Why clients should hire the lawyer and not the firm

Why clients should hire the lawyer and not the firm

In today’s market, there is a dizzying array of options for legal advice. Even though a steady flow of mergers has somewhat reduced the numbers of traditional firms available, there are plenty of alternatives to fill the void – from ABSs to alternative providers such as Axiom and LoD. It is no wonder, then, that that choice of who to instruct can be a tricky one.

It is perhaps a result of this plethora of options that lead many to sticking with the law firm that they have always used, or going with the firm that has a “name” that they recognise – regardless of the lawyer they instruct (who may, in truth, not even be the lawyer that ends up doing the bulk of their work!). Time and again, I hear people say: “Lawyer X must be good, they’re at Firm Y” and it is all I can do to bite my lip lest I open the floodgates of my ire at this wholly illogical line of reasoning.

Let me be clear: you will find good lawyers at most firms, so the above will not always be wrong. Equally, however, you find bad lawyers at all firms as well. At the risk of being pilloried, let me also clarify what I mean by “bad” – it can be a range from the dictionary definition of the word (in my humble opinion) to, in many circumstances, just the “wrong” lawyer for the client. Not all lawyers work well for all clients. Some thrive advising on the industry you work in; some thrive from working with people like you; some thrive from working for household name clients or looking after the underdog. But to accept any of these as true, you must also accept that some lawyers do not. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the firm that they work at.

I am a realist. I know well that there are times when you want the right firm’s name on the letterhead because of the effect it can have – I don’t necessarily like that but I know that it’s true. There are other times when you need a bank of resources that a smaller firm simply cannot provide (although here is where some of the other players in the market, leveraging offshore capability, could help out). With all of this in mind, however, I still believe you pick the lawyer – albeit within the restraints that you’re put under.

The real truth (and I apologise in advance for the analogy) is that finding the right lawyer for you or your company is not dissimilar to online dating – you might kiss a lot of frogs but ultimately you are looking for a person with whom you can find a connection. After all, lawyering and the provision of advice is all about turning to an individual with expertise to help you when you need it most.

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About the author:

Legal Director and Senior Counsel

Exec Sponsor, Rule of Law and CSR

James works for LexisNexis, based in their London office, as Legal Director and Senior Counsel.  In line with a personal passion for access to justice, James leads LexisNexis’s work in the UK on advancing the Rule of Law, with a focus on supporting digitisation in the free legal advice community.  He also heads up the UK CSR programme, encouraging employee volunteering and giving, making a positive impact on society and the communities around us.

A lawyer with experience both in private practice and in-house, James joined LN in 2012 as its UK General Counsel and was promoted to its board 2 years later.  He also led the legal function for LexisNexis South Africa and for regulatory media organisation MLex after its acquisition in 2015

In 2017, he moved into a mainstream business role to gain non-legal experience, and worked as the Director of Customer Success and Engagement.  Leading a group of c.40 people at the front-line of the business, his team ensured that existing customers get the most value from our products and future customers can make informed and objective decisions when moving to services and tools within our product portfolio.

James returned to his current legal role at the start of 2021.

Away from the office, James is a Trustee for the London Legal Support Trust, an Officer of the International Bar Association, and an FA Level 1 Football Coach.