Bond reel

Junior lawyers: No time to socialise


In-house lawyers want firms to stop beasting their lawyers, according to results so far in the RollOnFriday In-house Lawyer Survey

"Burnt-out lawyers are no good to us," said an in-house banking lawyer. "Equip your teams with enough lawyers on a deal so that you can rotate them and keep them fresh to provide good advice."

"Please tell your junior lawyers to stop sending non-urgent emails at 2 in the morning," said a senior in-house lawyer in telecoms. "It doesn't impress anyone and just looks weird, frankly."

"I'm not paying top dollar for some tired lawyer who can't focus because they've been worked like cart-horse," agreed another respondent.

"It's not good when half your team turn up to an important meeting appearing like zombies because they've been burning the midnight oil," said one client. "Don't sweat the assets i.e. your staff!" advised another, "In the long run it will be counter-productive for them, you and us."

An in-house lawyer in energy requested "more senior engagement." They added: "I do not like going after overworked juniors for mistakes, particularly when many of those mistakes are because the senior has not bothered to review or give them the right facts. Seniors should be focusing on fewer matters to give better advice."  

"Bring in some consistency in staffing. It is frustrating moving between associates when instructing on new matters," said a Head of Legal in the energy sector.

Many respondents wanted firms to provide better value for money. "Get rid of equity partners who simply sit on top of the bills, add no value, and attempt to manage relationships," said a GC in healthcare.

Many in-house lawyers wanted firms to move away from time-based billing and towards fixed fees. "Remove reliance on the billable hour," said a GC in Private Equity. "Stop charging by the hour. It is inefficient, and breeds complacency and bad practice," said a client in retail.

A GC in consumer goods said firms should abolish time recording and have fixed fees: "It's absolutely ridiculous that firms with 40 years of time recording data on every conceivable problem cannot crunch the numbers and come out with fee levels that are profitable to them and acceptable to the clients," said

"Be more open to alternative pricing/advice structuring methods.  It depends on the relationship, but when firms are working with me I would hope they understand I am an experienced lawyer in this market and don't need them to do the 'grunt work'.  I am coming to them for specialist input on particular questions and only expect to pay for that part of the advice," said a respondent in financial services. 

The way firms approached marketing was another gripe. "Dump the meaningless circulars and start tailoring things to the client. Pick up the phone for a quick word instead," said a GC in real estate.

"Less marketing emails," said an in-house lawyer in energy. "Substantive legal updates are helpful, marketing emails a waste of my time."

One respondent complained of how lawyers used social media to flex. "Please stop gushing about yourselves and your teams on LinkedIn. We don't care." 


If you're in-house give your two cents below
 

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Comments

Tiresome 20 May 22 08:47

We want your best people on this and we want them fresh but don’t forget, we want them cheap.  

Anonymous 20 May 22 09:17

Hire more people.  Ensure consistency of team and I’m dealing with the same people.  Cap your fees - all new matters will progress in the same way as all previous matters.  No cookie cutter solutions.  More senior engagement. I don’t want to pay for for Partner time.

 

Got it.

Anon 20 May 22 09:22

“Equip your teams with enough lawyers on a deal so that you can rotate them…”

“Stop being so expensive!”

reality check 20 May 22 09:27

Ok.
Documents flawless and on time and team deep into the details, highly trained and very responsive - fees cheaper than all other responses to the RfP, disbursements written off of course and staff regularly sent to a health farm and rotated like polo ponies; oh and emails sent within IH working hours.

Coming right up, Mx Customer... 

Anonymous 20 May 22 09:30

Absolutely deluded comments from the in-house lot. They genuinely don’t see that they are part of the problem.

Gobblepig 20 May 22 09:33

Stop using the billable hour as you've lots of experience of working on these matters, say clients who have lots of experience of hiding and lying about salient facts that make consistent up-front pricing almost impossible. 

Edd China 20 May 22 09:56

For me it is a matter of making clear to the lawyers when I actually need stuff and whether there is actual pressure. I tell my lawyers that no-one will read ther stuff on Friday night or over the weekend. Consquently, delivering in the course of Monday is fine.

Knowing my own organisaton, I know when it wil actually will take us three weeks to digest, so "Friday EOB" or "First thing tomorrow" is no use and I am aware that I would be ruining someone's night or weekend.

In return, it will make it clear when things are different and I actually need stuff ASAP. In my experience, lawyers are more motivated to spend the night if they know I am aware of what it means for them and that the pressure is real.

GC with a budget to manage 20 May 22 11:25

Wanting price certainty =/= wanting a cheaper price

Wanting fresh & alert eyes =/= wanting a cheaper price

If we've picked your firm we've already filtered based on rates & quality.  It's not too much to expect you to actually deliver on that quality or the cost you've quoted.

If a software developer can come up with a palatable fixed price for a 3 month project with lots of unknown variables, I'm sure a law firm can manage it.  Lawyers are meant to be the bright high achievers, no?

 

 

ShootyOriginal 20 May 22 11:27

"One respondent complained of how lawyers used social media to flex. "Please stop gushing about yourselves and your teams on LinkedIn. We don't care."."

Confused.

What else, exactly, is LinkedIn for?

This is like saying Twitter is not for virtue signalling and pile ons. 

Anonymous 20 May 22 12:53

Seniors not giving juniors the right information rings true from my, admittedly long past, experience of pp. 

I recall twice being given details of properties to report on. Straightforward titles for the most part. In one I knew the title inside out and everything that was likely to affect the development of the site. Was verbally abused for that site as I didn't mention anything at all about XX. "What the fuck is he on about XX?" I asked a colleague only to be told that at a meeting a few weeks before our clients had also said they were purchasing XX. A meeting I was not invited to. The guy who was doing all the work on the site. Piss poor communication leading to work being done at eleventh hour when it could have been easily undertaken weeks before. Feck knows what the clients thought when I belatedly started asking questions about XX. 

Anon 20 May 22 14:14

Exactly.  There is a disconnect here.  A client doesn’t want to get an email at 1am or 4am etc because they are not impressed by that and also (1) think their work isn’t being prioritised in the day (2) the associate can’t manage workload (3) no one gives good advice when shattered and (4) it looks bad from a mental health perspective.  Yes, as you get near a deadline or closing and there is the need to work through the night, ok, clients appreciate the hard work but not routinely.  
 

 

Anonymous 20 May 22 14:44

with apologies to Irate Filmgoer @1050, but ROF picture essay for this story is superb.

Member 20 May 22 15:43

We've brought several experienced in-house lawyers back into private practice over the years. Quite a few of them struggled severely with (a) deadlines (b) realistic fee estimates (c) getting on with clients and other parties and (d) achieving client objectives for tasks. Not to mention technical knowledge.

But at least this feedback shows that they know what private practice lawyers ought to be doing, even if they themselves couldn't actually do it when in our shoes ...

LawPerson 20 May 22 17:29

Panel requirement:  "don't beast your lawyers!  Work life balance!!!!"

 

Reality: "we need this on Sunday by mid-day.  Yes I know it's 7pm on Friday."

CS 20 May 22 19:36

Plenty of common sense and good advice above the line (good article, James) - lots of bitterness and an inability to listen below the line.

There's plenty of things firms can do to provide cheaper, more alert service without beasting their juniors. Cutting down on business development involvement that doesn't bring in any business, pointless training, pointless meetings, save tidying to client facing output and get half-decent non-fee earners to do it, ask for things to be done when you've understood what your client wants rather than out of reflex, in general drop the no value-added nonsense.

I'm TMT, I'm dy-no-mite 20 May 22 19:57

@GC with a budget to manage 20 May 22 11:25, has your budget and experience ever been spent on reviewing, drafting, implementing or subsequently disputing the performance of a software development contract, with a delivery window of the final tested and launched solution in the 3 months? Did you use the vendor contract for that?

Sage wisdom 20 May 22 19:59

More ball achingly obvious comments from the people who don't actually run a business. 

I'm seeing someone else 20 May 22 20:23

@Anon 20 May 22 14:14, you realise that your chosen law firm likely has other clients, and that some of these clients might have deals, and that some of the lawyers in your chosen law firm assigned to your deal may be doing other work at the same time your deal is ongoing, including perhaps working on those other clients' deals, routinely. You do realise this? Don't you?

Do as I say not as I do 20 May 22 23:01

"It's absolutely ridiculous that firms with 40 years of time recording data on every conceivable problem cannot crunch the numbers and come out with fee levels that are profitable to them and acceptable to the clients.”

It’s absolutely ridiculous that organisations used to instructing external counsel for well over 40 years still don’t know how to provide an accurate scope of work, acknowledge (and pay for) a change in scope or pay their bills on time (or, at all). All whilst charging their law firms for the privilege of using their eBilling systems, which largely spit invoices back out anyway.

Anything else you’d like with your cake while you’re gorging on it?

Preacher 20 May 22 23:43

I am always frustrated by comments that clients are not impressed by emails at 1am. Nobody likes sending emails at 1am and generally it's not done to impress anyone. It is done them because when else will it be done? Tomorrow there'll be an all day meeting, an SPA to draft and a fire to fight. If I don't send the email now them I may not send it until Wednesday.

Anonymous 21 May 22 17:38

It takes about 3 mouse clicks and 14 seconds to time your email to the client to send at 8am the next morning.

Let's be honest you are sending it at 1am to impress your boss and colleagues...who don't care anyway.

 

Preacher 22 May 22 09:17

Anonymous 21 May 22 17:38:

I have tried that before and got burned because circumstances change between 1am and 8am, especially when clients are in time zones several hours ahead.

I decided not safe to use timed email for important things. Better to be honest about the order of events. I do sometimes draft the email at 1am and then send it at 8am to avoid the above.

If my "boss" is copied it is because the email either contains info they need to know about OR because they need to know for resource management purposes my capacity is stretched.

Frankly, I am sometimes embarrassed to be sending the email at 1am. No one is impressed.

Anonymous 22 May 22 19:53

@17.38. Mate, no one is trying to impress anyone, we’ve got loads to do so you’ll get your email when you get it. I’m not arsing about spending 14 seconds timing my email for 8am so some pathetic papier mache in house lawyer doesn’t get triggered because they’re reminded of what it was like when their services were actually in demand and they have a full on nervous breakdown. Bore off.

CGSH Associates Forun 23 May 22 08:30

Too late, we’ve all been run through the mill in the London office, nothing more to give these greedy partners.

barbarian 23 May 22 13:47

"Equip your teams with enough lawyers on a deal so that you can rotate them and keep them fresh to provide good advice.".

Also: ""Bring in some consistency in staffing. It is frustrating moving between associates when instructing on new matters".

Got it.

Anon 23 May 22 14:20

“we’ve got loads to do so you’ll get your email when you get it”

Not quite mirroring how law firms say they value client service and responsiveness is it?

Anonymous 23 May 22 16:13

"Equip your teams with enough lawyers on a deal so that you can rotate them and keep them fresh to provide good advice.".

Also: ""Bring in some consistency in staffing. It is frustrating moving between associates when instructing on new matters".

Got it.

you're aware these are separate comments from separate people, both of which can be valid? 

In-House Arsehole 24 May 22 09:35

@Anonymous 20 May 22 09:17 & @barbarian 23 May 22 13:47 - These are (not unreasonable) distinct requests depending on the scope of matter the firm is being engaged on. On an all consuming corporate transaction you want rotation as a lot of the grunt work is done by interchangeable juniors. Though for advices on bespoke matters (such as our ESOP, state aid issues with RPOs or our IP portfolio) I want consistency in staffing for the 3/4 queries I submit a year. Otherwise what's the point in engaging a firm for all advices when I have to brief the associate at the start of each query?

Nonnymouse 25 May 22 10:00

The responses to this are as expected from the Private Practice crowd. Honestly, the disdain shown in these comments shows a complete disregard for the fact that In-house counsel are the ones giving you all the work you love boasting about. 

GC with a budget to manage 20 May 22 11:25 is 100% right. The Private Practice crowd assume we go straight to the lowest price when choosing counsel, but more often than not I don't. If you are well suited to the deal (eg. previous experience with a counterparty, some particularly specialist skill etc.) you'll get the mandate, even if you are more expensive. You'll add value that a cheaper firm wouldn't, which is good for us in the long run.

Anonymous 26 May 22 05:16

‘If a software developer can come up with a palatable fixed price for a 3 month project with lots of unknown variables, I'm sure a law firm can manage it.  Lawyers are meant to be the bright high achievers, no?’
 

software variables and legal variables are not the same 

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