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How to Get Yourself Blacklisted by In-House Counsel

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By William Peacock, Esq. on April 08, 2013 8:18 AM

How do I hate thee, let me count the ways: your cold calls, your billing practices, your soliciting legal work from our MBAs. While in-house attorneys are generally considered to be Jacks and Jills of all trades, they do occasionally have to call upon outside counsel for help. If you want to land (or keep) some of this lucrative work, you have to avoid some of the more common missteps that will land you on the mythical black list.

Though every person has their own individual pet peeves, there are some acts that will irritate even the most even-keeled Ghandi-like attorney.

Solicitation and Cold Calls

IBM general counsel Robert Weber cites issues with cold pitch letters and solicitation as some of his biggest irritants, reports the ABA Journal. If you have no experience and no connection to IBM or Weber personally, you shouldn't be contacting him in hopes of representing IBM in a recently filed lawsuits. Apparently, some firms stalk that docket and send a form letter offering services. IBM typically asks for a list of cases that they've tried in that jurisdiction, which scares off most solicitors.

The other big solicitation no-no is flanking the in-house legal department and asking the MBAs to hook your firm up with legal work. Personal contacts can't hurt your pitch - unless the general counsel feels like he's being forced to hire you.

Limited Communication

Another of Weber's irritants is not understanding your client's needs and desires. He once asked outside counsel why a jury trial was not requested in an ongoing case. The response was a four-page memo. Whether Weber's issue was with the length of the memo or the medium of the response, a better strategy would've been to consult with the client before making such a big decision - especially since your client employs its own freaking attorney to handle these matters.

In-house and outside counsel are a team. Decisions should be made with input from both sides. You should also know how in-house counsel likes issues handled. Do they prefer four page memos or a quick discussion of the issue over the phone?

"Piper-ing" the Bill

Too soon? We hope not. After DLA Piper's leaked emails joking about bill padding, and the underlying overbilling lawsuit, we wouldn't be surprised to see a few clients reconsider their choice of counsel. Then again, their reputation should prevent any widespread shedding of clients.

How about you? Can you afford the hit to your reputation? Do you have the resources to lose a major client and defend yourself in litigation over an inflated bill? Keep the bill honest, uninflated, and well notated, just in case.

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