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Lawyers in practice rarely encounter purely legal problems. Understanding the social, economic, political, and historical context is often crucial to resolving legal issues, and legal decisions are often dependent upon business, scientific, medical, psychological, and technological information. Most legal representation occurs within some field of enterprise or industry, and nearly all representation of clients involves complex emotional and interpersonal dynamics.

Early in my legal career, I realized the importance of knowing other fields and specialties in order to be an effective lawyer. My first practice experience was in commercial litigation, and our firm represented clients from a wide range of businesses. To represent the clients effectively, I needed to learn a great deal about the business or industry involved. I spent much of my time in discovery: reading volumes of client-generated documents, deposing the managers and technical specialists in the adversary company, and consulting with and deposing experts in a range of technical fields. These tasks dealt much more with facts than with law, and those facts were often in a specialized field of knowledge or industry. For one case, I learned a tremendous amount about truck tire retreads and the physics of rubber and heat. For another, I became knowledgeable about the manufacture and repair of surgical instruments, and for one particularly compelling case, I learned more than I ever could have imagined about the chemistry involved in the storage of chicken manure (yes, really).