Why You Need a Lawyer Who Thinks Like You Do
One of the biggest complaints from clients is that they get incredibly frustrated when their attorney holds them back from growing or expanding their business, or from doing a deal they want to do, or from working with a particular client or customer or vendor, or from working within a particular industry, or from buying a piece of property, or from engaging in some other activity. Many times, there are regulatory or other similar issues that are market-driven, and not attorney-driven. Other times, there are attorney-driven obstacles that slow deals down or even kill deals.
Here’s a great example of attorneys slowing down a deal. When I was a junior attorney, I was working on an enormous deal, and we had a telephone conference call scheduled for that day. It was a very public deal and one of the main business people was leading the call. If you are not familiar with the way that big deals work, there are a number of different disciplines that put the deal together. For example, you have the business people, or the C-level executives for each side, the bankers and financial advisors for each side, and the attorneys for each side. There can be subsets of professionals working on the deals too, for instance, there is usually an industry-specific banker and attorney, and another banker or financial advisor with expertise in a specific area of finance or accounting; there could also be attorneys with different types of expertise, including intellectual property, banking, mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy and insolvency, real estate, and other areas.
Back to the telephone conference call. The perception of the business person who was leading the call was that the attorneys were slowing things down unnecessarily. How do I know? Because he berated the attorneys and peppered his comments with profanities. And guess what: there were over 25 people on the call. Now, that’s an extreme example, and probably not a very good one for small businesses, because small businesses are smaller, nimbler, and more streamlined than large corporate behemoths generally speaking, so small business owners generally do not have 25 attorneys and other professionals on the online when trying to get a deal done. That being said, small business owners can nevertheless get frustrated with attorneys being overly lawyerly.
Here’s another example. I had a client who has asked me to do a very quick review of documents that he and his partner had worked on because they were amicably splitting the business. They had for the most part drafted the documents themselves and wanted me to point out any glaring issues. Because I represented the company before and I was only going to represent one of the partners now, I had to get a conflict waiver, which I did. The documents were not in good shape when I got them so I spent some time revising them. Even so it was going to take a lot more work so I asked my client if he wanted to invest more into it and he said no. So I said great let me know if you need anything else. He knew the risks. He was a bright guy. A few weeks later, another attorney go involved, and while most of his comments were technically correct — most, not all — he slowed down the process to the frustration of all involved. To what end? Useless clarity on irrelevant points that were already clear, or as clear as the principals of the deal wanted them to be. In fact during a call with everyone involved I texted my client that the attorney on the other side was making unnecessary comments and that I couldn’t work with him any more because it was going to run up fees. In fact the other attorney during the call started yelling at everyone. I still have a great relationship with my client and in fact he included me on emails where he got fed up with the attorney on the other side so much that he sent an email saying he could no longer work with that attorney.
A large part of the reason why these types of disputes or frictions or flare ups happen between business people and attorneys is because the two speak very different languages; as you can probably imagine, business people speak business, and lawyers speak Lawyer. But know this: business is the only language relevant for these disputes and these transactions and each New York business attorney needs to know that or clients will always choose the attorney who speaks business and finds a way how, rather than an attorney who is too lawyerly, is condescending, speaks over clients, and refuses to learn how to speak business, and instead finds a way to how not.
Importantly, the New York business attorney who speaks business is naturally focused on what you are focused on in the context of what you are working on. For example, the New York business attorney who speaks business position the legal questions and issues within the business framework and take into consideration staffing, productivity, expenses, profitability, systems, efficiencies, historical performance, projections, top and bottom line revenues, numbers, and your goals generally so that he or she can make an informed decision that aligns with your thinking and with your objectives. As you have seen by the stories above and probably have experienced some variation of them or at least frustration in working with attorneys who cannot speak business, or who refuse to see the big picture and taylor their advice to fit your needs, there is some level of risk that a deal or a transaction or some other relationship you have could take a turn for the worse without the right attorney in your corner.
You’ve found your New York business attorney who speaks your language, business: The Lawyer James (me). Not only am I a New York business attorney fluent in the language of business, I also only work with and hire New York business attorneys who are similarly fluent on my team, because those are the attorneys who serve you best.