In Defense of Good Lawyering
In today’s marketplace, companies are seeking to treat lawyers more and more like other service professionals such as consultants. That is not surprising. Companies love to see bang for their buck, and if a lawyer spends time on a matter that does not appear on its face to generate a tangible result, companies are loathe to pay high hourly rates for seemingly meaningless work.
As a result of the demand for low-cost legal services, over the past several years the market has seen an increase of legal staffing companies, solo practitioners, and other lower rate service providers offering certain legal services at a perceived fraction of the cost of lawyers in a firm billing out at a higher rate. It seems that there is no shortage of supply of low cost lawyers to fill this demand. And the Internet has an overflowing abundance of blog-based literature concerning the “changing” legal market, as such service providers seek to promote a self-driven trend to drive down legal costs.
The cause of this market-disturbance reminds me of something my father told me before I decided to attend law school “be careful, lawyers are a dime a dozen.” After clearing many respectable hurdles in law school, and gaining deep expertise in my chosen field of intellectual property law, I learned that although there are surely a good number of lawyers around, there is an important caveat to my Dad’s alleged axiom. There is a titanic difference between quality lawyers and bad, or even average, lawyers. And that difference can spell the difference between whether Company X wins or loses, or lives or dies. So while many lawyers may be a dime a dozen, some are worth their weight in gold.
Over the top? No. I can tell you firsthand that when I am representing a client in a matter and there is poor, sloppy, shoddy, or even average legal work on the other side of the table it often translates to victory for my client in one form or the other and doom for the counterparty. The bottom line is that poor or even average legal decisions made during the lifecycle of a company often come back to haunt that company and cost far more down the road than the additional dollars paid to quality counsel to do it right at the outset. These costs are rarely appreciated at the time of delivery of services.
What comprises quality lawyering? In a word: talent. It takes a tremendous amount of analysis, diligence, creativity, training, experience, dedication, passion and yes—flat-out-talent—to gather proper facts in a given matter and apply those facts to an often complex legal landscape in the context of a client’s business objectives, and deliver services that will not only solve current issues but stave off potential future problems before they even arise.
So, for those businesses that seek to cut costs and use off-the-shelf counsel to get a job done on the cheap, just remember that for the money you might save up front, the real costs will surface down the road, when a great lawyer appears on the other side of the table and makes you pay.