For a general counsel, four pros and four cons of cross selling by law firms

Cross selling is when a partner at a firm you use introduces you to another partner there who has a skill or knowledge base the introducer hopes is advantageous to you. This common practice has good points and bad points.

The most obvious advantage is confidence. You trust the partner you already use, so you have good reason to rely on that lawyer’s recommendation of a colleague.

Second, if you send more work to a firm, you might be able to obtain better rates or non-rate benefits. Or if the cross-sold lawyer’s work is not up to snuff, you have more leverage to insist on changes than if the lawyer were the only one you use at a firm. Cross selling also leads to convergence.

Third, the cross pollination of knowledge about your company within the firm ought to help you. Shared knowledge about your company and industry improves service.

Fourth, cross selling reduces your cost of information (See my post of Sept. 9, 2008: economics of information.). Without any effort on your part, you have learned of a skill set that may help you.

Crossing over to the negative aspects of cross selling, four stand out:

One is that you may feel pressured into using a lawyer who is not the most desirable for your company or not needed at the time.

Another disadvantage, at least in the eyes of some, is that too much reliance on one law firm can alter the balance of power.

Number three is that cross-selling efforts by the partners you rely on may distract them from full attention to your matters.

Fourth, cross selling might embroil you in disputes over client credit or which relationship partner should serve you (See my post of July 26, 2008: relationship partners with 8 references.).

On the whole, I favor efforts by law firms to cross sell. My basic reason is that all partners are very protective of their clients and their is risk in introducing someone else to the relationship; only if they trust and respect a colleague will they put that lawyer forward as someone to serve their cherished client.

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