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No gatekeepers internally or at law firms: clients should go straight to the most knowledgeable lawyer

According to an ACC Docket article (June 2011 at 78), partners in some law firms are gatekeepers “acting as channels through which communications and legal advice must be directed.” Such an arrangement, by my lights, obstructs, slows, and costs. It obstructs because if someone in a law department has a question, why filter it through a partner who can’t answer it? It delays because of the baton-handoff as well as transmission errors and it costs money any time someone in a law firm touches anything. Assuming you know, go straight to the lawyer in the firm who can best provide the service or answer the question.

The same philosophy ought to govern within the corporation. If an internal client knows the right lawyer in your department for something, they should be encouraged to go straight to that lawyer. They shouldn’t need to clear the question or pass it through the Associate General Counsel who supervises that lawyer.

All granted, this straight-to-the lawyer approach breaks down when law departments want to intermediate requests from internal clients to law firms. Only sometimes do departments allow senior executives to pick up the phone directly.

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