Big mistake

"I've been promoted to GC and I'm ditching snobby firms. Big mistake. Big. Huge."

This is the final call for the RollOnFriday In-house Lawyer Survey (see below) which will be closing soon.

In-house lawyers have been disclosing their best and worst opinions of law firms so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly, arrogant lawyers are getting some stick. One in-house lawyer lambasted a firm for a "high-handed partner" who "makes us feel like we're minions and morons, when we're the client. Not great for relationship building."

Another respondent said that whenever a particular partner at a firm arrives for a meeting, colleagues announce that "the Ego has landed" due to his "overbearing attitude." The respondent said "the annoying thing is that he even looks down on our GC who has bags more experience and was practising law when Mr Ego was still in nappies".  

One in-house counsel said a firm "wheels out an army of Jacob Rees-Mogg clones that give us withering looks and demeaning comments," but they quite often "miss the point, as their self importance prevents them from listening. I am always amazed when advice comes by email rather than a letter with an insignia red wax seal." The respondent said "we really need a panel refresh to give them the boot back to the 19th century." 

When it came to social skills, some firms were also lambasted for being aloof. "We had drinks with one firm where a haughty partner talked about her horse. She seemed genuinely shocked to learn that I had never ridden a horse or been to the races." 

Other firms were criticised for lacking conviction. One in-house lawyer complained of instructing a lawyer who is a "wallflower." The respondent said they would have "no complaints, except for the fact that he is our litigator. Wrong choice of department. Should be a tax lawyer."

Lawyers' presentation skills were also a bugbear for respondents. "We get invited to lunch seminars given by lawyers who read from their notes in a monotonous tone, never changing pitch, never changing facial expression. There's more personality in the cold ham sandwiches waiting for us at the end of the hour-long torture session." 

It wasn't all bad. Some lawyers let their personalities shine through, without shocking results. One in-house counsel said that CMS lawyers were "totally on top of things and decent to deal with." Another respondent said that Jurit LLP had "real experts with excellent response times and incredible commercial nous.  Also, they are all really nice people".

Norton Rose Fulbright was praised for being "generally very responsive and I feel that they take us (a large investment bank globally but with a smaller offering in London) seriously". 

While Ashurst was commended for "pushing diversity in the teams they are offering us" with "multi-disciplinary/strength in teams."

If you're in-house, do spill the beans below.

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Thank you for taking part in RollOnFriday's survey of in-house lawyers. We use the results to write stories and reports. We don't take your name and so the answers you provide will be kept anonymous.
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Anonymous 07 July 23 09:29

Lol at "There's more personality in the cold ham sandwiches waiting for us at the end of the hour-long torture session."

In-House Anon 07 July 23 10:42

NRF must have paid a fat wedge for that endorsement because my company (well known FS company) stopped using NRF after a string of easily avoidable mistakes and generally for being socially unaware gimps

Anonymous 07 July 23 10:43

My old boss was one of the typed they're complaining about.

The in-house counsel for the client was qualified in multiple jurisdictions and spoke many languages. He just project managed due to the volume and range of work his department covered. 

My boss saw them as some type of thicko as they only light touched the matter. My boss would also outsource everything to both senior and junior counsel. 

Client thought they were an idiot. 

Anonymous 07 July 23 12:06

"Freshfields won plaudits for its lawyers' unusually large organs, with clients describing the service as 'huge, like, the biggest I've ever seen' and as 'seriously, I didn't even know they could be that size'. One enthusiastic in-houser complemented the firm for 'really knowing what they were doing with it though, they were tender and firm at the same time, somehow totally in control but also giving me everything I wanted whether I knew I wanted it or not. It was mind blowing and I don't think I'll ever find another partner who can equal it' so it wasn't all negative."

Yeah, I agree with 10:01.

Some of these supposed comments are a bit suspicious.

Peat Marwick 07 July 23 12:28

This article is a rather refreshing read. The accountancy and consulting profession is no different. Many practice accountants and consultants come across poorly in client meetings, presumably due to the lack of coaching. Moreover, there are occasions when the client is more knowledgeable than the practice staff giving the advice. It can be embarrassing.

GC 07 July 23 14:38

Having instructed numerous external counsel it is becoming clear that the majority of the so-called elite US firms are absolutely horrendous. Eg: Self-inflated blowhard associates who pretend to know they are doing and are generally unsupervised, and junior “partners”/counsel who are technically subpar (other than harassing the clients to pay the invoices promptly). 

I am much more satisfied with services provided by S&M and Ashurst. The fees are noticeably more reasonable too. 

The deterioration of associate quality is truly worrisome.

Anonymous 07 July 23 15:41

"Some of the reviews were mixed, even for London's largest firms "to be honest, it's actually quite intimidating" said an exhausted general counsel of Allen & Overy "you think it's what you want on paper, but in practice it's exhausting and emasculating. You find yourself making excuses not to go to bed at the same time, and if you try to talk about it with your friends they don't take you seriously because they think you're boasting". Peers seemed to agree "insatiable" ,"relentless", and "I'm not a machine" were common refrains at all levels."

Really not sure that the RoF survey is that reliable tbh. Half of it just sounds like marketing teams writing their own reviews.

UK associate 08 July 23 15:28

Sponsor side US firms are notorious for their cocksure / incompetent solicitors who lack the ability to handle any serious negotiation points that require some critical thinking. They are led to believe that lawyers should be “deal makers” and “think commercially”, and neglect the very fact that they are engaged to advise on legal issues. There have been instances where NQs are pushing back on commercial points without client instructions. Their pay of £200k and more as a junior associate boggles the mind. 

Anon 09 July 23 17:54

Is RoF going to a do an article on lawyers' experiences of their clients?  

False deadlines, mission creep on fixed budgets, "Sorry to trouble you while you're on holiday..." emails, sending instructions only after something is urgent... 

sponsoring tofu 14 July 23 07:28

in particular K to the E associates come to mind. i get they are representing sponsors and it gets heated at times but its mind boggling sometimes to see a 2PQE being very direct and rude to the banks' VPs and legal teams. to the point where our deal team has to tell the deal partner to tone it down and have a side call with the banks to manage the relationship...

Anonymous 28 July 23 09:49

"so good that I literally forgot to breathe" said a wowed GC of CMS "thought that I knew what I was doing, but I genuinely learned new things about myself. That's how amazing they were". Peers routinely agreed about the life-changing nature of the relationship "It's been years since we last properly worked together, but I still can't stop calling them in the middle of the night begging for more whenever I have a few drinks and find myself alone in a taxi. They've left me a complete fiend and nobody else can do what they used to do" said one particularly impressed in-houser."

There has got to be a better system for weeding out the fake comments from firms' marketing teams that are clearly being put into the mixer here.

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