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Do Good Lawyers Just Sit on the Sidelines?

Dan Hull, who blogs over at "What About Clients?" "What About Paris?", asks whether good lawyers just sit on the sidelines rather than doing something bold to become a great man -- or woman. (As an aside, we know from Hull's previous post that good law bloggers emphatically don't sit on the sidelines.)  Hull writes:

Hard-driving lawyer friends (both in-house and in law firms) do articulate a feeling of being "sidelined"--yet they are very proud of what they do as lawyers.

You may think: Why merely advise--when you could lead, create and command? And do that every day? Lots of lawyers are Type-As. How many lawyers who advise great companies really end up as officers, CEOs, and COOs? Sure, lots of us run for office. But should more of us throw our golfing hat in the ring of life? Does law school and "the profession" make many of us so risk-averse, passive and routinely academic in our approach to life that it knocks the will and energy to lead out of us? Or were we just that way from the beginning?

Not sure about the answer to Hull's questions, but Los Angeles-based Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart, Oliver and Hedges is one firm that doesn't sit on the sidelines, at least as it's described in this Fast Company profile. (For more background, see The American Lawyer's 2006 profile of the firm.)  As the article reports:

Quinn Emmanuel has adopted the strategy, attitude, and accoutrements of a Red Bull-fueled startup. It focuses only on business litigation: no tax, real estate, or other common corporate practices. Even more galling to the tradition-bound large full-service firms that are its competitors, the firm takes some cases on contingency, meaning that it doesn't get paid if it doesn't win. That forces Quinn Emanuel to cast the wary eye of an investor on potential cases, in search of the ones that can strike gold, and it's unafraid to use litigation's nuclear option -- a jury trial -- to get outsize results.

So why aren't more firms adopting the Quinn Emanuel model?  Is the answer -- as Hull suggests -- that they've  become too risk averse?  Or is it that the Quinn model is unique to business litigation and more traditional types of law demands traditional lawyers who are willing to remain behind the scenes?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 20, 2008 at 11:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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