LAW PRACTICE MANAGEMENT
THOMAS W. CODEVILLA, J.
In-house attorneys talk about outside counsel as often as Coloradans fret over snowpack. Putting aside ethical considerations, in-house attorneys quibble with outside counsel on, among other things, business development, billing, matter management, and termination. These tasks might seem inconsequential, but how they are performed conveys a great deal about outside counsel’s integrity. Effective outside counsel understand this golden rule. They develop relationships with in-house counsel years before the possibility of financial gain. Their bills are intelligible, detailed, and devoid of dreaded “.1” charges. They pitch work as a calculated risk and take responsibility when a strategy fails. After termination, they are as gracious and cordial as they were before the representation. Showing integrity in the shark tank of the legal market can be thankless, but reputation is important in a legal community as small as Colorado’s.
After I moved in-house, big-firm attorneys I had never met began cold-emailing me, buying me drinks, and laughing at things I said that were definitely not funny. Other attempts to garner my business included implying there could be a lateral position at their firm if my current job did not pan out, an invite to dinner when two partners “happened” to be in town, and a friendly lunch that turned into a hard sell. Flattery is no way to build a relationship.
Just as the best time to look for a job is while still employed, the best time to build a relationship is long before you need it.
Just as the best time to look for a job is while still employed, the best time to build a relationship is long before you need it. Outside counsel should cultivate shared interests with in-house counsel years before the possibility of work. Especially if the client used to be in private practice, he or she will see through repeated networking attempts. At the very least, when meeting a potential client, outside counsel should know beforehand what the in-house counsel does and how their business works.
One of my big-frm friends knows that she will never represent my...