Value from a law firm: defined ex post but not ex ante

It is fruitless to define value of legal services in advance (ex ante) because all we can do beforehand is trot out platitudes such as knowledgeable, responsive, creative, inexpensive, practical. Such unarguable, bland and Boy-Scout-motto desiderata help as much as when we try to define “beauty,” or “art”, let alone “the morally good life” or “obscenity.” Noble words but plebian insights.

By the way, if a firm does no more work the in-house lawyer may not have felt sufficient value was delivered. Or it might more innocently mean there was no further need for the services perceived to be provided by the partner.

Value is an ex ante proposition. If an in-house lawyer asks a particular partner to handle more work, then the in-house lawyer has decided that the partner’s firm had provided sufficient “value,” whatever value means in that situation. “Value” has a thousand manifestations and determinations so in the words of the philosopher Thomas Dewey “cash value” of is the only incontrovertible test. Pragmatism prevails: it reveals a definition of law firm value delivered only ex post.

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