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Quarrels with chemistry as a basis for law-firm selection

In-house counsel who select law firms for matters always talk about the importance of chemistry. “We want to like the people we work with,” they inevitably intone. No one can deny that if all things were equal, it is more pleasant to labor with those you like. And those you like are more likely to think like you and share your values (See my post of Feb. 6, 2007: look for chemistry.). So what are my quarrels?

What worries me is that you are hiring counsel to achieve your goals, not to be your buddies. If you assume talent is equal, then by all means choose nice people. If you want your company to succeed legally, however, it may be better to hire a less pleasant lawyer who is more effective. I also worry that the vague concept of chemistry disguises all kinds of subjectivity and even favoritism (See my post of Sept. 22, 2006: factors that erode rational selection.). Undue stress on chemistry can also be a device to improperly cosset incumbent firms – “we get along so well….”.