Arrogant file

A lawyer considers whether or not to take the client's instruction

This is the last call for The RollOnFriday In-House Lawyer Survey 2024. So far, respondents have been opining on billing, diversity, wfh, knackered associates, and the best and the worst service.  

Perhaps unsurprisingly, brash lawyers are getting some stick. One in-house lawyer in funds lambasted a firm for its "rude, arrogant lawyers who act like they know your business/ industry better than you". 

They added that "being patronised as an experienced in house lawyer is so unnecessary and puts you off using a firm again".

Another respondent said a US firm had an "arrogant attitude", along with "very poor quality work." The client commented: "I constantly have to double check all their work and basically proof read even the simplest documents, which is galling when you're paying through the roof and you know the trainees earn more than you." 

A government in-house lawyer said they experienced "micro-aggression" from lawyers at a national firm. "It is not a firm that I would instruct again. They have a lot to learn and their staff often appear to be arrogant". Another respondent said of the same firm: "the UK has more chance of winning Eurovision, than we have at getting a response to emails".

Meanwhile, the most innovative use of invoicing goes to the firm that "declined to work on an item they had previously advised on, despite our willingness to pay", said a client. "They directed us to a different type of firm. The next bill included a line item for the email declining the work. This is a great way to lose clients." 

Another bugbear was firms that provided poor customer service. An in-house lawyer in technology, said they had to "repeatedly" chase a firm for updates, and the firm "didn't answer direct questions asked of them, managed to mess up the signing process which unsurprisingly pissed off our CEO/founder and were frankly verging on incompetent". And the cherry on top was that it took "two months to get them to invoice in accordance with our (pretty standard) billing guidelines."

One in-house lawyer slammed a firm for "shockingly" reusing advice "they'd previously given us and neglecting to replace the external customer name", adding, "at least Dick Turpin did it wearing a mask".

A GC in energy said they gave a Magic Circle firm a "7-figure instruction that went over two times that amount" but didn't get "a word of thanks to date". Noting, "I still see them ecstatically flogging the deal awards they got from that instruction from time to time on LinkedIn".

If you're in-house, please do complete the survey below.

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In-house counsel 14 June 24 08:40

The quality of certain “elite” US firms is appalling. 15+ PQE but fails to understand basic legal concepts. Clients don’t need 24/7 responsiveness; they need quality advice. 

Anonymouser 14 June 24 08:45

Two things:

1. Clients with silly billing procedures can sod right off complaining about it. It’s usually just an excuse not to pay for a bit.

2. Clients who expect thanks for an instruction? What? Is that a thing? 

Anonymouslier 14 June 24 09:12

In my experience, in house lawyers fit into three categories:

1. Utterly useless ones who are there because they didn’t do well in private practice. Generally nice to work for, but probably shouldn’t have needed external counsel. Oh well. 

2. Nice ones who know their stuff and know what they don’t know, appreciate the value added by external counsel, and make life very easy. Great stuff.

3. Overbearing bullies who aren’t interested for 99% of the matter and then get involved at the 11th hour with big ideas, claiming everything is easy, and really mucking everything up. These are the absolute worst. 

@Anonymouslier 14 June 24 09:41

Don't forget category 4: The overbearing bully who insists on micromanaging every step of the process, purportedly as part of an attempt to manage costs, but ends up slowing everything down and (ironically) driving up costs because they are too simple to understand anything. 

An Offshore Type 14 June 24 09:54

@09.20 - That's a fair assessment.

As a de facto postbox who would struggle in even the most unchallenging of in-house environments I find that the only way to dull the pain is to finish work at five and spend the evening drinking ever more elaborately decorated cocktails while watching the sunset from a beach bar. 

But sometimes even that is not quite enough to take the pain away. On particularly intense weeks I find that the only way to take away the pain of those six o'clock finishes is to invite one or more sets of fetching neighbours over for vigorous evening of wife-swapping. Such is the emptiness of my existence.

It's not the life I envisaged at University, but it is the one I am bound to tread forlornly until the grave.

Anonymous 14 June 24 10:33

Replying to Anonymous @08:58

Reminds me of the classic choir boy on choir boy taunt: Can can and Dec can't. 

Crust of Bread 14 June 24 11:04

@0912 absolutely agree.

Worked in-house for a insurer. The head of commercial told his teams that he would claw back "delay repay" on trains from staff as it was company Same guy used to big up his sport prowess when he looked like Mr Greedy of Mr Men fame. Absolute stroker. 

Dearie 14 June 24 11:09

Weird how private practice lawyers seem to hate their own instructing clients so much. It's either a superiority complex or plain jealousy. I've met some great inhouse lawyers and some not so good ones. Having worked in both, it's definitely easier for a poor lawyer to hide in private practice. 

Anon 14 June 24 12:56

Private practice lawyers compaining about clients is a bit like a doctor saying "I love being a doctor but hate patients". Go and be a professor if this is the case and work in splendid isolation. 

Anon 14 June 24 13:44

When frustrated with a client the client partner asked me "what is a lawyer without a client?" A nobody. So remember those who instruct hold the purse strings.

An Offshore Type 14 June 24 15:22

"When frustrated with a client the client partner asked me "what is a lawyer without a client?" A nobody. So remember those who instruct hold the purse strings."

Quite. A wretched creature. Almost as lowly as the offshore lawyer without self-esteem, doomed to a life of obscurity with nothing to fill their days with but a relentless drumbeat of links golf-courses, beachside bars, yacht clubs, barbecues, outdoor pools, Caribbean sunshine, and the comprehensively tanned bodies of their trophy wives that they exchange between themselves like Pannini stickers in a school playground. Perhaps the odd fishing trip for those who still retain a glimmer of hope for redemption.

Truly wretched. An existence so without honour that not even an underpaid Slaughters trainee could countenance it. 

Pity them from your ivory towers in Zone 4. It is a charity which is more than they deserve.

Baggy head 14 June 24 16:20

@14 June 08:58, have to disagree with you there.


Having spent my entire career in private practice until moving in-house to a client a couple of years' ago, it's clear from this side of the fence that 90% of lawyers are utterly clueless about the real world and what actually matters to clients (as was I, it has to be said).


Private practice lawyers are often highly intelligent and should, theoretically, be very capable people, but you can have all the intelligence in the world and it won't matter if you have absolutely no idea how to apply it to providing practical, useful advice. 


So no, actually, those who allegedly can will more often than not do something that nobody has asked for or can make any use of.


Oh, and the lifestyle and perks are way better over here as well.

elite lawyering 14 June 24 19:01

In-house counsel 14 June 24 08:40

The quality of certain “elite” US firms is appalling. 15+ PQE but fails to understand basic legal concepts. Clients don’t need 24/7 responsiveness; they need quality advice

The mistake clients make is going to elite US law firms expecting basic legal understanding and quality legal advice.

That’s just not the point of them. You go to an elite US law firm to get hyper aggressive pit bulls who will never sleep and shout “it’s market” and “you’re just going to have to take a view” repeatedly until the other side gives up and accepts terrible drafting simply to get the deal done.

Sometimes, it is the only way to get the deal done. 

Dave 14 June 24 22:56

That’s right, elite lawyering.

Don’t forget the immortal line: “By the time we’ve finishing arguing about this, the lawyers’ fees with exceed the amount saved by your client in taking their commercial position”. In other words, don’t bother raising any arguments.

Anon 16 June 24 09:08

Modern law firms are run on data. You must do your excessive  hours and bills targets or else. With survival depending on fleecing the clients, why do you think there is so much over-charging?

Office Drone 17 June 24 11:18

Baggy head 14 June 24 16:20 makes a good point, which I recognise too, having worked several years in law firms before moving in-house. 

Law firms are specialists - legal services, black letter law, is what they do. I even remember being reigned in in an MC Firm when I returned from a client secondment and tried to adjust advice notes, opinions etc. to the language the client preferred. My supervising partner was having none of it while the client wondered why I was suddenly speaking legalese with all sorts of academic points, "ifs" and "it depends" chucked in when they were simply looking for a clear steer on what to do.


Similarly, any ideas on various risks - reputation, political risk, commercial and market based risks, was suddenly stripped out too because the partners said "Great thinking, mate, really useful. But we are not insured for this and those are points for the client to consider. Stay in your lane, comment on the law, that's it."


The whole "stay in your lane, only focus on the law" attitude was something I couldn't stomach, which ultimately persuaded me that I was better suited for in-house and be an actual counselor to my client and colleagues.

You With The Face 19 June 24 16:19

Some PP lawyers accused of being arrogant twerps and respond by...

being arrogant twerps


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