“Comparison is the thief of joy” according to President Theodore Roosevelt and it is this long-standing notion which we use to measure up against others. Whilst comparing and researching your competition can be healthy, it can also be psychologically exhausting. My view is that it is better to focus on what really matters, i.e. YOU, and refining and finessing your professional processes on a regular constant basis.
If law firms all look the same on their websites (including the lawyer profiles) then what is it that anyone is looking out for when choosing a lawyer and law firm to partner up with? I have asked myself this regularly for the past decade; is it size, location, practice specialisms or is it something else that stands out as the ‘unique selling point’ to set lawyers and firms apart? Can sole reliance on the brand and reputation be enough? Sort of like asking yourself whether you prefer Evian and Volvic or Coke and Pepsi or… you get the idea(!)? To be clear, I would personally avoid a lawyer who refers to their peers as ‘competition’. It is all about collaboration these days. Lawyers who understand how important it is to work together to achieve successful outcomes for their clients. You will appreciate that I specialise in Real Estate, however my opinion remains that collaborative working should always apply.
My experience in Real Estate has taught me that when deciding which lawyer and law firm to team up with to look after their needs, most people really tend to go on their first impressions. It is true that Estate Agents, financial advisers, friends and family have a lot of influence and can use their powers of persuasion to work with a particular lawyer or law firm, but ultimately the initial communication generally determines whether someone will proceed to instruct the said lawyer/firm. Often after a simple interrogation of the lawyer in question (whether verbally or on email), the connection and right fit will be established. What I mean by “the right fit” is subjective and down to each individual to decide whether or not it is for them personally, their boss, their business, their family, their partner etc. What this means is that the reputation of a lawyer means a lot less if the initial direct conversation does not go well, for example a lawyer with rankings in every legal publication held in high regard by your closest confidante but who is abrupt, dismissive and unhelpful is not likely to ‘win’ you over.
So great lawyers (in my opinion) will take the time to build up a rapport, answer questions and identify obstacles or additional advice by listening and really taking the time to understand the client (not just the transaction). When discussing valuable assets, such as real estate, what is sought after is a trusted adviser who can be relied upon to not only get a specific deal over the line, but someone that can offer guidance and support for the long-term future for any legal needs whatsoever. For example, I may have helped you purchase your third property and whilst I cannot personally help you set up your new business or write your Pre-Nuptial Agreement, I know just the lawyers who can.
Of course, the decision on which lawyer and firm to work with is partly transaction specific as well, i.e. the best lawyer might not have the expertise within their firm to deal with lease extensions, or provide structuring and tax advice etc. These additional services can be equally as important and are worth considering either immediately or in the near future. It is easier and more convenient to keep everything under one roof as opposed to having your legal affairs spread across various firms.
Conclusion: there is no single determining factor, or at least there should not be in deciding which lawyer and firm to work with. The key ingredient is in the simple human interaction; the energy you give off that will make it clear you are working towards achieving the same goal, boosting the confidence of the client enough to set you apart from your peers or so much so that they do not feel the need to look further and compare.
Goli-Michelle Banan – Partner & Head of Real Estate