What Makes A ‘Great Lawyer’ And Do Clients Want ‘Greatness’ or ‘Savings’?


What makes a ‘Great Lawyer?’

It’s the question on everyone’s lips right now – Is it great legal skills and depth of knowledge alone or is it sharp business skills and acute commercial awareness?
OR Is it a mixture of both?

As a newbie lawyer about to launch into the profession I look to my peers for guidance to assist me on my journey to becoming a ‘great lawyer’ but what exactly is that and are clients even in the market for a great lawyer at all?

Is it all about the money ? Or is it all about the client? How do you strike a balance that gives the client the best legal services whilst dealing with the ever-changing landscape that is the metamorphosis we call the Legal Profession.?

Do clients want a great lawyer ? Maybe they are happy with a mediocre lawyer if it saves them money.
Unlike many new lawyers I am a bit more mature and am entering the profession with a first career in Business under my belt.

I can not help looking at matters from a business perspective, it’s what I do. However many new lawyers are flying out to the realms of practice without so much as knowledge of ‘what a file looks like’ let alone the in depths understanding of strategic sales and planning strategies.

For law students many have studied for 5 years to grapple with the intricacies of legal argument only to find that someone has ‘moved the goal post’ once they have graduated. Now in 2011 as they enter the profession they need to be commercially aware too.

Why did no one tell them when they were filling out that UCAS form. Would they have benefited by taking a year or two out and learning the ropes in a small business venture first?

I would be very interested in receiving your comments and if you would like to write a Guest blog then please let me know. – What makes a ‘great lawyer’ and do clients want one anyway?

Help the Next Generation of Lawyers – with the benefit of YOUR experience.

Michelle.L.Hynes LL.B (Hons)DipLP
Legaleaglemhm

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4 thoughts on “What Makes A ‘Great Lawyer’ And Do Clients Want ‘Greatness’ or ‘Savings’?

  1. Hi Michelle
    Great post. I suspect it all depends on the client.

    For those in criminal practice – like you as against those in employment (as I am), I suspect the expectation and offerings will be very different.

    My commercial clients love it when I take an interest in their business or when I can give sector specific advice. I take the time to do this because I believe it makes me a better lawyer. That said, if I didn’t keep up to date with the law, I would not expect my ‘commercial acumen’ to help me along.

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  2. Hi Michelle,

    Interesting topic. I suspect that people tend to be “great” or not and that if they are lawyers they are perceived to be great lawyers even if they aren’t “technically” the best lawyers in the world. I work in the commercial world and sometimes, if the prestige of the deal is sufficient, especially if the other side has a “heavy hitter”, a party will look for a “great” lawyer. Or perhaps where a lawyer of great moral authority is required. Don’t think it works in quite the same way as eg someone being a “a great general” – which implies a general wins a lot of battles. A great lawyer isn’t necessarily always on the winning side. Maybe it depends on what you mean by “great”. For myself, one of my clients, once said to me that what he wanted in a lawyer was “availability”, “affability” (possibly “affordability”) and only then,”legal ability”. We had worked together for years before I set up my own business so he knew about my legal bona fides and of course, in my area of law, greatness isn’t required on a daily basis. I agree with Victoria about knowing about a client’s business enabling me to provide better advice but I think that most clients assume you know about the law so unless you practice in a really esoteric field, maybe you don’t focus on what a good lawyer you are. You get others to recommend you a la Linked In. Appreciate that I have wandered away from greatness a bit but for me, being a really good lawyer who knows her stuff and her clients and is, I hope, pleasant to work with and efficient in getting contracts concluded if enough.

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  3. Good question! My years in private practice taught me nothing about business, and my years in business taught me how to be a better lawyer. I agree entirely with the last post. I think the main reason for business/lawyer relationships not working well is the chasm between their attitude to risk, and the lawyer not acting in alignment with the business’ strategy. Addressing this does not mean a sacrifice in quality of service. It just means being prepared to evaluate and advise more from the client’s point of view. Do this, and cost efficiency will follow.

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    • Thank you for your comment Nicola, just starting out in the legal Profession us newbie lawyers can learn so many valuabe lessons _ I certainly will keep all your points in mind as I start my professional life.

      Michelle

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