As I spent most of my day today developing our law firm’s budget for the upcoming year – something I’ve now done 13 times – I thought, every business lawyer should go through this process at least once. And as we budgeted for items reflected in our firm’s strategic plan, I thought – every business lawyer should go through that process too. Finally, as we discussed overall firm management issues, I thought – every business lawyer should have the opportunity (and the responsibility) to be involved in and accountable for the management of a business.
Perhaps you’re thinking that I mean preparing a budget, participating in strategic planning and being involved in management would be beneficial to lawyers in better understanding their own firms – and of course they would – but actually, the reason I think all business lawyers should participate in these processes is to better understand their clients and their clients’ businesses.
All of our corporate clients must think strategically, operate on a budget, and confront management issues on a daily basis. Furthermore, those that have the deepest and most valuable relationships with their business lawyers directly involve those lawyers in these matters – treating them not as mere legal consultants, but as trusted business advisors and confidantes. How can a lawyer fulfill that role and justify that trust if he or she has never actually dealt with these issues in a real life situation? – where they not only have to makes these decisions, but also communicate them to their colleagues, persuade others to buy into them, execute them, and ultimately be accountable for the results – including business, financial and human consequences. That’s the experience I want my lawyer to have. That’s the experience I’m glad I have when advising clients.