At heart, I believe that lawyers solve problems — at least I do. Typically these problems involve laws that describe the rights and remedies that different folks have, and the job of the lawyer is to sort through the facts and help a client know what to expect and to appreciate the risks inherent in that analysis. Usually I am asked to solve problems before they come up, such as when structuring a deal or drafting a contract, but sometimes I have to solve them afterwards, by negotiating a workable outcome or litigating when the incentives line up against reason.
But I’ve often said to pre-law students that they should think of law school as an education, not a vocation. What do lawyers really do? We analyze and define problems — you have a tax problem or a corporate governance problem or a signature problem, not just a “problem with this contract.” We identify sources of risk, and when we really understand what we’re doing, we point the way toward alternatives for managing certain risks by substituting different risks.
I confront business problems by identifying and defining them, determining the constraints involved, making hardliner judgments, and thereby describing a solution space. By examining the different dimensions of the possible solutions, I create opportunities for organizations to understand and decide what risks they want to take and what risks they want to avoid. It’s the client’s job to weigh the tradeoffs inherent in every set of alternatives — and then I make sure that those choices get implemented in whatever is at stake: a negotiation, a contract, operations, employee evaluation and compensation, or even corporate governance. I make client-specific recommendations about those decisions based on industry experience, personal knowledge, and full-spectrum intuition. In fact, it was my willingness to make considered recommendations for clients that signaled to me that I was different from the long-lived litigators and skilled corporate lawyers — I understood management and leadership then, not just law, and my business skills have only grown over the past 15 years in parallel to my legal skills.
Ultimately, my core skill in service to clients is decisiveness: I structure problems and define viable solutions to create opportunities for decisions.
Living my words
As a live example of my skills and this approach, I’ve created new structures within which to advise clients. After years of experimenting with hourly fees, flat fees, value-billing, not charging, and combinations of these structures, I have come to the conclusion that I should create well-defined, specific service options for clients. The plans described under Services are designed to help my clients have the kind of relationship that is most likely to create the highest value for them. For the most part, I will no longer do hourly work. It doesn’t create the kind of incentives, on any side, that foster the kinds of solutions that (a) businesses need to have, (b) I’m best at, compared to typical lawyers, consultants, and advisors, and (c) I want to work on.
So take a read through my plans, and think about how they create a different approach to the risks, and allocation of risks, in the standard law firm model. Imagine me taking this approach to your thorniest, fuzziest, most intractable business problems. That’s what I do. That’s all I want to do. Let’s do it together.
- Since someone will ask, I’m making a flat policy: nonprofits get a 20% fee reduction.
- If these plans don’t fit your needs, I can recommend several phenomenal corporate lawyers (people I have worked with, know, and would hire myself (and have hired on occasion) to do quality corporate legal work. I am happy to answer general questions in the context of blog posts, open Q&A (don’t send me any information you want to remain confidential), and in public forums such as Quora, LinkedIn, or even a G+ hangout.
- All plans are billed quarterly in advance. That’s the termination/cancellation timeframe. If you retain me, I make sure my schedule has enough open time to provide you the services we discuss. That means I don’t double-book my time. That’s what availability means: you get more, I take less.
- Guarantee: I’ve used a version of the H&K Commitment to Corporate Counsel fee guarantee in the past. I said I’d accept any fee decision made by a client if there was a dispute. Sometimes that meant that we’d no longer work together; sometimes it meant we clarified things going forward. As I see it, if we’re working together under these new models, we already know each other and we’re already clear that we’re of the same mind. The arrangement only works if estimates work for both of us — neither side should be taking advantage of the other. If either one of us were doing that, the whole thing would fall apart sooner or later, and sooner makes smaller waves.