and other legal developments and that running my own business just wasn’t enough,” she says. She is currently re-applying for in-house positions and intends to run the business simultaneously. The success of these solicitors is fundamentally related to the changing perception of lawyers’ roles in general. Clients now demand that their advisers offer more than just legal advice and expect their lawyers to manage the entire transaction. Elaine Bradley feels that lawyers who are involved in their own projects naturally provide their clients with a better deal. “Lawyers are so much more involved with their clients’ business these days. We have had to do that because of the way our various practices have been chipped away at by other institutions. “Choosing to pursue your own business ideas encourages imagination, creativity, and a commercial approach to your clients, which is what lawyers have always had a problem with,” she says. Far from being compromised by their moonlighting lawyers, it appears clients are actually getting a better deal. The demand for greater flexibility should, therefore, not be resisted by firms but encouraged. In the new economy a good commercial lawyer will be instructed because of their wider experiences and not despite them.

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