Big companies typically have their own in-house legal teams.
A matter is just another matter for a litigator, and win or loss is not personal.
Why is this so important to litigators?
It is the dream of every litigator to have lots of big corporate clients.
The key is to understand what the in-house counsels want and how they operate.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing for budding litigators?
Now here is a great opportunity. The biggest spenders in the legal market are very unhappy.
Lack of adequate communication and proper updates
Most lawyers fail to differentiate between individual clients and sophisticated corporate clients.
However, despite having those, if you fail to keep your corporate clients on the same page about every action you are taking,
In-house counsels hate surprises, because rarely such surprises are good for them.
The biggest challenge is the poor communication maintained on the matters they are working on.
Imagine how in-house lawyers feel about such lawyers.
Very hard to identify the right lawyer
Which lawyer should you hire for a particular litigation matter? Every litigator pretends to know everything and understand everything. Very few people are really transparent about their own competence.
This is why referrals are very important. If other lawyers and past clients have good things to say about your abilities and work ethics as a lawyer,
Also, this is why it is very important to have a strong internet presence.
While old timers may not be yet used to this new way of doing things,
Sudden disappearances while a matter is pending or before hearing
This is another nightmare of in-house counsels. Imagine that a matter is going on, and a lawyer has taken some missteps. You confront them to fix things. In response, they ghost you.
What do you do?
Indiscipline of litigating lawyers is very common. Such things can be prosecuted before the bar council technically, but who has time to run around to do these things?
It is also not unknown that some lawyers even after accepting fees and promising to appear in a matter, may totally fail to show up at the hearing without any prior information. It is very difficult to hold these lawyers to account,
And therefore, the in-house counsels are always on their toes regarding this - will the lawyer they have instructed appear as promised?
Inability to work in tight time frames and failing to keep commitments
They often insist on long deadlines when such deadlines are not necessary,
In-house counsels often work under a lot of time pressure on things that are super time sensitive.
I have seen lawyers with amazing reputation in court.
Procrastination can also be quite common.
According to Tanushree Nandan, founder of The Layman’s Lawyer,
Lack of transparency
Imagine that your lawyer informs you that you have got the order you wanted.
You can imagine how wary this makes any in-house lawyer of whatever it is that a litigator may communicate to them.
Transparency is not only needed when discussing outcome of cases,
Lack of systems and clear policies
Most individual lawyers do not have the tools they really need to keep up with how corporate India is evolving every day. Corporate in-house counsels are used to working within well defined systems,
I hope this gives you a clear way to make your practice more attractive to corporate clients. Think about their major interests.
Not incorporating inputs from in-house legal team well and taking clearances lightly
Most in-house teams want a firm control on how their matters are handled. You cannot expect to have full autonomy in a matter where such teams are involved.
Also, before filing any documents, plaints, claims, representations etc, you must take clearance from such clients.
Another big complaint of in-house lawyers that I heard repeatedly was that a lot of litigators have bad English language and grammar problem. Also,
These things are sure shot ways to ensure that you have a bad name in the in-house counsel circles and people do not consider you for matters at all.
Aversion to adoption of technology
A major pain point with many litigators is their refusal to adopt any technology. Many of them will not communicate over email and whatsapp, which are staple these days.
They would not even adapt a simple collaborative drafting platform that can save a lot of back and forth!
Lack of support staff and administrative support
Most litigators operate alone, or along with a few other lawyers. They fail to build any kind of organization and do not hire support staff such as secretaries, clerks or administrative professionals. As your practice grows,
Your stinginess that stops you from hiring good support staff is holding your practice back. Please have a growth mindset and invest in building an organization as soon as possible,
Any smart in-house lawyer will check for whether you have a support staff or not, because if you do not, chances of you delivering on tall promises is very little. Also, it means you are probably not that great. Yet.
Everyone wants to charge big fees and do the biggest matters. For this, you need to have big corporate clients. And the way to that is right through the hearts of in-house lawyers.
In reality, most litigators think in-house lawyers are fake lawyers, lesser mortals, who don’t know anything about ground realities of litigation.
This market is marked by mutual distrust and lack of understanding the other side.
Remember that in-house lawyers talk to each other.
Please, consider long term impacts of your work, upgrade your skills regularly and actively, and do the things that take care of interests of in-house lawyers, and you will be very pleased with the results