A longtime friend and risk inspiration (and source of innumerable but always cited conflicts cases of note), he graciously agreed to spend some time sharing his perspective on a gamut of issues.
In our discussion, we cover: risk management, ethics and professional responsibility trends facing the legal industry — client pressures, conflicts challenges and response strategies.
Both a frank assessment of the current landscape:
“Over the past few years, my work has been mostly with large general practice firms with big business practices. What we’re seeing, and a lot of it I get from talking to people in my network, is that the very best firms are making more mistakes. They’re under pressure to do more. They’re under budgeting pressures. The corporate world is constantly tightening the screws on what the firms can bill for. They put limits on how much you can bill for an associate, for example, or even billing for first-year people. That sort of thing.”
“At the same time, business has improved since the Great Recession, so there’s often actually more work to be done. And all of these factors have added up to seeing a few more mistakes. Sometimes those are just plain missing deadlines, leaving paragraphs out of important deal documents, that sort of thing. But that hadn’t been the case for most of the 30-some years I’ve been doing this work.”
“The bigger firms were largely clean of simple mistakes, but that’s changed a bit. That’s the one I’d note as a surprise. But in hindsight, we should have predicted it. Of course, another trend is tied to bad clients…”
“My experience has been there is a general improvement among law firms as to the many things they need to do to avoid trouble, in the areas of conflicts of interest and representing dishonest clients.”
“In terms of avoiding conflicts, the larger firms now have good experienced people who really know the conflicts rules. Increasingly, those people have the attention of the rainmakers in the firm, and command more attention and respect. Conflicts has become more of a profession now. I know some very fine lawyers who do this for large law firms. And they have large staffs that help them, including other lawyers.”
There’s more. And more detail to read. (And more original risk content in the works. Keen to connect with experts interested in sharing their own perspectives… or those with nominations. Feel free to get in touch.)
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