Our times revere expertise. Lawyers with deep experience in an area of law, such that they write articles, publish books, speak on panels, head committees, and lead task forces, have mastered their domain and achieved recognition. Whether or not met with external acknowledgement, experienced inside lawyers build up incredible knowledge about specialized areas of law (See my post of Oct. 22, 2008: SMEs with 7 references.).
Expertise comes at some cost, however, so let’s consider several downsides. Expert lawyers may:
- Use outside counsel more because they spot arcane issues and recognize (or welcome) where they want advice or a sounding board (See my post of Nov. 8, 2005: more use of outside counsel by specialists.).
- Commit Type II errors where they conjure legal issues that do not exist (See my post of Dec. 17, 2006: Type I errors of false positives.).
- Suffer from cognitive entrenchment (See my post of Jan. 30, 2011: the rigidity that can encrust experts.).
- Cost a pretty penny in compensation (See my post of July 4, 2009: specialists upset comp equity.).
- Prance around like prima donnas because they are the keepers of the arcane flame (See my post of May 16, 2006: how to deal with an expert.).
- Create difficulties with titles and compensation in part because there is no management pyramid below them (See my post of March 6, 2006: high pay for specialists yet few direct reports underneath).
- Endure patches of not enough to do that challenges or interests them (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005: larger departments can more easily stock specialist lawyers; and July 5, 2005: scale advantages and disadvantages.).
- Stir up resentment by lesser lights in the department or even squash them (See my post of June 5, 2011: when general counsel squash underlings.).