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  • Tom Matthews

Do You Manage Your Lawyers?

This is a post based on a recent client experience. He sued a competitor (rightly so) using the law firm that he has always used.


$150,000 later, he has nothing to show for the money spent.


I see this all the time. Wasted money, frustration and not achieving your goals.


You may be surprised to hear the problem is the business owner, not the law firm. Small business owners (up to $50 million in revenue) do not have that many experiences with lawyers. That results in two problems. First, the business owner’s expectations are wrong. He or she assumes that the lawyer will quickly and effortlessly dispatch the enemy. Second, the business owner does not realize he needs to manage the relationship with the lawyer. He abdicates control of the process.


Working with lawyers my entire career, I know they view the product they sell as their time. The deliverable – the contract, the law suit, the court filing, are all by-products of their real product: time.


The business owner does not realize this. He believes the product is the by-product. Here is how that causes trouble.


Business owner: Mr. Lawyer, I need an employment contract for Susie Smith. How much will that cost?


Lawyer: Well, I can use an old template so it should only take two hours. I estimate that will cost you $700.


(Note to readers. The business owner now has $700 locked in his head.)

Two days later, the lawyer delivers the employment contract. The business owner reads through and finds some trouble.


Business owner: Mr. Lawyer, you missed several things. Susie has a draw against commission, not a salary plus commission.


Lawyer: No problem, let me fix that…….


Once complete the $700 estimate turns into a $3,500 bill. The business owner is very angry and the lawyer is very defensive. Everyone loses.


Does this sound familiar? Have you experienced this before? Did the lawyer bait and switch? Is he trying to take advantage of the business owner? The answer is no. The business owner did not manage the process properly.


Here is what should have happened:


Business owner: Mr. Lawyer, I need an employment contract for Susie Smith. How much will that cost?


Here are the facts that I need you to include in the contract:

  • The sales person is Susie Smith

  • She has a draw against commission of $2,500

  • Commission rate is xx% based on xxx.

  • The term of the contract is 1 year.

  • Standard company benefits apply

  • Let me know if you need any additional information to quote on the work.

Lawyer: Well, I can use an old template so it should only take two three hours. I estimate that will cost you $700 1,050.


Two days later, the lawyer delivers the employment contract. The business owner reads through and finds some trouble. everything in order. He is happy, pays the $1,050 invoice.

That is a much better outcome. You will notice the lawyer did exactly the same thing under both scenarios – but the business owner had different approaches. By managing the process the business owner got what he wanted with the desired outcome.


The conclusion is we all need to manage our relationships with our lawyers. It let’s all of us like the outcome rather than no one liking the outcome.

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