PRIVATE law firms should know their place “in the food chain” and not be so forceful when dealing with clients, says Elizabeth Nosworthy.
Introducing herself as “the client from hell” before last week’s World Masters of Law Firm Management conference, Nosworthy berated lawyers for continually failing to listen and act directly on instructions.
“When receiving instructions lawyers tend to smile and nod, but are really thinking ‘We know better. We’ll do it our own way,” she said.
Nosworthy, a former Freehills partner who now holds the chairman post at both Prime Infrastructure Management and Stanwell Corporation, added that lawyers needed to understand where they fitted in with a client’s work. As a consequence of legal advisors not being called upon until the final stages of a deal or project, Nosworthy said clients should be respected more for knowing what’s going on.
“I very frequently get really, really irritated when we’ve been working on a deal for the past three years only to have a lawyer jump in and say ‘do it differently’.”
“The people who are driving the deal or project are the company’s management. They are there to manage, the lawyer is there to assist. It’s important for lawyers to get some sense of proportion as to where they sit in the foodchain.”
“They are there to assist, they are not the key people in the transaction.”
Other areas of concern canvassed by Nosworthy included exorbitant photocopying charges, billing partner rates for work performed primarily by associates, and the plethora of marketing brochures alerting clients to attend seminars addressing new developments in the law.
“I rip them up and throw them in the bin, like most other clients,” she said.