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Supervising in-house lawyers, pushing noodles, catching the wind, and finding gold at the end of rainbows

My top ten reasons why it is difficult to manage in-house counsel (plus a bonus reason):

1. Lawyers view themselves as autonomous, self-directing professionals, not robots. Their scores on a psychometric test (Caliper) shows lawyers to value autonomy much more that the general public (median or average 90, compared to 50)
2. Many lawyers are skeptical about supervising and being supervised. By Caliper measures, lawyers – average or median score of 90 – have a much more doubting, show-me attitude than do members of the general public
3. Law firms devalue management, praise analytic skills, long work, and individual effort – and most in-house counsel join from law firms
4. Lawyers rarely get any training in how to manage professionals
5. Lawyers dislike like being told what to do (ego, background) (“Herding cats”)
6. Supervising lawyers and those they supervise don’t have enough time
7. Lawyers devalue relationships to begin with. Caliper scores show lawyers at 12 on “sociability” as compared to 50 percent for the general public.
8. Lawyers assume that other bright people don’t need “coddling” (“Sink or swim”)
9. Defensiveness rears up when lawyers are asked to manage. Lawyers have less resilience than most people, having Caliper scores of 30 as compared to 50.
10. Lawyers misunderstand what motivates professionals (recognition, peer approval, professional growth)
11. It’s just plain hard to do, never ending, thankless, and impossible to quantify. Lawyers have higher “urgency” scores on Caliber than do members of the general public (72 compared to 50).

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3 responses to “Supervising in-house lawyers, pushing noodles, catching the wind, and finding gold at the end of rainbows”

  1. murf the surf says:

    How about this: They just don’t like to work?

  2. In-House Daughter of GC Dad says:

    I think the first 6 reasons are absolutely true. Mainly, however, I think that legal skills and management skills are two very different skill sets, and the person who possesses both is rare indeed. However, management skills are behaviors, so they can be learned, and if your job calls for you to manage other attorneys, then you need to suck it up and figure out how to do it, not shrug your shoulders and abdicate. And lawyers may not be terribly “sociable” in general (lucky me–I must know all the ones who are), but I don’t agree that that translates to devaluing relationships. If we did that, we’d have very few clients indeed, either in-house or outside.

  3. What do you think of the minimalist approach? I am a single legal and compliance officer for a bank in South Africa. I would rather suffer and out-source, than manage a lot of attorneys.