The new economic reality that is struggling to emerge from the recent “Great Recession” is forcing industries across the United States to rethink their business models. This process includes taking a hard look at how they are using outside counsel and which counsel to use.
Skilled attorneys will always be in demand. But skill alone is no longer the only factor in selecting an attorney or law firm. Law firms must have attorneys with focused skills, who understand how each matter fits within their clients’ overall objectives and budget, and who have the ability to drive a result.
A law firm’s attitude towards its clients and their legal issues is as vital as its legal skills. But attitude is often overlooked because it is difficult to measure, particularly at the outset of an engagement. Clients want to know that their attorneys will devote their energies to positively managing the clients’ legal matters, without throwing endless resources at minor issues. To balance these objectives, law firms must have the right attitude to recognize and discuss with the client how best to tackle a legal issue, considering the costs, risks, and potential benefits of that matter in context with the business’s overall objectives.
The Great Recession’s impact on certain law firms’ culture and attitude can also be substantial. Many law firms have cut their associate and partner ranks and reduced the surviving lawyers’ salaries. And the surviving lawyers can feel increased pressures to justify their existence by escalate their revenues, which, for many attorneys, can only occur by billing more hours.
Our firm, however, was born during this economic crisis. And we have embraced the changes caused by it. Thus:
- We think about and communicate with our clients about how a particular matter fits within their overall goals. This includes advice that a matter may not be worth pursuing.
- We look for ways to coordinate our fee structures with our clients’ goals.
- We direct work to the appropriate person within our firm to capture the correct experience and rate structure.
- We structure our compensation systems to promote stability and accommodate growth.
- We push our attorneys to continually expand and deepen their skills to remain focused on quality.
- We provide updates on legal issues that matter to businesses through our website’s blogs and other articles.
- We have a secure extranet to help coordinate a client’s legal matters with our clients, saving time and money.
These firm values flow down through the practice teams to the individual lawyers. For example, our Unfair Business Practices team was formed to help businesses guard against unfair competition. Our firm co-authors the Unfair Business Practices blog, found here, to help our clients track cases that define the boundary between legal and illegal competition. Since forming our firm six months ago, several clients have tasked our Unfair Business Practice Team to investigate and pursue claims against competitors or disloyal managers/employees for unfair competition. The Team has also defended clients in these matters.
Because some unfair business practices can severely harm or even destroy a client’s business, our Team’s attitude towards understanding and advancing the client’s objectives is paramount. Similarly, the Team is dedicated to sustaining a robust defense in cases brought against our clients, while providing our client with objective advice. Finally, the Team has experience developing creative solutions to unfair competition claims representing both plaintiffs and defendants.
Our firm’s other Practice Teams take similar approaches in their respective areas. For those readers fortunate enough to eat at Hyman’s Seafood in Charleston, South Carolina, you are aware of the Attitude Statement by Chuck Swindol that defines the restaurant’s success, which states, in part:
The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
Our firm’s attitude was forged in the one of the worst economic times in living memory. Our attitude is defined by our Teaming with Today’s Business philosophy that is focused on taking constructive steps in helping our clients achieve their goals.