Its one of those things you know when you see it. Its one of those things that doesn’t really fit on a bio, that can’t be readily marketed. But its one of those things that is so important that clients should really look to see whether lawyers working for them have that trait.
What are we talking about? Passion. Fire in the belly. An insatiable desire to win, combined with an equal measure of intolerance of losing. However characterized, why is this trait so important? There are a number of reasons. First, so long as your outside counsel views “winning” on the same terms you do, I think everyone would agree that the stronger the desire to achieve that objective, the more comfortable you feel with your choice. But the value of the trait is so much more. Why are so many cases settled on the courthouse steps? Because lawyers who deep down are afraid to try cases milk every last nickel of fees out of a case before finding some excuse to recommend settling. Lawyers with passion for winning and a beyond-measure disdain for losing hate settling on the courthouse steps more than anything else. You can be sure that if your lawyer has these traits, you will settle on the court-house steps only because the other side has capitulated.
There is, in this scheme, a problem because there are lawyers who have tried “hundreds of cases” and go through the motions of being in court quite well. But at 7:30 at night, they’re home having a cocktail and not continuing to work to be ready to excel every minute of the next day.
Just like a pack of wolves all know instinctively who the Alpha wolf is, lawyers seem to instinctively know who the real deal is and who the pretenders are. The Alphas get the good deals and the pretenders are always a day late and a dollar short. Finally, when a lawyer with these passions recommends you settle rather than try a case, you know the recommendation is real, coming only after the lawyer has persuaded himself or herself that even with their potent skills, the matter most likely will be lost.
How does an in-house lawyer find this “alpha” lawyer? Are there tell-tale signs that sophisticated consumers of legal services look for? I don’t really know. Use the comment feature to offer you ideas about finding the right counsel.