Our Lawyer Spotlight series highlights Illinois lawyers who are demonstrating the ideals of professionalism in their daily lives.
Randall H. Green is a Champaign-based attorney and shareholder in Meyer Capel’s Business and Real Estate Practice Groups. His practice areas include business formation, raising capital, commercial contract drafting and negotiation, mergers and acquisitions, and real estate transactions.
How has your practice evolved during the last few years?
I continue to try to implement proven business practices in the delivery of legal services.
For example, I think the legal industry could provide a faster, more predictable, and better client experience by implementing concepts like design thinking, continuous improvement, and document and workflow automation.
I have been trying to incorporate alternate billing structures into my practice over the last couple of years too.
What’s one piece of technology you couldn’t function without?
Microsoft Excel. It is such a powerful tool, allowing you to extract insights from enormous amounts of data.
Being comfortable in Excel is extremely valuable to any transactional attorney and any business owner. In order to make data-driven decisions, you must be able to structure, manipulate and understand your data in various ways.
As far as lawyers are concerned, I think I’m pretty capable in Excel, but there is just so much it can do that I still haven’t mastered. It reminds me of Aristotle’s quote, “The more you know, the more you realize you don’t know.”
In just the last couple of months, I’ve built basic Excel models to help leaders understand areas of our firm’s business and illustrate to clients the different economic outcomes of a stock transaction.
How do you manage your well-being?
I’m a morning person, so I try to get up every day during the week and get to the gym. I’m usually there around 5 a.m. and can still get home in time to help the kids get ready for the day and off to school.
Going to the gym is a good way for me to get my heart rate up and energized for the day without having to “turn on” my brain. Once I manage to get out of bed, something amazing happens when all I have to think about for the next hour is moving my body.
Being a lawyer is hard. Running a business is hard. Being a good parent, spouse, and caregiver is hard. If you jam them all together it’s no wonder so many lawyers are stressed out.
When you are conditioned to live your life in 6-minute increments, it is stressful to think that no matter how you slice it, you only get 240 tenths-of-an-hour in your day.
I have really tried to show grace to others over the last few years. I think it started when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height, schools were shutting down, and everyone was just trying to do the best they could. Extending that grace to others has allowed me to show grace to myself.
I’m far from perfect in every conceivable way, but it helps to remind myself that I’m doing the best I can with the right intentions.
How do you remain civil in tense situations?
I try to remind myself that everyone is human and we all have our own experiences, circumstances, and stressors.
I’m fascinated by social psychology and the way people make decisions. Based on personality profile assessments, it turns out that lawyers test significantly higher than the general population in skepticism and significantly lower in sociability, resilience, and cognitive empathy.
That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but it helps explain why lawyers have a hard time being civil.
I teach an advanced negotiations class at the University of Illinois College of Law and occasionally give workshops on negotiations. We spend a lot of time focusing on self-assessment and reflection.
You can’t control how someone else reacts to a tense situation, but you can be aware of what your default reactions are under stress.
If you can identify them, you can better avoid destructive tenancies and focus on productive ones. Destructive tendencies often stem from a primal fight-or-flight response, which is magnified in tense and stressful situations.
How can attorneys advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?
First, be an ally. I grew up the son of a third-grade teacher and a copy machine repair man. We weren’t rich or privileged in the economic sense, but I grew up in a comfortable and welcoming home with two supportive parents.
That, along with the undeniable fact that I am a white male, gave me an environment where I could thrive.
Not everyone had that, but as a public school teacher, my mom made sure that we included everyone, no matter their race, gender, or socioeconomic background. It’s all I’ve known since childhood, so I try to be aware of situations where I can “open a door” for someone who has traveled a different path than me.
Second, make sure everyone has a seat at the table. If you look around most law firms (including mine), they typically aren’t bastions of diversity. That reality has been generations in the making.
I’m encouraged when I see the ever-increasing diversity in law school classrooms. Now the responsibility is on us as law firm leaders to make sure that those students have the same opportunities to step through our doors and advance within our firms.
Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s in our own best interest. It’s well-documented that organizations make better decisions and have better outcomes when they have diverse perspectives at leadership levels.
What is an attorney’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?
As I mentioned previously, stressful situations cause people to engage the survival instincts of the reptilian brain (fight or flight). The vast majority of legal interactions are stressful to the parties and their instincts often aren’t to act rationally.
As attorneys, it is our job to resist the urge to engage those primal tendencies (even if our clients want us to) and instead engage our cortex. That is where executive function, logic, and problem-solving occur.
By consistently rationally making decisions, engaging with others with civility, and avoiding the incendiary environment that surrounds us (and is magnified by the media), we can give the public reason to have confidence.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Be humble and invest in relationships. I still remember stepping out of law school thinking I knew everything. After a few days as a new lawyer in private practice, I realized I knew almost nothing.
I had a wonderful legal assistant to start my career, Vicki. To this day, I wonder how it was fair that I was a lawyer and Vicki wasn’t. The reality is that for many years, probably until she retired, she would have been a better lawyer than I was.
New lawyers need to remember that they will be surrounded by smart people and they should resist the urge to get caught up in titles, especially when it comes to people they manage or lead.
Since law is such a contentious and stressful profession, it’s critical to value and invest in relationships—personal and professional.
Warren Buffet once said about success, “When you get to my age, you’ll really measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you.” I would expand that concept to trust and respect too.
What do you think is the biggest challenge impacting lawyers today?
I think the evolution of technology is the biggest challenge facing lawyers. It is also the greatest opportunity.
Law firms are no longer a black box of technical knowledge and proprietary forms incomprehensible to a layperson. With the advancement of machine learning and generative AI, there is more useful information available to the public than ever before. That environment creates great opportunity and great peril.
Lawyers who learn how to harness these new technologies to magnify their logic and judgment will be more valuable than ever before. Those who don’t…will continue to embrace the billable hour.
What do you do for fun?
This may sound weird, but I love to compete. And it really doesn’t matter what the competition is about. From golf to charity ping-pong matches to office paper airplane contests, I just love the thrill of competition.
I used to hate losing; now it doesn’t bother me. I guess you could say I’m more civil in my older age!
I’ve learned that for me, competition is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about pushing myself to be better and my “opponent” helps me do that.
I also love watching my kids grow and have fun. They recently turned nine and 11. Whether it’s kicking a soccer ball or performing in a play, I love seeing them work hard at something and then seeing their faces light up when all their determination pays off.
Please note: This Q&A has been edited due to space constraints.
Our Lawyer Spotlight recognizes attorneys throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews with attorneys here.