Reducing Legal Costs–Law Firm Personnel

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Entrepreneur: “Mr. Partner, we’ve decided to use your firm to represent us in our acquisition of XYZ company.”

Law Firm Partner: “Great!”

E: “Who do you propose should be on your team?  And why do you recommend them?  I’d really like to get your best mid-level associate, and would prefer not to use any first or second-year associates.  While I’m open to using young superstars, I really don’t want associates learning on my nickel.”

LFP: “OK, let me put together a proposal and get back to you.”

E: “Thanks!  And one more thing: once we’ve agreed on a team, I don’t want any personnel changes without my prior consent.”

LFP: “No problem.”

You don’t hire a law firm; you hire people who work for a law firm.  So it’s really important to have this kind of conversation at the outset of a matter.  You want knowledgeable, efficient, responsive attorneys working for you.  You don’t want associates learning at your expense, and you don’t want to be billed for getting new personnel up to speed in the middle of the engagement.  While partners will often proactively write off non-productive time, it’s been my experience that this does not always happen.  Since you probably don’t want to be spending your time scrutinizing law firm invoices and haggling with partners, try to avoid the problem in the first place by taking a real interest in who the firm assigns to your matter.  I’ve found that law firm partners are happy to have this conversation and are very reasonable in accomodating requests.

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