What lawyers don't seem to understand is that sometimes clients just want to fly coach! I am always surprised to hear our clients complain about their lawyers who just can't help themselves . . . they lawyer everything to death! They keep beating the dead horse . . . and all you can do is watch . . . knowing that whole time that you hired them to save the horse and win a trophy, not beat it to death and then beat it some more!
Lawyers suffer from many afflictions and so many of them are at the expense of the client. Some try to justify the defensive practice of law under the guise of "excellence." They are not listening to the needs and wants of the client, but are rather acting on their own defensiveness in order to avoid "perceived" potential liability. The funny thing about this whole concept is that most lawyers I meet simply cannot wrap their brain around anything else. . . . they actually think their clients are incompetent to consent to flying coach or business class. Wake up lawyers! Sometimes clients just want to fly coach!!!
What does this mean in real terms, you ask? Well, here is the disconnect:
Attorney point of view: We are being thorough for the client. . . we believe in excellence and perfection and want to avoid every single pitfall possible because that is the best way to represent our client. They don't know any better so we have to know for them.
Client point of view: Son of a XXXX, would you take a look at this bill? The value of the entire deal is less than what I have to pay my lawyer. First, this guy was not listening to me when I told him that (although I have money) I have bigger battles to fight than to nit-pick details on this small deal and that I just wanted to make sure there were no "glaring" errors. Second, he spent $10,000 to save me $5,000 in "potential" liability. . . I mean seriously, even if it were a 5% chance of $50,000 in liability I might have taken my chances. . . he never asked me if I thought it was worth it before he just went filling in every pot hole in the road! Who does he think he is? The only thing I can do with this "perfect contract" if frame and hang it on my wall because at this point the deal is a loser . . . thanks a lot!
Who is right here? (Hint: I never ask questions I do not know the answer to) The client is ALWAYS right!! This is a service business folks, and you chose this profession. If you do not want to serve your clients, then get the hell out of this profession! The clients are absolutely reasonable in their perception that most lawyers have no concept of the risk/reward matrix that forms the basis for business decisions. Even Fortune 500 Companies have contracts and deals that are not worth lawyering to death. Usually, companies reserve these deals for in-house counsel, but in small to mid-sized companies who do not have in-house counsel, they need attorneys who are strategic and who are acutely aware of the risk/reward relationship at every turn and with each engagement. This really puts the client at ease and helps them to focus on what they do best and not on managing their lawyers "runaway train."
At Exemplar, this "strategic" approach to the practice of law has served our customers very well and has made them happier than I can imagine. Why? More than anything, because we are listening to them. Like an airline, we understand that sometimes our clients want to fly First-Class, and sometimes they want to fly Coach. (Let's not ignore Business-Class. . . we offer that too!). We empower our clients to understand their options and we immerse ourselves in the business to be the strategic partner that they really need and want. The defensive practice of law is not necessary when you are in a true partnership with your clients and have good communication with them. We find that they really appreciate being informed and able to participate in the legal strategy . . . flying Coach to some destinations with us, and First-Class to many more! Exemplar is listening to their customers while the rest of the industry tells them to pay up or "get off the plane!" When customers realize they have a choice, Big-Law Airlines will have to start understand what it means to serve clients (not themselves) if they plan to be in business a decade from now.