Reprinted from Of Counsel May 2009, Volume 28, Number 5, pages 11-14, with permission from Aspen Publishers, Inc., Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, New York, NY,
The "truth" in a law firm becomes what the leadership says it is, absent an effective means of counterbalance and control. At most law firms, there is no such balance.
The process is more the way in which lawyers handle many matters in the vigorous representation of the interests of their clients. It can be aptly characterized as follows…
"Unless this clearly crosses the line of what I can do, then I can do it, and it really does not matter if the other side likes it or not. I will do it because I can do it. I have the power and position to do it. What is ‘right’ and what is ‘fair’ and what is ‘just’ has nothing to do with it, unless I elect in my sole and absolute discretion to step back from the limits of what I can do based on my power and position. Were the roles reversed, I fully expect and believe that you would do it to me. That is justification and reason enough for me to do it. Stop me if you can. Otherwise, get out of the way or get run over.”
In a dispute or confrontation between attorneys working on behalf of their clients, the court system provides a check against stepping beyond the rules and penalties for abuse. What about within the law firm?
There really are few checks or defenses. The "truth" becomes what the leadership in its sales job or "spin" mode says it is, absent the aforementioned means of effective counterbalance and control. Within the inner circle of a few powerful partners, there may be checks and balances between them, not unlike an alliance of warlords in a feudal kingdom. But, between the policies and procedures set by that inner circle, and how it is presented to the remainder of the partnership, the balances are nonexistent or at best gratuitous.