Litigation & Leadership
Kevin has been the national chair of the Quarles & Brady Litigation & Dispute Resolution Practice Group for five years, and he has recently completed a term of service on the firm’s elected Executive Committee. He has also led the Real Estate & Construction Litigation Team within the larger Litigation Group. His experience has taught him a few things about leadership.
The oft-overlooked side of litigation lies in administration and financial stewardship. Given unlimited time and resources, most large firms can usually achieve positive results for their clients. Kevin and his team recognize open-ended budgets and staffing as anachronistic approaches to litigation and therefore have instituted processes and priorities that emphasize efficiency, lean staffing, and cost containment.
People Are the Most Valuable Assets
In any service organization, nothing is more important than its people. Not only do they deliver the services, but they define the quality of those services, as their training, cooperation, and culture combine to create the client experience. It’s not enough to hire for specific skill sets, one must build an organization that operates as a cohesive whole to ensure that the client's experience is a positive one. See “Talent nurturing and development for the long term benefit of clients and their lawyers,” Inside Counsel Magazine, April 11, 2014, for an article that Kevin penned on this topic.
Budgets Are Our Friends
In litigation, budgets are never 100 percent accurate, but early and intermittent budgeting of matters helps focus on what is important and achieves better results, including reducing unnecessary delays. Kevin understands that delay adds significant transactional costs to litigation, and although delay in litigation is often unavoidable (and sometimes tactically advantageous), self-inflicted delay is often not tactically advantageous and is to be avoided. Budgeting also reinforces the importance of “knowledge management” and effective lean staffing in business litigation. The most effective way to prosecute a business dispute is with a focused team that remains on the case through the duration, understands the business objectives of the client, and has the operative facts down cold as early as possible in the matter. We have found that taking early steps to understand and budget a case reduces the number of “sideshow” disputes that occur (such as discovery disputes). If such a dispute does arise, we take immediate steps to understand its bottom-line impact, in terms of both the outside counsel fees involved in fighting the dispute and a potential adverse result in that dispute.
Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is
Litigating is about taking reasoned risks, but those risks should not always be borne by the client alone. We have come to believe that, in the right business dispute, we should share in the risk by having some “skin in the game” through an alternative billing arrangement. Alternative billing arrangements do not work in all situations, and care must be taken to ensure that the arrangement promotes partnering with our clients rather than negotiating against them. We believe, however, that they are a very valuable tool both for aligning our interests with the client and for making our litigation teams, from top to bottom, focus on activities that add maximum value in the litigation process.
Honesty Is the Only Policy
Leadership requires us to be honest not only with our clients but with ourselves — to recognize what can be improved and pursue it, to acknowledge weaknesses as well as strengths, to take the more difficult path when circumstances call for it, to manage the business you have rather than the business you wish you had — but it can be all the more rewarding when you deliver on your promises, nurture better lawyers and support staff, effectively serve more clients as well as the community, and ensure long-term growth and success for everyone.
Kevin has published several articles in Inside Counsel magazine on the topic of leadership in the litigation area. You can read them by clicking on these links: