Thursday, April 12, 2007

Relations with business clients - miscellaneous thoughts

I caught a profile of a Scots construction lawyer in last Sunday's Sunday Herald and I thought how lucky this lawyer was:

Her focus is not just on problem solving but on building long-term relationships with clients. She says this has led her into work on facilities management and PFI projects as her clients diversify into these fields.
Business clients here seem uninterested in anything but a one-off relationship. Yes, we may have a surplus of lawyers here but how many business people give their lawyers time to understand their businesses rather than just their kind of business?

Scotland has the same problems as Indiana - litigation costs money.

When she began to specialise in construction disputes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the trend was for litigation, some of which dragged on for years, racking up enormous legal bills and involving bitter altercations. Now the trend is to avoid court and to seek resolution of disputes through an adjudication hearing presided over by an industry expert who normally delivers a verdict within eight weeks.

The impact of high-profile cases such as those involving Trafalgar House and Eurotunnel pushed the industry towards disaffection with the process of bringing a case to court, Patterson says. "No-one wins in that process. We're in a much better place today," she adds.

Similar solutions could apply here. For years I tried to get the attention of business clients by emphasizing preventive measures. No interest. Ever. I would be quite willing to credit this to a poor presentation but I know from my stint as in-house counsel that presentation has nothing to do with the lack of response. Businesses here prefer waiting for the axe to fall. I am assuming that times have changed enough to get businesspeople to listen. It may be - or so I hope - that I learned enough to better present the utility of preventive legal measures for businesses. If nothing else, it gives a sharper point to this blog.