A troubling comment about references on law firms provided by law departments

A senior partner of a law firm I have consulted to mentioned that sometimes his partners sense that the references they give to prospective clients give a report on the firm that is not as favorable as they thought was deserved. Maybe those partners have delusions of grandeur.

But maybe an uglier possibility exists, and one that seems to discredit law departments. The reason for the tepid reference (or worse), some partners suspect, is that the reference client does not really want the law firm working for other companies, especially companies in the same industry (See my posts about references on law firms of April 10, 2006 and how to select a patent firm; Oct. 16, 2006 about the punch of personal references; and Oct. 29, 2006 about firms asking clients to serve as a reference if the firms grant discounts.).

Having written this, I could argue that in-house counsel act quite rationally when they protect a valued, finite resource from dilution or depletion. Who should expect them to praise a firm or partner if doing so risks a reduction of benefits to themselves?

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