Do partners fake praise, or withhold criticism of law department lawyers and their work product?

A white paper by executive search firm BCG levels blast after blast at law firm lawyers who are seduced by the siren call of a recruiting law department. BCG praises the training a lawyer gets in a law firm, but says that “once an attorney goes in house, he/she is unlikely to be supervised with this [extensive law firm] chain of command.” Maybe not, but most lawyers who join a law department after four or more years in a firm have already been reasonably well trained. BCG holds the opinion that law firms thereafter become sycophants and do not guide in-house counsel.

Two sentences express this fawning abdication of professional responsibility and really irk me. “Incredibly, in house attorneys may even find poor work they do praised by outside law firms representing the company. Very few law firms ever criticize the work product of the in house counsel of their clients.” Such a sentiment, that law firms toady, staggers me. For one reason, the reputation of the outside firm is on the line. For another, if a piece of work stinks, won’t someone look at the partner and say, “How did you let this go out?” Third, law departments criticize work product of law firms and the qualities of their lawyers; doesn’t that invite a reaction? Finally, law departments retain outside counsel to bring specialized knowledge to bear, and if a firm forebears, if it thinks that obsequious sucking up keeps clients loyal, it is sadly wrong and ought soon to be discharged.

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