Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, September 30, 2005

I spent the last couple of days at a seminar put on by a client. They are very sensitive about the use of their mark, to the point where we were actually cautioned about naming them on client lists, so I'll have to hint around. Their corporate headquarters is located in a suburb of a major Midwestern city. I associate this suburb with Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway. At one time the founder of the business owned a baseball team that Steve Garvey played for. Got it? Good.

Anyway, the whole experience was quite interesting. The quality of the presentation was as good or better than similar programs that I've seen put on by bar associations or the like, but the focus was entirely on commitment to central control-- "defending the brand". This is entirely understandable, and I don't have a problem with it at all, but it left my head swimming after a while. After last week's rant about client decision making it may seem odd to hear me say it, but I like it when the client takes responsibility for the ultimate decisions in a case. These folks live and die by the choices that they make, and they make intelligent, informed decisions. I weigh in with my best advice, and they accept or reject it based on a number of factors that may or may not have anything to do with the facts in the matter at hand.

Of course, another factor is that when clients like that decide to do something that runs against our best advice, we still get paid. I am mostly comfortable with the contingent fee system for what it is, and I seldom encounter situations when I feel like my independent judgment is clouded by it, but it is a struggle sometimes.

You sometimes hear lawyers say that they like everything about the practice "except the clients," but I don't feel that way-- I like it that my peculiar skills and my specialized knowledge is helpful to people and businesses with problems, and I enjoy getting client's out of jams. I like being an advocate. Even so, there are times when I understand what my colleagues in our glamour profession our talking about.

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