Law Firm Management Style: Which Type of Lawyer Are You?
Law firm management style is really a “thing>” It is in fact an important thing. You need to decide which type of lawyer you want to be.
One of the concepts most lawyers fail to grasp is the different types of relationships between an attorney and a client.
Your clients trust you. They invested their trust in you before they ever invested their money. Yet, most attorneys do not treat that trust with the respect it deserves. They don’t nurture it and allow it to develop properly. This prevents the relationship from growing over time.
This is one of the key differences between those whose law firms at an exponential rate and those whose law firms grow at an incremental rate.
Clients pay a premium to lawyers with whom they have deep relationships. It is a transcendent quality.
Included in this article is a chart that outlines four different types of lawyers.
Can you determine, at a glance, which quadrant most of your relationships fall into?
Ad Hoc Lawyer
The lawyer who handles matters as they surface is what I refer to as “The Ad Hoc” lawyer. The term itself finds its roots in Latin – meaning “for this.”
If you are an ad hoc lawyer, you get telephone calls for matters as they arise, regardless of your practice area. In other words, your relationships with your clients are reactive in nature.
You are always waiting for a new situation (often a crisis) to develop, and you are waiting for the client to call you in reaction to that crisis.
You are a good lawyer but your law firm marketing plan should focus on promoting you as an expert in a few specific areas. This is a good law firm management strategy.
It is of no importance whether or not local bar regulatory bodies sanction that title of “expert.” Due to their talent, skill, and experience, some attorneys are more likely to achieve a positive outcome in certain types of matters than others. Those people are experts.
The expert is engaged on a situational basis. Expertise in a specific area has value to a client, but it rarely translates into a relationship beyond the specific situation.
The General Counsel
Within any large organization, you will find someone heading a legal department. Typically, this person is responsible for assessing legal risk, developing legal risk mitigation strategy, and assigning legal work to lawyers within or outside the organization. In most cases, the internal general counsel is an attorney, but in all cases, he is a procurement and finance officer – concerned with achieving the best outcome for the lowest possible investment.
This internal general counsel is not the person we are focused on for this discussion. Our focus is on being the person this internal manager turns to when he has a problem. Often he will turn to his counterpart on the outside – a generalist with expertise in procedural areas (litigation or transactions). The external general counsel is a broad sword solution to most problems (including those requiring a scalpel).
The push/pull of accountability between finance and outcome leaves most outside lawyers wondering why the relationship with an internal general counsel never develops beyond a certain point.
The Trusted Advisor
A Trusted Advisor has a relationship that transcends the typical attorney/client relationship. Finances are never an issue in this relationship because the trust, guidance, and support are invaluable.
Ascending to the level of trusted advisor requires developing an uncommon level of intimacy with your client. Intimacy is difficult to establish and even more difficult to maintain over time. It requires work.
Many lawyers will be frightened, put off, and intimidated by the concept of “intimacy” in a work-related setting. These feelings alone preclude them from becoming trusted advisors.
In our next article in this series, we will discuss how you can transform some of your client relationships into relationships that transcend financial boundaries.
If you’re interested in shifting your law firm management style, reach out to apply for my Private Client Experience. This is a personal, executive coaching experience directly with me.