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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is There An Attorney In The House

Is There An Attorney In The House

Corporate law has a long history in the United States dating back to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson when the government of our then evolving country was being centralized. With the country growing, it became apparent that decisions were needed pertaining to power within states, citizen involvement, public affairs, and so on. The challenge at that time was that Hamilton strongly believed there should be a central government or industrialized nation. However, Jefferson had a different idea, believing an agrarian nation would work best.

When the Federal Constitution was established in the late 18th century, it had no mention of corporations. During this time, most corporations were actually British chartered institutions or those associated with education. However, over the years, financial institutions, colleges, and other new types of corporate entities formed. With no laws in place, states had to fend for themselves, making the best decisions possible, although not consistent among each other. A pivotal moment occurred when a college brought forward a lawsuit to have the right to recognize itself along with the ability to terminate professors. John Marshall, a private lawyer spearheaded the case. This particular case among others helped solidify the need and validity of attorney services.

While a number of other similar lawsuits were filed during the early part of the 19th century, it was during the Industrial Revolution when things really began to change. This era brought with it new ideologies, techniques, and inventions. To protect the rights of these innovations, the need for corporate attorneys rose. Another major change occurred during the Civil War in which manufacturing practices exploded. Again, to protect this massive growth along with the people in power within the corporations, lawyers were kept very busy. The railroad and the significant impact upon transportation and its continuing advances also furthered the need for complex legal support.

In the new and growing world, attorneys enjoyed a position of respect and power. The country was founded by men of law and until the 20th century the profession was honored. Legal professionals were seen as valuable experts.

In todays world, the nations leaders are still by and large men and women of law. However, the public enjoys a love/hate relationship with attorneys viewing them as a necessary evil. What has changed?

In the 18th and 19th century legal disputes were largely confined to business issues. People did not routinely sue one another for personal loss, injury or even divorce. As the law became more accessible to the public at large, the caliber of professionals also changed. Divorce attorneys became reviled for winning large settlements, personal injury lawyers were labeled ambulance chasers and unethical attorneys assisted in black market adoptions. Unfortunately, the entire legal profession suffered from guilt by association.

Billing practices may have also led to the negative perception of attorneys. Hourly billing did not appropriately show clients value but instead set them up to question being on the clock for every phone call and letter written. Being billed by the hour put the client in an adversarial position rather than one of mutual partnership further degrading the view of the legal profession.

Although corporate attorneys do not have as bad of a reputation as trial lawyers do, they too have their battles. In house counsel is often seen as a hindrance to business rather than a partner in the business. Sales teams view the Legal Department as obstructions to closing a deal and even Executives sometimes believe that they must outsmart Legal in order to grow the business.

However, Legal does not have to be the enemy! When you consider standard business needs such as negotiations, contracts, pricing structures, and risk management combined with the new challenges brought on by the internet, such as internet fraud, identity theft, and email scams, it is easy to understand the demand and necessity of corporate attorneys. In addition to these business challenges, the law itself continues to change. Bankruptcy is an example. Two years ago, filing for bankruptcy was relatively easy but today, new laws have made this practice difficult. Corporate attorneys must stay abreast of all changes, which can be overwhelming.

Legal counsel does not exist to prevent business but to contribute to growing the business. By making Legal a partner rather than an adversary, you can increase the organizations opportunities and aggressively drive the business forward. Hall is founder and President/CEO of LexTech, Inc., a legal information consulting company. Mr. Hall has a unique breadth of experience which has enabled him to meld technology and sophisticated statistical analysis to produce a technology driven analytical model of the practice of law. As a busy civil trial attorney, he was responsible for the design and implementation of a LAN based litigation database and fully automated document production system for a midsized civil defense firm. He developed a task based billing model built on extensive statistical analysis of hundreds of litigated civil matters. In 1994, Mr. Hall invented linguistic modeling software which automatically reads, applies budget codes, budget codes and analyzes legal bill content. He also served as California Director and lecturer for a nationwide bar review. Mr. Hall continues to practice law and perform pro bono services for several Northern California judicial districts.

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