How Would I Pick a Lawyer?

– Joe Rosenbaum

Just like any other business, lawyers and law firms try to determine how best to attract clients, win more business and expand the business they already have. Lawyers engage marketing professionals, hold internal caucuses and develop volumes of pitch materials – often segmented by industry, geography, size, diversity and scores of other ‘meaningful’ criteria. One thing lawyers rarely do is ask clients: What makes you satisfied with your lawyer? What does your lawyer do that you really like? What would encourage you to give your lawyer more business or recommend your lawyer to others – internally or externally?

So in that light, I’m going to pretend I’m a consultant, not a lawyer, and share with you the 10 most important things I would use to pick, keep, cultivate and recommend a lawyer!

1. Chemistry: Clients pick and work with lawyers, not law firms. Clients want lawyers who understand their business so there is context to the legal work and the relationship. Yes, it’s important for clients to have a law firm that can provide legal support in multiple areas, in multiple jurisdictions, with enough bench strength to handle large deals or multiple deals simultaneously. BUT, ultimately a client wants to feel comfortable with the individuals and their professional relationship.
2. Trust: Clients need to be able to freely exchange information with their lawyer – especially bad news. Success is easy to share, but clients need to feel comfortable that communicating bad news, mistakes, problems and concerns will not be met with judgment or disdain. They want someone with a desire to help resolve the issue or, at least, make the best of a bad situation. Clients want to know their lawyer is really on their side.
3. Professionalism: Clients want a lawyer that is a professional. That means not cutting corners on ethics or professional responsibility. Clients need to know integrity, like trust, is something their lawyer believes and values and behaves accordingly. Cutting corners may seem expedient in the short term, but does any client ever want to wonder what other corners their lawyer is cutting?
4. Quality: There is no substitute. True, not every lawyer will have the same experience, skill or expertise. But every lawyer should know when something is out of their depth or beyond their capabilities. Clients want to know the work their lawyer does, their lawyer does well. If the matter is outside their lawyers skill set, clients want to know their lawyer will find, recommend and, if necessary, supervise other professionals with an equal passion for quality work.
5. Responsiveness: Clients understand that lawyers aren’t sitting around waiting for the client to call. But clients do appreciate a phone call, email or text saying “I received your request, document or message and while I’m busy or away or lounging on a beach, I’ll get to it by [insert reasonable time frame].” Definitely better than not responding at all and having the client wonder if you received their message or imagine you aren’t paying attention to them.
6. Efficiency: Clients often speak about ‘efficiency’ as if it were speed or cost or both. In reality, efficiency is more a benchmark of productivity than how quickly the work is done. But real efficiency means getting the work done in the most economical way. Sometimes a client may be willing to sacrifice efficiency for speed. Clients want work done well and quality legal support shouldn’t be sacrificed for speed. Being efficient truly adds value!
7. Value: Clients want lawyers who are practical and add value. They assume you are good what you do. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” No client needs to read a fifty page legal research memorandum and become an armchair lawyer. Clients want a genius. So be a genius! Encourage understanding, not legal bravado. Describe the issue, the risks, the alternatives and if possible, make a recommendation. That adds value. Clients will ask for more information if they need or want it.

8. Proactive: Clients want lawyers who not only understand their business and are responsive, but proactive. When laws or regulations change; when client’s business or operations change; when there are new developments affecting the client, every client wants a lawyer to let them know. It’s never a good when a client calls their lawyer with “I heard this happened . .. how does it affect me.” Most clients (and I suspect, most lawyers) would prefer the call that says, “thanks for letting me know so promptly you’re very helpful.”
9. Team Player: Lawyers don’t work in a vacuum – neither do clients. There may be many stakeholders with an interest in what’s going on, involving many areas and people (and many personalities) that need to interact in order for a client to make the best decisions on an informed basis. Lawyers are not the only professionals feeding clients information. Be cognizant, and most of all respectful, of those other folks. Be mindful that if all the lawyers in the world disappeared, babies would be born, goods would be bought and sold and life would go on. But if all the clients disappeared, lawyers would be out of work.
10. Money: Last but not least, attorney-client relationships involve money. Clients want the most practical, highest quality, most responsive, value added professional legal support from a lawyer they trust and like to work with for the least amount of money possible. Of course! Clients are intelligent consumers; they have choices and they certainly aren’t looking to over pay. Lawyers want to maximize the profit they derive from the work they do. Clients understand. It’s a delicate balance and lawyers must be flexible in agreeing to find different ways to profit, customized to each situation if necessary. Clients need to rely on their lawyer’s ability to be adaptable and have open discussions about charges. Fixed fees, milestone payments, value-based billing, success fees – there’s no shortage of alternatives to hourly rates and billable hours. If a client calls to discuss fees after receiving an invoice, it’s not really a discussion. It’s a negotiation at best and an argument at worst – one that undermines all the other goodwill that may have been built in the relationship.

So that’s my list. That’s how I would pick my lawyer. How will you pick yours?

SXSW South by Southwest Conference

As some of you already know, South by Southwest ®(SXSW) is one of the world’s premier events showcasing music, film and interactive media. This internationally-recognized event has live panels, special events, cinema and combines entertainment and educational activities in a conference and festival atmosphere.  The event takes place annually in Austin, Texas in the United States – this year between March 8th and 16th, 2024.

I have made a proposal to participate by making a presentation entitled “Legal Implications of AI: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and voting by the online community is now live!  That allows the public to help the organizers decide on ideas that are the most creative, innovative, and relevant for 2024.  Starting today and until August 20th (11:59 PM PT), you can see my proposal and vote using this link: Legal Implications of AI: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  I hope you will vote to include my presentation in the event.

My objective is to make the presentation interactive and entertaining, including some potentially innovative uses of AI to make the point. What do I want to talk about? First, how does current law deal with the film, television, music, art, literary industries – what are the challenges and the opportunities. Second, how can celebrities, sports figures, creative artists and talented professionals protect themselves while also exploiting the evolving technology. Of course, last but not least, is it too soon to start regulating AI? If so, what are we waiting for? If not, how do we even suggest regulation when we can’t predict where we are going?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will try to provide an enlightening, stimulating and thought provoking presentation – and yes, entertaining!  Again, I would appreciate your vote:  Legal Implications of AI: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Law Firm Bonuses and Profits

Interested in gaining perspective on where law firm bonuses and profits may be headed? Want to know whether we are in for more of the same or fundamental changes may well be ahead?

You can read my perspective, as well as the views of 8 other distinguished legal experts, in the latest report published by Henchmen.  You can also download a personal copy of my article to read at: “The Future of Bonuses and Profits at Law Firms“.

If nothing else, perhaps it will stimulate more conversations!!

Indo US Legal Sector: Redefining Relationships

On March 10, 2023, the Bar Council of India (BCI) announced new rules that will now allow foreign law firms to set up offices in India and hire Indian lawyers. These new rules are widely viewed as a major step towards liberalizing the Indian legal market, expected to boost trade and investment between India and the United States.
Joe Rosenbaum will be speaking at the Consulate General of India program, “Indo US Legal Sector: Redefining Relationships” on Wednesday, June 28, 2023 starting at 9:00 a.m. Eastern US time.
For further information you can visit Indo US Legal Sector: Redefining Relationships.

Seasons’ Greetings & Happy 2023!

This is the time of year when season’s greetings, holiday and new year’s wishes, regardless of religion, culture, ethnic background or heritage, fills the air. We shop for gifts, send cards (digitally, of course, these days), attend parties, dinners and festive gatherings. Oh, and we gain the 10 pounds that we resolve to lose every new year.

Despite the roller coaster pandemic warnings that again seem to be popping up, many of us, albeit slowly, are once again trying to get back to a new ‘normal,’ venturing to get together with family, friends, loved ones and colleagues.  Starting to travel again, perhaps taking that deferred and much needed vacation or simply taking a break from work or school or the anxiety of the last few years.

Looking back at 2022, it would be nice to say this pandemic is behind us, but just a few days ago I heard a new word – “tridemic” – which I’m sure will make it into the mainstream vocabulary faster than the spread of any virus.  COVID, Flu and RSV cases are increasing and new alarms about variants are once again threatening to overwhelm our health care systems.  At best, more anxiety. At worst, more tragic losses and overworked health care professionals.

At the same time, hardly a week (or sometimes a day) goes by where we don’t hear of another tragedy – a shooting at a mall, a school, a store, a workplace, a playground or a street corner.  Innocent bystanders or commuters subjected to random and often violent attacks.  There are still too many homeless, abused, under-served people in despair and distress. In many parts of the world, the holiday season and new year means bitterly cold weather and for far too many, lack of food or clothing or access to basic health care.

War and suffering, displaced human beings, innocent battered and often shattered lives.  There are still too many places in the world where there is no peace. Where instead of worrying about getting ahead in the workplace or being successful in business or striving to make sure children are getting an education and families are well nourished, they are concerned about stray bullets or brutal repercussions for expressing the wrong opinions. Where tolerance, understanding and compassion are absent. In this age of the Internet, we often too easily believe the myth that we live in a borderless world. It’s only borderless for those who speak, work and live in a free society.  For others, the borders, and living life within them, are very real.

I am also pretty tired of politics – especially partisan politics, no longer measured by honest, but well-meaning disagreement. It seems to have become malicious and mean-spirited. What if there was a requirement that every elected official be prohibited from remaining a member of or being endorsed by any political party, allowed to only accept donations of $10 or less and only once from each person or business in the geographic region they represent. If we are lucky, it would make it more difficult for ‘independent’ elected officials to reach a consensus on self-serving laws. Instead of voting along ‘party lines,’ it might make it more likely that the laws that do make it through are meaningful to greater numbers of citizens! Oh well, I can dream, right?

In case you think all is lost, as we head into 2023, let’s turn to what’s right with the world.  Once again, it’s been a year in which we have witnessed heroic efforts from our health care workers, first responders, emergency search and rescue personnel, as well as our finest and our bravest – not just in our nation, but around the world. So many dedicated, selfless people across the diverse fabric of our communities – communities that transcend borders. People from nations around the globe coming to the aid of those in need – in places they have never been, helping people they don’t know.

Ordinary people performing extraordinary feats of kindness, tirelessly giving of themselves for long, sometimes thankless hours to save lives, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide clothing and rebuild damaged houses and give comfort to so many in need. A woman and her family rescuing a helpless and lost elderly man stranded in a snowstorm, a police officer helping a stray deer stuck in a fence, neighbors providing clothes and food and shelter to strangers whose homes and lives have been shattered by tornadoes. These folks don’t make headlines but if look around, you can find everyday examples of the best in us. They are an inspiration to me, reminding me of what we should and can be if we just take the time to look around and try, not just this time of year, but throughout the year.

As this year draws to a close, once again I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to all of you – people with whom I’ve worked, readers of my silly trivia contests or learned quotes and those who glance at my legal insights designed to provoke your thoughts that I post once in a while. I am thankful for the relationships, old and new. Those that have endured, those that have strengthened and those that have surprised me and sometimes, those I’ve lost.  Each of you have helped enrich my life, personally and professionally and I am grateful.

Every year, as we move closer to a new year, I find myself at a loss for words that can adequately express my appreciation, so as I always do, I’ll just say, “thank you” and trust you will understand all that is behind those two simple words.

Season’s Greetings

This is the time of year when season’s greetings, holiday and new year’s wishes, regardless of religion, culture, ethnic background or heritage, usually fills the air.  In past years, we have spent lots of time and attention on shopping for gifts, sending cards, attending or hosting parties, dinners and gaining the 10 pounds we resolve to lose every new year.  Some join a swelling tide of well-wishers, holiday revelers, frosty noses, red cheeks and smiling faces. We traditionally gather together with family, friends, loved ones and colleagues –  often planning travel and vacations and taking a break from work and school.

This year, much like last year, but unlike any others, we continue to face challenges unthinkable and unimaginable less than two years ago. We have and continue to suffer tragic losses, we continue to confront anxiety and fear, we continue to pray for our most vulnerable. Many were often helpless to be near loved ones, unable to hold their hands or be there during moments when it mattered most. This has also been a year in which natural disasters and catastrophic events have contributed to the despair, forcing us to confront tragic loss of life and devastation to homes and property.

This past year, adding to the raging pandemic is our growing frustration and often a sense of helplessness – it seems each time we think we are turning the corner, we feel outwitted by a tiny organism – a virus known as COVID-19. We argue over mask mandates and social distancing, whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate and it sometimes feels like we are on different sides. The differences aren’t trivial and yes, they are most often very real. But they aren’t what really matters.

Once again, I prefer to focus on what is best in all of us, rather than what we argue about. Another year in which we witnessed heroic self-sacrifices from our health care workers, first responders, emergency search and rescue personnel, as well as our finest and our bravest – not just in our nation, but around the world.  So many dedicated, selfless people across the diverse fabric of our communities –  communities that have transcended borders. People from across nations, from around the globe, coming to the aid of those in need –  in places they have never been, helping people they don’t know.

Ordinary people performing extraordinary feats of kindness, tirelessly giving of themselves for long, sometimes thankless hours to save lives, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, provide clothing and rebuild damaged houses and give comfort to so many in need.  Let’s also not forget those medical researchers, clinicians and volunteers who are still engineering medical miracles and who continued to work tirelessly to prevent this virus from outwitting us.  While we never know what the future holds, nor what “normal” might look like in the months and years ahead, we can change the way we handle and deal with it – together.

I know the news media spends more time reporting how these difficult times have brought out the worst in some of us. But quietly and usually without fanfare, you can see more examples of how these adversities are bringing out the best in us – just stop and look around you. They are my inspiration to try harder to live up to that ideal, rather than any headlines.

So not surprisingly, this time of year my thoughts turn gratefully to those people and relationships who have helped to enrich my life, personally and professionally and to those who have helped make this world better. There really aren’t words to adequately express my appreciation, so I’ll just say “thank you” and trust you will understand all that is behind those two simple words.

Wishing all of you, your families, friends and loved ones a meaningful holiday season and a wonderful new year filled with health, happiness, prosperity and peace!

Portugal’s Parliament Protects Remote Workers

Last Friday, stimulated by the realities of working during this COVID-19 pandemic and the concern over unequal access to technology, the Portuguese Parliament (formally, the  Assembleia da República or in English, the Assembly of the Republic), passed new amendments to Portugal”s labor laws intended to protect Portugal’s remote workforce.

In brief, the new laws (which apply to companies with ten or more employees) mean that:

  • Employers could face fines if they contact their employees outside work hours;
  • Employers are forbidden from monitoring workers’ productivity while they are working remotely;
  • Employees with children under the age of eight now have an explicit legal right to work at home – no longer requiring management approval; and
  • Employers are required to help defray some of the costs their employees face as a result of working remotely (e.g., Internet connectivity; electricity, gas) and when they do so, the employer can write the reimbursement off as a business expense.

The amendments also made an effort to tackle the isolation and loneliness that employees may feel working from home by expecting employers to make arrangements for in-person meetings at least once every two months.

The Portuguese Republic was one of the first nations to adopt temporary remote working regulations and these are now formally part of the labor laws that apply to the Portuguese workforce.

If you need help or want more information about this or any other posting on Legal Bytes, don’t hesitate to contact me (Joe Rosenbaum) or any of the Rimôn professionals with whom you regularly work.

US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Issues Emergency Stay Blocking New COVID-19 Rules

Last Thursday (4 November 2021) we reported on the U.S. DOL’s announcement of new employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates (see US Department of Labor Announces Emergency COVID-19 Employer Requirements .

Yesterday (6 November 2021), a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, granted an emergency stay prohibiting enforcement of the rules for now, saying they raise “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”   The order, temporarily blocks implementation of the new rules and the Court ordered the U.S. Government to file papers by Monday afternoon in an effort to ensure swift consideration of the request to issue an injunction against the vaccine mandate and corresponding testing requirements under the new rules.

Click here to read the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Emergency Stay Order (November 6, 2021).

Stay tuned!