A speaker at a recent session urged the law department attendees not to have litigation lawyers in their departments who only direct outside counsel (See my post of Aug. 21, 2005 regarding not hiring a head of litigation.). His belief is that those lawyers need to know how to do what litigators do and keep their hand in to be skilled at directing law firm litigators. Like generals command better who know first hand what the grunts are facing, someone who doesn’t prepare motions, take and defend depositions, and review documents, will atrophy those skills and will lose both credibility and judgment.
The point is arguable, because a litigator who both manages and gets her hands dirty may find it hard to balance the two during crunch times. Also not everyone is equally good at both kinds of tasks. The lawyer may not take a strategic view of the litigation portfolio if tactical demands force themselves on her. Her caseload may have to drop and it may be a constant challenge to integrate with a law firm if you are co-counsel (See my posts of May 31, 2005 on Canadian case loads; and Oct. 27, 2005 with US data.).