Getting value from corporate lawyers

Q: How do you turn the relationship with your lawyer into a meaningful one and avoid any unnecessary cash leakage from a young business?

Answered by Richard Hall, partner at Ernst & Young

If you were going to hire me to do your job, which is buy a company or some such thing, my interface with you is to sell you the ability to do a job. Internally, I’ve got to marshal a whole stack of resources in a whole number of areas to do a whole stack of separate things that I, as an individual, am not capable of doing. You have to remember that law has become such a commoditized little thing and that there’re people who only do that thing; therefore, the word ‘lawyer, in my opinion, is a sort of abstract concept. There is no such thing because what you’re actually looking for, as your interface to the legal profession, it’s not a lawyer but rather a manager of the provision of legal services. That means somebody who knows how to get you legal services at the level you require and at the price you require. Perversely that’s what you become as a lawyer through experience.

Here’s another thing: there is a price and value issue to which there are two separate answers. The hard answer, from a lawyer’s point of view, is ‘I want your money hour-by-hour,’ but the soft answer is, ‘I want an on on-going relationship.’ If you look at Silicon Valley during the technology boom there were several law firms who said: ‘Oh, we’re far too busy at the moment and we’re not taking on any new clients.’ Those firms aren’t in business anymore; they’re gone, so it’s dangerous to get sucked into a rigid legal firm mentality. You have to approach things from your own personal point of view.

Richard Hall is an Ernst & Young partner focusing on fast-growth, dynamic, middle market businesses. Richard leads a 3000-strong team located in offices throughout the UK who are committed to helping middle market businesses grow. Richard’s role includes leading the middle market transaction advisory services team.

Related: What are the legal requirements when seeking venture funding? – Venture capital has driven millions of businesses on through the years: but are entrepreneurs looking to have their enterprise added to that list aware of all the legal hurdles?

Leslie Copeland

Leslie Copeland

Leslie was made Editor for Growth Company Investor magazine in 2000, then headed up the launch of Business XL magazine, and then became Editorial Director in 2007 for the online and print publication portfolio...

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