If "credit" is synonymous with "trust", and it is, then there was never a more potent dramatization of the fact than observing the current global financial realignment. Governments will and are doing everything in their power to influence everyone in a position to lend or borrow that it is safe to do so. That's management. That's leadership. In your own firm or legal department, the same is true. You must inspire confidence, and then get down to the business of solving problems for your client or clients.
Implementing a Winning Perspective
How to do that in period of economic shift? Get back to basics. Think in terms of cash, saving, and cautious investment. The great economic and legal minds agree, so how to begin? One way: manage the cost of your project. The typical reader of this blog is a law firm or legal department manager. As the leader of a legal team you need the best talent you can afford, but you need to keep your expenses down (in-house perspective) or your product value-driven (law firm perspective). Same result either way: get your best talent doing what they do--analyzing, formulating solutions, and setting priorities. For everything else, think division of labor.
A Nod to "Father Abraham (Maslow)"
"To him who has only a hammer in his toolkit, every problem looks like a nail." Implicit message: get some more tools. A huge (new?) tool in your toolkit can be the use of legal professionals on a temporary, project-based basis. White shoe law firms and their equally status- and value-conscious clients are going down this path--indeed, have gone down it--so here are further data points if you are on the fence about it:
Litany of Virtue (aka a shameless commercial for using contract attorneys):
Value: The obvious: The cost involved in using contract attorneys for document review in the litigation, compliance and transactions contexts is around 80% less than standard law firm rates. Not so obvious: That means on a typically large document reviewing requiring 20 reviewers for four weeks, your client could easily realize a $1MM savings. For some clients, that’s the difference between being able to afford your A-rate for A-work, and going to another firm. On the other hand, lots of law firms treat their contract pool as a profit center.
Efficiency: The obvious: You can hire as many contract attorneys or paralegals as you need to for a particular service, with precisely the experience and credentials you need, and then say goodbye when a particular project is over. A win-win. Thus, you never need worry about your department’s capacity to handle large, plum assignments, yet keep your firm’s associate ranks lean. No-so-obvious: With modern hiring practices, a document review or other project requiring instant dedication of 20, 30 or even just 5 individuals, cannot easily be accommodated. Plus, your associates have competing demands for their time. You and they know that certain tasks do not help them on their career path—document review is one of them. Your client needs a dedicated team, committed 100% to their project. Your associates should be getting experience managing other attorneys, not reviewing documents.
Convenience: The obvious: Basically, you pay us an hourly rate for the work, a temporary agency does everything else. That means all employment issues, payroll (and payroll tax!); withholding; workers’ compensation insurance; attorney malpractice insurance; everything. We are the employers for our temps; you aren’t. No-so-obvious: There is no question of walking down the murky pathway of “independent contractors.”
Breadth: A good agency call upon an amazing well-spring of legal professionals. Let them do the searching and staffing.