Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Consulting Law Firms

I've been writing about the legal profession for some time now, but usually without a view to monetizing this activity as a consultant. I am an academic and love the freedom that brings. It also means I don't have to think too hard about my own business case: it virtually operates by default.

Occasionally I receive calls and emails asking for advice and information. Mostly, if I can, I give it. If it is a government department, then it has to pay and that goes through the university books. That usually involves a sustained research project.

The other calls, however, are for answers to specific problems. The first call was from a law firm in Kentucky--I was at Indiana University--that was about to experience succession jitters. The firm had been established by a pater familias and run by his fiat. All the junior partners did as they were told. Their problem was that when the founder said he was leaving, none of them knew how to practise democracy. Self-government was an enigma. My task was to talk them through basic principles. And it was fun.

Today I had an unusual one: a call from the Midlands from a corporate law firm that wants to establish an office in New York. Although it does large deals, the firm is in a different league to the usual foreign law firm that opens in New York. The question was how to do it. Should it open as a foreign legal consultant? Join the New York Bar? Hire US-qualified attorneys? The one thing it didn't want to do was form an alliance with another New York law firm. Of course, much of the decision making revolves around whether the firm wants an office for American clients interested in investing in the UK and/or wants an office for UK clients who want to invest in the US. Is establishing an office--admittedly an expensive enterprise--the best way to achieve these ends for your clients, real and potential?

I did this for free. But should I continue to do so? Maybe I should say, "Look, I'm a consultant. Time is money! You gotta pay me if you want me. I'm in business!" I don't know. At one point, during my PhD in Chicago, I considered an offer from a law firm. My thinking went like this: law firm--interesting work, lots of money, lots of billable hours, enslaved to clients. Academic work: interesting work, no money worth speaking of, most time my own, enslaved to me (except when I say yes to another request to contribute an article, damn).

Well, I'm an academic, but maybe a little consulting would be nice.
Share/Bookmark

No comments: