A Valuable Attorney: The Meaning Is Changing

Last week, I met with a wonderful attorney who has been in-house with one of our clients for several years, doing primarily employment work. She said she was recently offered a position to lead a new business unit that will require putting together processes and managing 30-plus attorneys – a very significant position within the company.

After offering my congratulations and discussing a little more about the position, we left on this note: attorneys who can manage processes and people are going to be vital to our legal profession -- and their company/clients -- moving forward. There are many smart attorneys and there are some who are true specialists in a niche area; but finding attorneys who understand business, who understand the importance of a repeatable process, and who are able to create, modify and manage a process and then bring in the people and manage them as well … is a unique skill set for an attorney. Those with these skills will be immensely valuable as we continue to forge through the changes that we're upon in our profession.

Everyone is being asked to do more with less – from our home life to our professional life. We are in a time that requires all of us to examine our expenditures, what value we are getting for what we spend and whether there are more cost-effective ways to get some, if not all, of our tasks done. This is true in the life of our clients, both law firms and corporate legal departments. Within our company, one question that I encourage people to always ask themselves is, “What can I do that no one else can?” The answers to that question are the real value that you bring the company. If there are things that you are doing that can be done by someone else at a reduction in cost – then let’s look to shift that work to that resource. This is just step one in determining whether you are really getting value for what you are paying. In this economy, everyone selling their services needs to be sure that they are providing that real value.

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Joshua Kubicki - November 11, 2009 3:02 PM

Great post. I agree with you 100% about the growing need for business-minded attorneys that can juggle the relatively new tasks (within the legal profession) of people and process management. These folks do face an uphill battle however to "prove" their worth. The profession still values and grades lawyers based on the typical lawyer traits and pedigrees. Deviation from the "norm" is looked down upon in many organizations and certainly law firms.

I have over a decade of experience from the in-house, firm and consultant perspective. The one thing I have found true among all the new breeds of lawyers who have the people/process skills is that they not only have to apply them to the business they are engaged in but almost more vitally they have to apply them to the organization within which they exist - to prove their worth, gain visibility and sponsorship, and otherwise promote their "unique" skill set and gain credibility for offering something new.

Disclaimer: I drank this Kool-aid a long time ago.

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