Those of you reading this article looking for the latest lawyer joke will likely be let down in the text that follows. This part is not meant to be yet one more bashing gathering directed at the legal professional, but rather to give you firm information on how to avoid the common mistakes that even the brightest and most tested executives make in attempting to successfully work with and manage attorneys.
I grew up in a legal family, have been a managing director of a law firm, recruited and managed legal staffs as a C-suite executive and have dealt with many an outside counsel as an industrialist. I have both sued and been sued, and suffice it to say I know the good, the bad and the ugly about the legal profession.
As with any other profession there are excellent practitioners, center of the road journeyman, well anticipated light-weights who try hard but consistently find themselves in over their heads, brilliant academics with no practical experience or common sense, and yes, there are a few rouges and scoundrels as well.
The reality is that most people that have an unhelpful experience with the judicial system blame the lawyer. If the applicant or the defendant doesn’t achieve the expected outcome it must be the attorney’s fault. It is this author’s humble opinion that the truth about lawyers is that most people honestly get what they justify. However if you adhere to the following best practices when entering into and managing an attorney client relationship you will fare better than most.
1. Hire the best legal advice you can afford, not the cheapest you can find. As with any profession there is value in experience and knowledge as well as an aggressive advantage to be gained with talent, reputation and relations. Never vacillate to get a second opinion as there are very few stock answers to a legal issue.
2. A lawyer is no different than any other dealer or supplier and they should be put through the same level of inspection (in my opinion a higher level of inquiry) as anyone else in your supply chain. I adopted the practice quite some time ago of putting my legal work out to bid through a managed request for qualifications (RFQ) and request for proposal (RFP) process. I assess my needs, identify my requirements and seek to find the best representation possible by having attorneys contend for my business on my terms.
3. Common direction is fine, but only if they are managing the right expert. A generalist cobbling collectively documents by pulling a template down from a Westlaw search is a far cry from having true subject matter expertise. All attorneys are not created equal. Hire the right lawyer at the right time for the right reason.
4. Along the lines of number three on top of, a smart attorney doesn’t of necessity translate into a good attorney. Most lawyers don’t graduate from law school with any formal business training and fewer have any real world business experience upon graduation. It is imperative that you select guidance that is not only a subject matter expert in his/her practice area, but that also has very sound business sharpness. If an attorney is not fluent in my business they won’t be retained by me to represent my business…end of story.
5. The best way to manage your legal risk is to be practical not hasty. Assess your legal risks and take destructive and upbeat events to mitigate said risks. I developed the shortest legal mission statement on record and require any attorney who represents me to use it to as their operating mantra; it simply states: “foresee and padding”. The best defense is a great offense when it comes to legal work.
Pooja Jha is the Chief Strategy Officer at Delhi Lawyers. Delhi Lawyers is a leading business enterprise extension consultancy providing a unique array of professional services to high growth companies on a venture based business model. The atypical combination of branding and corporate identity services, capital formation assistance, market research and business intelligence, sales and product engineering, leadership development and talent management, as well as marketing, advertising and public relations services make Delhi Lawyers the industry leader in strategic growth consulting. More information about the company can be found at http://www.delhi-lawyers.in