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August 30, 2006

"How many lawyers does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

At least two, and I'll explain that.

In the meantime, let's note that "overlawyering", "lawyering by committee" and "bill-padding" are terms used to describe infuriating things lawyers do: (1) well-meaning lawyers indulging their perfectionist natures, (2) "on-the-job training" for your brilliant $120,000 first-year associate who unfortunately doesn't know anything yet (and won't for a while), (3) deliberately "milking the bill" (4) "piling-on" with other timekeepers on the bill and (5) "feeding the monster". These are instructive expressions. Become familiar with them. After all, your clients and your GCs coined them thinking of you.

However, a client project that goes on for more than a week should have at least two lawyers assigned to it. I think clients generally believe that two lawyers is better than one from the standpoint of adding value but always feel more secure about a project if they think that two lawyers are "minding the store" and that at least one of them can be counted on both to cover things and keep things moving if one of the lawyers is temporarily less accessible. Moreover, to make all of this clear--to clients, co-workers and opposing counsel--letters, documents and pleadings should regularly "show" both lawyers. You need to send the message that the client is covered by a minimum of two people to everyone.

So far, I have not seen a client balk at having at least two lawyers involved on a significant or lengthy project. True, you cannot always bill 100% of the team effort in this type of arrangement--but the good will generated by having more than one lawyer available and "on the job" is some of the most valuble marketing for repeat business you can do. Clients need to feel safe. That's just as important as the work itself being substantively first-rate.

Posted by JD Hull at August 30, 2006 11:04 PM


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