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More important than individual client satisfaction is shareholder value, company goals, or social responsibility

Do clients, alone, determine the value of work done by lawyers? In other words, if a client wants it done, is it prima-facie valuable (See my post of May 1, 2006 on “value-added.”).

One school of thought has it that if clients value the task that inside counsel does, there can be no higher authority. If clients think the lawyer is pulling the oar appropriately, what better measure can there be?

A competing school points out that this determinant of the work of a law department can lead to lawyers doing quasi-legal work (See my post of July 21, 2005 and the article cited.) and too easily pushes in-house counsel to go native – to abdicate their professional objectivity. Instead, shareholder value is the sounder – albeit much harder to determine – measure of the value of in-house counsel (See my posts of Aug. 21, 2005; Jan. 27, 2006 on Ernst & Young’s formula of value added.).

A third school, that of social responsibility widens the perspective for judgment even farther. The contribution of a company on its community, and thus the actions of in-house lawyers in support or restriction of that contribution, is the broadest measure of what should be valued.

I prefer the classroom of the second school.

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