This is part four of a five-part series will help answer the question “how do I know which lawyer is right for me?” by breaking the analysis down into vitally important component parts.
QUESTION 4: ARE CONNECTIONS WITH THE GOVERNMENT IMPORTANT FOR MY LAWYER TO HAVE?
Many companies hear that various lawyers have good relationships with relevant regulators and the ability to pick up the phone and try to resolve problems informally. That has value because it can get a company heard and give the company a chance (or another chance) to explain its “side of the story” before a more formal or potentially adversarial process begins. But, especially in a practice area like government contracts that boasts so many former government officials, it is important to note that “sweetheart deals” generally do not happen on the basis of relationships alone. Old fashioned “good lawyering” matters.
Were I in the position of hiring outside counsel, I would break this question down into four subparts, in decreasing order of importance to the decision:
(a) does the lawyer have a reputation for quality work and is s/he knowledgeable in the area?
(b) can the lawyer explain how the government will react to alternative courses of actions, why the reactions will happen, and recommend how to manage those interactions before they occur?
(c) does the lawyer have relationships that can be leveraged for the company?
(d) how can those relationships lead to a better outcome for the company?
Relationships matter, but not as much as the quality of the lawyer with the relationships and his or her ability to “think like a regulator” to the benefit of their clients.
Stay tuned for the final question later this week . . .