Ask Gerry Riskin: Should Corporate and Other Transactional Groups Spin Work off to Litigation Teams?

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By Gerry Riskin | Nov 26, 2018

Question from a Client*

While it seems to be a commonly held assumption that corporate and other transactional groups in firms spin work off to litigation teams (and that this is and should be the primary source of clients for litigators/trial attorneys), we aren’t finding any literature or research that supports this premise. Our numbers indicate the inverse – that our litigation team gets little work from other groups, but seems to make referrals internally with some frequency. So we are trying to determine if this is a problem that needs fixing, or if it’s just a shift in the way things are? Or (as is most likely the case), is it a bit of both?

Do you know of any trend data or best-practices articles that discuss the right model for referrals between practice areas – particularly litigation and trial? Any thoughts will be greatly appreciated!

Gerry Riskin Responds

The elegant study you are looking for does not exist, likely because no firm can provide accurate data that would support its findings. What kind of data are your business lawyers obtaining anecdotally from their clients to determine the extent to which they are seeking litigation assistance elsewhere and, if so, the magnitude and nature of that assistance?

You are exploring a major and timely topic.

  1. We are seeing the trend to avoid litigation in favor of more affordable alternative dispute resolution (ADR), and artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in relevance in the dispute-resolution world.
  2. A number of our clients have focused entire retreats on sensitizing their lawyers to the huge revenue potential of effective cross-selling. As I have told many clients during in-person consultations, cross-selling is highly correlated with internal marketing that sees firm constituencies garnering trust from other firm constituencies, such as: practice areas, industry groups and, of course, office locations throughout the firm.
  3. I am not a huge fan of motivating with a check book, but the topic also does require a peek at the compensation system to ensure that it is not creating barriers to the very behaviors you are trying to encourage.

(*Permission has been sought and received from my client to publish this question in Communiqué.)