the company you keep

Among the benefits of leading a small legal practice is that it keeps all of the relationships close and manageable. I know my clients well, and I serve them directly (not via associates, paralegals or other intermediaries). Larger law firms are, well, larger. This means that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of people affiliated with one another under the firm’s banner, many of whom don’t know each other particularly well. That is advantageous in some ways — especially financially for those at the top of the hierarchy. On the other hand, the partners are all responsible for each other’s work, legally and — as my tale below illustrates — in other important if less formal ways.

I recently asked some of my colleagues to send me recommendations for a superstar lawyer with a specific capabilities. I was given the name of one fellow and looked him up. Turns out, he is at a national law firm with a Chicago office that I encountered when I was general counsel at HighBeam Research. A corporate lawyer from that firm (not the Chicago office) was on the opposite side of the transaction from us when we were selling the company, and was one of those lawyers who gives lawyers a really bad name — overly legalistic, completely impractical, and lacking in any social skills on top of it all. (She would have been a great Dickens villain.) The deal almost didn’t happen because of her style of lawyering. I still have a physical reaction when I think of this — and it took place almost 4 years ago.

The lawyer who was recommended to me is probably very talented, but given his partners are, I will probably look elsewhere.


Categorised as: Lawyering