In-house lawyers have expressed pity for their contemporaries in private practice and bemoaned bad advice in a poll conducted by RollOnFriday. If you're in-house you still can have your say here

One Magic Circle firm was berated for submitting "crap work" and then "whacking up their fees" when the product wasn't up to scratch and had to be re-done.

When a partner at another Magic Circle firm asked a client "who on earth drafted this piece of shit?", he had to be reminded that it was him, six months previously.

Another elite City firm that "charged an arm and a leg" gave a client what it said was "unequivocal advice" only for it to turn out later to be "highly equivocal". To make matters worse, the lawyers tried to blame "everyone else". 

However, clients said they don't mind paying a premium for quality. Sullivan and Cromwell was described by one satisfied respondent as "reassuringly expensive" and "very clever"  but "light with it". Another respondent said that Herbert Smith Freehills fees would "make a Saudi Prince wince", but its "first rate, commercially focused" advice meant that it was the most impressive firm that client had instructed.

The extent partners beast their associates has been flagged by several in-house lawyers, and not as a compliment. Clients said it generally infuriated rather than impressed them when associates fired off endless emails in the middle of the night.

"I'd actually like it if they treated their staff better", said one respondent who didn't want legal advice from a "washed-out anaemic skeleton".

Another respondent said it wasn't healthy for associates to be "chained to their desks" and requested more visibility "in face-to-face meetings" rather than just the partner "being wheeled out".


Associates

The NQs working on the deal were finally released to meet the clients


Lawyers were criticised for bad communication when they were swamped. Firms that are overworked, should be "more upfront and honest if they are too busy" said one in-house lawyer as it would help the client "allocate work more efficiently and hopefully give the lawyers a chance to complete existing deals". 

And some lawyers striving to be available 24/7 should take note, particularly the partner who used his headset to "join a call from the urinal mistakenly thinking he was on mute".  

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Comments

Anonymous 29 November 19 10:34

These are the same in-house lawyers who sit on something for a week before farming it to outside counsel, by which stage it has become urgent and they demand the work be done by the next day. It’s one thing saying that they don’t like associates getting beasted, but they are the ones managing the distribution of work and deadlines. 

Anonymous 29 November 19 12:08

“Firms that are overworked, should be "more upfront and honest if they are too busy" said one in-house lawyer as it would help the client "allocate work more efficiently and hopefully give the lawyers a chance to complete existing deals".”

...said no client in a matter-related situation, ever.

Anonymous 02 December 19 06:25

Anon @ 10:34 to be fair, it's often the business rather than in-house lawyers who both sit on something and demand quick turnaround. It's obviously up to internal counsel to help manage that dynamic but in transactional matters it's usually not them setting the deadlines. And I've personally had to tell law firms that a piece of work is not urgent and doesn't require associates to have their weekends ruined in order to turn it around. But that seems to be their standard MO. Possibly because that's how desperate they are to impress.