I attended a really interesting program last evening hosted by the law firm WilmerHale at their Boston offices. The panel included the dean of Harvard Law School, the general counsel of GE, the next managing partner of WilmerHale and a reporter who writes on the legal profession. The guest of honor was Deborah Epstein Henry, whose recent book “Law and Reorder: Legal Industry Solutions for Restructure, Retention, Promotion and Work/Life Balance”. Debbie’s web site which features a short blurb on the book is as follows: http://www.flextimelawyers.com/. It was apparent to me early on in the program that Debbie had put serious time and effort into her research and in pulling this book together.
I was speaking with a physician afterwards and it was uncanny how the issues are so similar between the two professions, medicine and law. Think about it… when you pay your lawyers, do you pay them an hourly rate for the number of hours they bill to your case, or project? What incentives do they have to use their time efficiently? They get compensated based on their “billable hours”. As a general counsel to a growing company, I look closely at these issues and at the bills, but also really rely on my external lawyers to help me get our deals done.
We have had very fine work done for us by our external counsel and we were happy to pay the (not insubstantial) legal fees, but that was based at least in part with our satisfaction on the quality and success of the work, the responsiveness, the level of trust we have in our lawyers and their ability to deliver value on a consistent basis. I really want them to help us “find a way” to solve our business and legal challenges, but to protect the downside as well. In these tough (but improving?) economic times, we are all looking to spend more efficiently. What do you look for in your lawyers?
Debbie’s book really captures many of today’s challenges to the legal profession, to large law firms, to corporations paying the firms for work, and to individual lawyers and they pursue their careers and deal with the stresses of their work both professionally and outside the office. Well worth reading… even for non-lawyers!!
The book is about the legal profession, but the challenges brought about by our fast-paced world, with shortened turn-around time, ever changing advances in technology and the need to innovate constantly are universal.
Where is the time for relationship building, even listening, and training and mentoring those who will follow? Welcome your thoughts.