By Art Fillmore, Kansas City

If attorneys casually throw around military expressions to describe a specific event going on, or even their practice as a whole (e.g., “We have a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude”), veteran colleagues may be irked by such cavalier comments. However, if we go beyond the metaphor, understanding military engagements can provide interesting insight for lawyers in adversarial situations.

Today’s military leadership has increasingly accepted that things aren’t as clear-cut as the classic six-phase model of operational planning suggested they were. Rarely do things have such a neat progression.

Instead, the conflict continuum more accurately demonstrates that the military should be preparing for a constant state of competition: There’s conflict, a period of deterrence, then competition, then another round of efforts to deter, then back to the conflict. And on it goes.

This is a great perspective for lawyers.

First, whether litigating a dispute or drafting a contract, realize that lawyers are likely entering in the middle of a contentious situation—one that has already been going on for a while.

Whether it’s sending a cease-and-desist letter or trying to negotiate a difficult sticking point in a contract, when clients bring in the lawyers, clients may at once trying to deter and escalate the conflict. Recognizing this transitionary state may help guide you in both dealing with your client and your client’s adversary.

Thinking along the lines of a continuum of conflict and competition—with opportunities when deterrence is more or less effective—may help you predict when settlements or major concessions are more likely to succeed… or fail.

The conflict continuum is also useful to think longitudinally. In business law, the same parties may continue to butt heads long after the current matter is finished. Think beyond this specific set of facts to help your clients to prevent issues—or at least limit conflicts in their future.

Finally, recognize that the conflict continuum isn’t limited to your clients’ conflicts. It relates to you and your career, too.

It may be that you encounter the same lawyers on the other side, the same judges, the same policy experts, or others, case after case. Maybe you keep vying for a new client against the same group of lawyers. Or maybe it even applies to other members of your firm.

Realizing how a merry-go-ground of competition that traps too many attorneys, AEGIS has eliminated its attorneys’ intra-firm competition with a new structure.

If you find yourself in a conflict continuum, ask if it’s fueling you, or if it is coming between you and what you want to accomplish.

At AEGIS, we have a structure more like the military than a law firm. Our mission is to deliver for our clients, while our attorneys grow personally and professionally. And we achieve our objective through teamwork and collaboration. We get you the support you and your clients need to be successful. We have a set of values and standards that you can be proud of.