Our approach to case management is simple: staff the case leanly, but sufficiently to avoid being on the defensive. In small- to moderate-size cases, we typically have one associate supervised by one partner. Supervision in our firm means hands-on involvement in tasks, as appropriate. Our goal is to ensure that both the partner and the associate are fully familiar with the case and able to discuss it with the client at any time.
On larger cases, additional lawyers may be involved. We are structured to avoid the pyramiding or empire building sometimes found in large firms. When we confer among ourselves about a case, the purpose is legal analysis and strategy, not for one group of lawyers to update another on what the first group has been doing. Our lawyers already know, because they were part of the decision-making process. We do not send clients bills bloated by internal conferencing or the drafting of internal memoranda.
Due to our size, and to our sensitivity to client irritants, we avoid musical chairs representation. Absent emergencies, the lawyer who starts a case will finish it. If events ever require that someone be replaced on a case, we do not charge the client for duplication of the learning curve.
Early Dispute Resolution
Sophisticated clients understand that most cases settle. They also understand that legal expenses are often proportionate to cycle time: the longer a case lasts, the more expensive it becomes. Hence, early dispute resolution has gained great currency. Our firm has worked with DuPont, General Electric, Chevron, and other clients to develop and to refine early case assessment programs. We pride ourselves on being able to size up cases early and, if appropriate, to direct them to ADR and other early case resolution gateways.
Many big firm “litigators” do not actually try cases. When appropriate, we do. While most cases settle, the quality of the settlement is directly affected by the perceptions of the opposition. If your opponent knows that your lawyer tends not to try cases, you can expect a less favorable settlement. Conversely, if your lawyer has a reputation for being willing and able to try cases, then the quality of the settlement is likely to be improved. And, because some cases need to be tried, it is vital that a litigant is represented by someone experienced in the courtroom.
Sophisticated clients realize that it is unwise to focus exclusively on litigation expense; the results achieved are extremely important to any meaningful economic assessment. Excellent results often pay dividends beyond the immediate case, and we strive at all times to achieve them. We are pleased to have our results measured against any benchmark.
We practice not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, but throughout California, including Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego. We are not just big city lawyers; we have litigated and tried cases in California’s Central Valley, Central Coast, and other rural areas. We also handle and supervise cases in other states. Among our lawyers, we have worked on cases pending throughout the country.
We take to heart the concept of partnering with our clients. We are, of course, comfortable sharing responsibility for a case with our client’s legal and paralegal personnel. Alternatively, when a client prefers that we assume total control of a case, we will. Our objective, always, is to achieve the best possible result economically. How that is best accomplished in a given case is something on which there should be open communication.
We are technologically sophisticated, but mindful that technology alone cannot achieve desirable results. Our firm joins eagerness for technological advances, such as trial presentation software and legal databases, with the conviction that advocacy and persuasion are human skills that may only be aided by, not replaced by, technology.
We pride ourselves on remembering at all times that the cases we handle belong to our clients, not us. We serve at our clients’ pleasure. If a client feels that outside lawyers are inaccessible or self-important, communication barriers arise. When that happens, the free-flow exchange vital to cost-effective representation tends not to occur. Open, attentive, and respectful communication is a subtle, but critical, aspect of the attorney-client relationship. We make ourselves available to our clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We have a standing rule to return client calls immediately or, when that is not possible, on the same day. Absent emergencies, we give clients reasonable time to review in advance all material correspondence and pleadings. Our combination of high-quality work, economic sensitivity, and openness has allowed us to attract and maintain wonderful client relationships.
Our lawyers charge significantly less than they would, and often did, at a large firm. Despite the excesses now common in the California and national legal markets, we hold our rates below those of our large firm competitors. Hourly rates are important, but so are economic judgments. We save our clients money not only by charging less per hour, but also by eliminating some hours altogether. We do this by avoiding unnecessary work and working productively on the tasks we undertake. Our goal, always, is to provide our clients with the most economically sensible result, both in terms of the legal result and how much it costs to achieve that result.