In theory, the outside firm’s corporate lawyer, who stayed on the line through each specialist, was the continuity factor. Often, she acted as scribe while the firm’s specialists and I grappled over wording. Ask the corporate lawyer a question and you would hear “well, I would have to go with so-and-so’s advice since he is the firm’s go-to guy for M&A environmental matters.” So-and-so would, of course, defer to the corporate lawyer on any issue outside the narrow environmental law slice since the corporate lawyer had the “big picture.” If your deal crossed a country’s border, the specialist lawyer headcount soared.
We had other reasons for excess-specialization. Lawyers dislike risk. As an expert, you reduce risk through increased knowledge of your field. As a generalist, you increase risk; you don’t know everything about those other fields.
By giving up the generalist view, lawyers have given up that ability to see across industries, across legal domains, and across applied fields. Lawyers have become the anti-innovators, capable of producing highly technical documents, but little to no strategic insight. Lawyers can help you (inefficiently) execute your plan. Lawyers are not the first stop for those who want to develop the plan. In Simmons’ view, the move by lawyers to experts and away from generalists robbed them of the chance to become innovators
Specializing isn’t necessarily bad, but when it impedes curiosity it becomes a problem. To innovate, “You have to be willing to ‘waste time’ on things that are not directly relevant to your work because you are curious. But then you are able to, sometimes unconsciously, integrate them back into your work.“