I love the internet!
I love internet shopping – I joke that it was invented for me. I love Amazon (I can order it this morning and have it this afternoon) and I love the idea that I may never have to set foot inside a supermarket again because a lovely man arrives on my doorstep every few days with a basket of food for me. I know you’re not supposed to accept treats from strangers but this is really the exception to the rule.
I love the connectivity – the ability to email my parents in Spain and get an instant reply from them. To be able to research all the places I’m going to visit when I finally get to go travelling again (it’s been nearly THREE years since my last proper holiday – a week in Disney with my 16 yo was NOT a holiday. It was great, but it definitely was not restful!). I love the information I can find about other law firms all over the world every time my clients need help in another jurisdiction.
Of course, with great power comes great responsibility (do you know where that quote comes from – I do because I just Googled it to remind myself!). In this situation, I would say that we all have a responsibility not to take the internet too seriously. I often tell people not to believe everything they read – just because a newspaper is reporting on a court case, doesn’t mean that the report (or perhaps just the headline) won’t be a bit misleading, because the truth will probably be a bit dull and no one would read it. But the internet takes that to a whole new level. On the net, anyone can be anything they want.
So when a client phones me in a bit of a panic, talking about the big fancy law firm the other side have just hired and what does that mean for us, the first thing to do is to check them out. Anyone can design a website that makes them look big and fancy, but that doesn’t mean that they are. For example, you can call yourself “international” just by having a connection with another law firm in another jurisdiction. Any law firm could do that, and it doesn’t really mean anything. Saying that you are award winning can also be misleading. I was recently asked by a LinkedIn contact to vote for him in an awards event, even though I’d never actually used his services. I have no doubt he was messaging everyone he knew and no doubt some people would have complied. So, just because someone wins an award, doesn’t always mean that they are good at what they do. Many awards events are highly reputable, but some are not, so you cannot take that at face value.
What you really want to know is the information behind the website. Who owns the business (one relatively newly qualified solicitor). How long has he been running the law firm (a year). How many staff do they have (him and a paralegal). Do they have nice offices (no). So suddenly, a big fancy law firm with a flash website has become a one man band working in his back bedroom. You may say that just because they are a one man band, doesn’t mean they are not any good at what they do and you are absolutely right, but if he was sufficiently confident in his abilities, he is less likely to be trying to make himself look bigger and more successful than he actually is. The phrase “fake it till you make it” means that at some point you were (or possibly still are) faking it. What’s more, even if the other side had taken on a big fancy law firm, so what? That doesn’t mean that their case is any better or worse than it was the day before they were instructed. The case is still the case. Even if they win, there is still going to be a limit to how much they can recover in legal fees, and the gap between what they would pay a big firm and what they would be awarded by a court is likely to be much greater than if they’d instructed the one man band. So actually, by instructing the big firm, they’re likely to run out of money faster or at least the case will fast become uneconomic for them to continue with.
The moral of this story is, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. If you are involved in a dispute, the focus should be on your case. How you run it. What your evidence is. What steps you do (or don’t) take and what your strategy and priorities are. Whilst you should always keep an eye on what the other side are up to, don’t let it control or influence what you do, because you never know what’s going on behind the scenes.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. World Wide Wisdom.