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Nothing seems difficult to the person who didn’t have to do it – grading law firms

Year after year, InsideCounsel reports that law firms give themselves A grades for the services they deliver much more frequently than law departments give those law firms A grades. Specifically, in the latest survey from Inside Counsel, July 2008 at 47, 17 percent of the law departments gave their firms an A while 43 percent of the law firm respondents thought they deserve an A.

One reason that gap will persist forever is that law departments see the delivered work product and can’t know very well what blood sweat and tears went into its creation. As a management consultant to law departments, the reports I deliver may look straightforward and logical and to be expected, but like sausage and legislation, no one should see what went into their complicated production. Similarly, partners know well the effort they went through and that the job they did was quite good under the circumstances; they believe they deserve an A. The lawyer in the legal department who hears the advice, analyzes the final memorandum, or reviews the pleading can all too easily take for granted the work that was done, ignore the toil behind it, and go beyond it in their expectations. This leads to giving the firm a B grade. End products look easy and inevitable.

The same imbalance applies to clients of the law department. They are ignorant of the energy and skills that went into the advice and outcome they see, so they can easily criticize it and wish for more. The bestowal of A’s and the B’s are inevitably asymmetrical.