You hire a lawyer to represent your interests in various legal matters….divorces, lawsuits, contract negotiations, etc.  They are supposed to be working for you, right?

Check out this Wall Street Journal blog entry about the financial troubles of west coast law firm Heller Ehrman LLP.  The salient part is here:

So what has happened to Heller, which has long ranked as one of the top firms in San Francisco and one of the top litigation shops in the country? For starters, the firm had many huge litigation matters settle in rapid succession last year, including its representation of Ernst & Young in securities fraud suits against AOL and Cendant. About one-fourth of its litigation business settled last year–a huge blow given that litigation makes up about 60% of the firm’s revenue, according to a Heller attorney. And that revenue has been hard to make up in a soft litigation market.

So is it in the firm’s best interests not to settle cases for clients?  Would settling cases bring in more business as (new and current) clients realize the firm is working to resolve their problems AND save them money?

Most clients seem to forget that their attorney works for them, not the other way around.

Further, the trial is a dying breed. The percentage of cases filed that actually go to trial has been steadily dropping.  Perhaps law firms need to have a different business model to reflect the changing times.  Lawyers need to focus more on being “problem solvers” rather than litigators.

Mediation resolves problems.  That is its main purpose.  If you are looking to resolve a problem that you have (a divorce, family squabble, commercial dispute), feel free to contact me.

(With a hat tip to colleague Geoff Sharp.)