Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Practice Tip #1 Another Perspective

By Tweed

Stockton and I could not have more different practices: he defends lawyers, architects and engineers from paying their fair share of the damage and misery they cause, while I negotiate lucrative business deals for them to make them richer (enabling them to continue to cause misery). And the legal markets in which we practice are vastly different: he works in a mid-size metropolitan area and most of his clients reside or exist within New York State, while my clients come from all over the country and world.

Despite these differences, Stockton's Practice Tip #1 applies with equal force to my practice - though for different reasons. I rarely negotiate deals against the same lawyer twice - it happens, but rarely. Nonetheless, I'm extremely conscious of how I'm perceived by my opponent; does he/she respect my analytical skills, am I treated with respect, does my new briefcase make my ass look fat. I want him or her to know that we can work together. There are times when client needs require me to be obtuse, mean or hard. But these times are few and far between.

Transactional work is tough. It is document intensive, detail oriented and extremely intense. Different styles of lawyer (I'm not talking about decorum here) can make transactional work even more tense. Time is almost always scarce, and timing is dictated by your client's business needs - real or ficticious. Days go by when I cannot download pornography. Yes, it's that bad.

A good working relationship with opposing counsel is essential to a smooth deal. Without it, you're in for a few weeks of torture (and not the good kind).

Sometimes, the lawyers play the bad guys. Unfortunately, lots of lawyers think that that is their job. More than anything, these folks just make a difficult process more of a pain in the ass. Simple points are turned into deal breakers and the client's interests get forgotten as the lawyers bicker.

The key to being a zealot advocate for your client, while making sure that the deal process does not kill you, is to not get too caught up in the process, which is intense and nearly all consuming. Always be able to take a step back and keep your, and your client's, perspective.

That's where a good mentor makes all the difference.

Transactional work is not something that anyone is immediately good at. It takes experience and understanding how business deals are negotiated and closed.

A good mentor will teach you how to work with opposing counsel while still being an advocate for your client. If your mentor is hot, that's an added bonus.

You will have hell days as a transactional lawyer - eleventh hour requests for something that will take 20 hours; your client changing the deal on you, etc. And there are appropriate times to lay into opposing counsel. But when you get that itch, make sure you're helping your client's position and not merely blowing off some steam. A lawyer should never tie his or her ego to the client's ultimate goals. They just might be incompatible.

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