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I Am the One Who Makes Your Comfort
Essay about legal consulting during the recession.
According to popular belief if there are any who gained despite recession, they are the law firms. And those hang on by the skin of teeth to this misapprehension. Yes, I am not making a slip in speaking – misapprehension, myth. The point is that by the rules of the genre lawyers must irradiate confidence, calm and project themselves as high achievers. Personally I come out to keep outward professional signs, yet to tell the truth, it's getting harder every passing day. My own particular sentiments for global recession I can compare to those of a passenger in a falling airplane, when he is not scared because everyone will die but it is his helplessness which is the most dreadful, understanding that nothing depends on him, nothing at all. Pursuing the issue of the falling airplane, one can imagine a professional counselor on board of that airplane, which must do everything possible in a matter of minutes: to hand out yellow life jackets and whistles to scare sharks, lift up folding tables, give instructions for use of oxygen mask, tuck expecting to hit the ground. The chances to survive in this situation are close to zero for consultant just the same as for the passengers. However it is just a theory, therefore, such kind of consulting makes sense.
You have to walk in lawyer's shoes to understand how hurtful is to advise for the last time the client that it took years to establish confidential relations with. For the moment there are not many of such clients, nevertheless understanding of situation for almost all of them unfortunately makes it clear that there are not that many whose situation is not worrisome.
Speaking for myself personally, as a law firm top manager I do not live in a vacuum but inside of a legal business itself with shared problems and achievements; feeling myself being its part, the thing of the most concern for me is not that the clients are no longer paying my law firm or cutting my budget, I am concerned that some of them are paying nobody for legal consulting and others are spending less on it.
For INTELLECT-S, as though for all big law firms, the most expensive legal services which were their pride – for example, intellectual property, investments, construction, development – had suffered the most severely. It is no wonder, these are legal products for growing and developing economy which were as growing up like a weed together with it, as rapidly coming down like a ton of bricks following it.
And now there is nothing but to reminisce those frenetic paces the Russian market of legal services was developing. Barely the Russian business has learned to appreciate and distinguish high class specialists sending their salaries unbelievably up, barely the clients has understood that high quality legal services claims for high salaries.
The law firms themselves, giving thought to the future, began to build the long-term strategies, plan regional development, invest both in their own infrastructure and intellectual property, quality systems, electronic document management and other articles of luxury. Some, dare I say it, even engaged themselves in charity activities by promoting pro bono legal services on an American model, conceived reforms of internal partnership relationships, introduced internal mechanism for mentoring and retention of prospective employee, ethics code, standards of service.
Well, it's all monkey business, let's come back to life. It wasn't my intention to address this issue in my essay, but it seems like I'm fed up with it. Actually, we mustn't grumble as those high-tech firms, whose image and likeness we were seeking, those firms which in our opinion, were reaping the cream, those firms are doing much worse, while some of the mega-firms are on the verge of financial collapse. While attorneys of the so called Magic are leaving their offices and returning to their families at 6 pm. having failed to bill within their target hours, or are going for a month trip to the Tibet in anticipation of dismissal, Russian lawyers who are sitting in their typical Soviet offices and working 18 hours per without weekends, they are providing clients with emergency crisis services, such as debt collection, enforcement of decisions, recruitment and dismissal of personnel, sale of real estate to good faith purchaser, concealment of assets, reduction of claim amounts, registration of clean firms and liquidation of dirty ones, beating back the hostile takeover attempts, one by one filing bankruptcies. Moreover, those who gained in recession in number of clients applying for services, first and foremost are the firms, which for years have been investing in their business reputation, because the clients rushed to the firms referenced by word of mouth of their friends and colleagues. Its clear that these first aid legal services are by far cheaper, however it still makes the bread of law firms helping lots of them to survive, and, I hope, preserve their structure, support and legal staff of high-tech and elite law practices which are lacking demand now.
Besides keeping hope alive there is a certain aftertaste, feeling as if during the time spent in taiga we've lost an absolutely useless cutlery skills. Afterwards, when we get out of forest and go out to eat at a restaurant, we will feel uncomfortable.
In conclusion I would like to address the representatives of business in their quality of customers of legal services, saying that in times of recession the scope of legal services must not be the same as in good ones. The reason is that legal consulting is the only type of business consulting bringing tangible gains to client's company. Recession aggravates the situation in all the respects and this tiny stream of money being procured to lawyers by collection services, reduction of counterclaim amounts, sanctions and appetites of state authorities which are worrying for the plan of fund-raising for budget a nd refilling the budget reserves, that money stream must remain the same it was before recession, it must even increase. Resources for restoration of business liquidity might be found in those problems which previously at a time of the general well-being were forgotten and written off as losses or hidden by money, because there might be an opportunity to recover the situation post factum if only lawyers take a look at documents.
Moreover, recession it's time for war of legal technologies, where on one side of the battle line there is an art of getting due by law or by justice money and comforts, and on the other side – an art of not giving away anything that doesn't belong you. Who would win this war? That one who has better lawyers or am I wrong?
My own prejudice is that for any entrepreneur his own comfort comes first. I am sure that the lawyer is the one who makes this comfort, do you agree?