Category Archives: Lawyers

No Good Deed . . .

Here’s an example of a great company (Hyatt Hotels) getting completely hosed for going overboard to help a disabled employee. The employee expresses his gratitude by suing his employer. Thousands of wasted defense dollars later, thank goodness the 7th circuit saw this for what it was: complete nonsense.
Read the opinion here.


Useless Advice

If your firm goes to the trouble of researching, drafting and publishing an article on a legal development, and you fail to include any practical advice other than, “Be sure to consult legal counsel before [insert reason we bothered reading your article in the first place],” you’ve lost an opportunity to impress us.

Your R&D is not my capital investment … it’s yours.

So last weekend, on a quiet nondescript morning, coffee freshly poured I thought, “No finer time than right now to review some law firm invoices.”  Ok, I didn’t really think that, but since this past week was going to be highly unproductive (it didn’t disappoint) it was time to get the mundane out of the way.

I pulled the first one off the stack.  The General Matters invoice.  There was only one entry:

“Review recent court decisions concerning intellectual property rights.  0.6 hrs.”

The expense statement was even better.

“LEXIS/NEXIS case searches for recent court decisions concerning intellectual property rights . . . . . $467.00”

Now all this would be perfectly acceptable if we had actually engaged the firm to do some research.  But we hadn’t.  Hmmm… this was probably just another time entry foul-up (expense charge too — same day, probably automated).  No big deal.  We’ll just call and have it fixed. Continue reading

Serving lawsuits

Attention plaintiffs’ bar:

If you’re suing a corporation, a limited liability company or a limited partnership, please go to the secretary of state’s office website for that jurisdiction, look up the exact spelling of the entity and its registered agent’s name and address.

Draft and serve your summons & complaint accordingly.

Time spent: 5 minutes. Time saved fighting over proper service of process: priceless. For both sides.

What do you recommend?

Among other things, lawyers are recognized as the only humans with more than two hands. This is evolutionary, of course. Centuries of equivocating require appendages appropriate for proposing multiple alternatives without having to commit to one. “On the one hand, you could A, but then the plaintiff could do B in response, or possibly C, so instead of A you could do D; on the other hand, doing A and D together would box the plaintiff in. Still, you could try E followed by A, which is a little aggressive, but will send the right message. What do you think?” Too many hands. Too little analysis. No recommendation. This kind of advice just isn’t advice.

The failure (refusal sometimes) to make a recommendation is one of our greatest weaknesses as lawyers. Perhaps we’re trying to make sure clients don’t blindly jump to a conclusion without understanding the thorough analysis needed to arrive there, but I suspect there’s really more anatomy covering going on than anything else.

Garden-variety lawyers can always come up with another theory. But as business people, clients don’t deal with the theoretical; they have to make decisions. The best lawyers advance this process by making recommendations. Like the criticism we level at memoranda that merely explore the parties’ “best arguments” (i.e., the “on the one hand/other hand” treatment), preparing a legal analysis without a recommendation is unfinished work. Even if the best choice is so clear that anyone would recognize it, go the extra step, and tell us what you would do if you were in our shoes.

When you make a recommendation, you’re telling us that you approached the assignment as though it were your money, your liability or your reputation at stake — not just another research project.

The Marketing Lunch: Why yes, it IS all about me

As a GC you get lots of lunch invitations from lawyers who want to start a business relationship. I turn most of them down because they’re generally a waste of time.

The other day I had lunch with a lawyer I used to work for when I was with The Big Firm(TM). It had been a while since we had talked. We hadn’t been particularly close, but I thought that maybe, just maybe, with all his experience, I could (for once) have lunch with a “pro” who knew how to make it rain. It would be fun to admire an expert in action, and share some of his better techniques in this blog. Unfortunately it didn’t work out so well and it was another wasted afternoon.

This lunch, like so many others before it, was the “blue plate special” of marketing lunches.

  • Small talk before ordering
  • How big the firm is
  • Where our offices are
  • Our practice areas
  • My practice area
  • Is there anything we can do for you? We’d sure like your business.

What’s missing from this list? Oh. Right. How about a question about MY company? What’s going on with MY industry? What’s on MY stay-awake list? Is MY staff sufficient to support the increasing demands from our internal customers?

That’s right, it IS all about me.

Let me let you in on a secret: We love talking about our company, our challenges, our successes, and our industry. Simply put, we like talking about ourselves.

Your job is to fill my needs. How will you know my needs without asking? Better yet, how will you help me discover my needs unless you probe the periphery? You should be doing no more than 50% of the talking.

Ask me about me, and then listen.