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The marketing unclout of a law firm’s ethical infrastructure

A survey crossed my desk that asked general counsel to rate the importance to them, when they decide to hire a law firm, of 19 factors. Yes, 19. The last one on the list is “Ethical infrastructure (e.g., ethics committees).”

I have worked with hundreds of law departments and not once have I heard an in-house lawyer mention the ethical infrastructure of the firms they use or are considering using. No one is even aware of law firm ethical structures and practices. No one gives any thought to whether or to what degree that mysterious element makes any difference in retaining a firm or sticking with it. Conflicts of interest are dealt with head on.

Like law firms being family friendly, diverse, culturally hip, environmentally aware, IT savvy, or pro pro bono, these characteristics of law firms are recognized and honored by law departments more in the breach (and in surveys).