measuring results for a transactional law practice
For litigators it is relatively easy to judge results - whether they win or lose, it is pretty dramatic and pretty easy to evaluate. However, how can one judge results in transactional legal work?
For example, how would one know if a real estate lawyer did a good job when the “job” is creating thousands of pages of documents that the client cannot or will not read or evaluate?
Typically, it is just about impossible to judge “results”; however, occasionally something comes along like the Global Financial Crisis or another draconian event. It is these times when everyone rushes to look at the documents that were put in place, that one can determine who the great lawyers really are.
We wonder if it is a coincidence that all – yes all – of our significant real estate clients made it through a global recession that was so terrible and terrifying that it wiped out large chunks of the real estate industry.
Of course, we would never take away from lauding our clients for being conservative in their underwriting and not gambling away investors’ money; however, we believe that our lawyering contributed to our clients’ success in avoiding destruction.
Here are a few examples of how we achieved exceptional “results” for our clients
As borrower’s counsel, we pushed aggressively for years to keep our clients out of personal liability on loans. We even upset some of our clients because of how hard we pushed on this – truth be told.
We pushed very hard to prevent our clients from sitting on both sides of a transaction – e.g., loaning money to a partnership in which our client was a material partner. We believed that in a tough situation this would lead to claims of lender liability, breach of fiduciary duty, or worse. For two decades, none of our clients ended up in this situation and none of them have found themselves sued on claims of this ilk.
We drafted documents with very clear remedies pertaining to our clients’ counterparties. Sometimes this was confrontational; however, this has resulted in our clients being so well protected that no counterparty has successfully contested our documents or our clients’ ability to control that which they bargained for.
We fought hard in documentation for our clients to have control of their destinies in complex transactions so that when things went wrong our clients were easily able to either (i) walk away without further liability, (ii) assert control and fight for their rights against third parties, or (iii) complete a workout on reasonable terms. We have seen many instances of self-inflicted wounds where clients (i.e., parties who became our clients too late) stepped into serious inextricable trouble based on not having these clear control rights in documentation.
Ultimately, there is the absence of legal troubles in general for our clients; indeed, when one thinks about it, that is what a lawyer is supposed to accomplish, i.e., create a situation in which there is nothing to dispute later. But usually people only notice things when there are problems – the absence of problems is hardly noticeable and is often taken for granted. However, it is a fact that our clients are involved in very few disputes. We admittedly “knock wood” when we say this, but the fact that there has been very little trouble for our clients arising from the deals that we negotiated for them is in and of itself possibly the most positive result we have been able to obtain for our clients.
Finally, our Hedgehog Principle is that we really do deeply care about our clients – as people – and sincerely don’t want anything bad to happen to them. If you look at our results above it becomes apparent that these are the types of achievements that result from a law firm that is really looking out for its clients.