Original Post by Sean Callagy
Hiring outside counsel is often a complex process that involves perceived expertise and reputation.
Does this get you the right firm for your company though?
Maybe it does, but maybe it doesn’t.
When I first started my own firm, 17 years ago, I had a theory, after working at a large law firm for a whopping six months. My theory was that years in practice was a dramatically overrated criteria in the legal game.
That is why I didn’t think I was as crazy as everyone thought I was when I started my own firm at 28 years old.
When I was working with one of New Jersey’s largest firms, and after having argued hundreds of moot court rounds in law school, I quickly saw that my skills in arguing the law, weren’t that different than the partners for whom I worked.
I began to see that confidence and communication skills were a lot more important than years in practice.
There did seem to be some correlation to years in practice and developing those core skills, but certainly not a direct correlation.
Then, in the first full year of practicing on my own, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to prove my theory: my landlord, and family friend, had a multi-million dollar commercial dispute with an enormous bank, and I was going to handle the case.
What was even better, the bank hired one of New Jersey’s most high powered firms, and the man that ran their litigation department whom many considered to be one of New Jersey’s most ferocious commercial litigators.
The first day in court, following our filing for an emergent injunction, was one in which my adversary used every old law dog trick in the book. He accused ME of: fraudulently certifying how we served his firm; having no idea what I was doing as an attorney; being 25 years his junior in the practice of law; misquoting the law; lying about the facts; and essentially being the worst and most despicable the legal profession had to offer.
He withdrew his client’s $100,000 offer to settle the case.
Oh, and to make the scenario illustration a bit more complete, I had gone out with the judge’s daughter during law school and broken up with her in a way he perceived to be inappropriately unceremonious.
It was a fun first day of the case. Yet, eight months later, we settled the case for over $7,000,000, which was everything my client was demanding, plus attorney’s fees.
The bank hired the better firm, right?
The bank didn’t get what they thought they were getting.
This story is a part of my upcoming book, Why Not, so in this blog article I’m not going through all of the details, but I will give you the 5 things the bank didn’t look for, but should have.
Before we go through the list, competency to handle a case is presumed for purposes of this list. Can the lawyer speak, read, write and communicate?
If not, we don’t get to this list!
- How confident do you feel that the lawyer is emotionally engaged in your case?
The law is about caring. If your lawyer cares because he or she is getting paid, that’s not good enough. Does your attorney want to win? Does he or she truly care about the outcome? Do you feel it. If not, move on to someone else.
- How clear is the vision of the case the lawyer presents?
“Without a vision, our nation will perish,” Same goes for your case. Oh, and that vision should be an outstanding expeditious result, not to bill you for a long time and when you’ve been billed enough, to settle for what could have happened on day 1.
If you have a phenomenal plan that is clear, you’re golden. If not, move along.
- How unique are some of the lawyer’s thoughts about ways to ethically gain leverage to expeditiously resolve the case?
Law suits are emotionally driven, like all human behavior. After the emotion settles down, logic enters the equation. How clear is your lawyer’s plan on how to show your adversary why it makes sense to resolve this case?
Then, how clear is the plan to leverage them into settling as the case progresses.
This is one of your lawyer’s most important functions. Are they demonstrating this to you immediately?
- How quickly does the lawyer dissect the issues and make you feel that he is saying things you didn’t think about yet?
If you hear nothing but what you’ve considered, you should be concerned. Your attorney should be creative and mindful in an insightful way when initially discussing the case.
- Attorneys can process paper or they can impact the outcome. Is the person with whom you’re speaking going to impact the outcome? If they aren’t showing you that in the first hour, it will not get better.
How do you feel about all 5 of the above questions for the other attorneys who will be working on the case with that attorney?
Associates handle a lot of your case. They have to be all the things we discussed above. If you do not feel that you have the right answers to 1 through 5 above, find another firm!
Energy, passion, creativity and relentless persistence creates the optimal client results.
These qualities are not easy to find in lawyers. The legal profession is brutal and drains those elements out of its masses like no other profession.
What an attorney was yesterday, is not what an attorney is today. In the bank case, I simply out worked and out cared my adversaries.
I destroyed their under prepared witnesses at deposition, and they missed some big opportunities to limit some of my client’s claims.
I’m sure, though, the bank went happily skipping along to refer their next big case to my prestigious adversary.
You can be quick, or you can really care about yourself and company and find the right fit for your case.
If you would like to discuss the 5 points above further, or any case, I would love to speak with you.
I believe, and our clients tell us, that we reflect these key elements as attorneys.
In fact, we recently obtained a 33.5 million dollar verdict through caring, relentless persistence, and an incredibly clear vision from day one for one of our business clients.