The Attorney Who Cried Conflict
THERE ONCE WAS AN ATTORNEY who needed a conflicts waiver from a long-time client. The attorney phoned his client to request the waiver, “Waiver, waiver, can I please get this waiver?”
The client grumbled, “This is a more sensitive matter than most. I will need to think about this request.”
Early the next morning, the attorney phoned the client again, “Waiver, waiver, can I please get this waiver?”
The client regretfully replied, “This is a conflict I cannot waive.”
Two days later, the attorney decided to take a different approach. He emailed the client, “Waiver, waiver, can I please get this waiver?” The attorney pleaded, “This matter is deeply important to me and the firm. You’ve issued waivers for similar situations in the past.”
The client sternly refused.
Later that same day, the client received a phone call from the Managing Partner of the attorney’s firm. The Managing Partner tried to comfort the client, “We appreciate the relationship we’ve had over the years. Thank you for the plentiful business. We hope you understand the unique circumstances of this request and will reconsider your position. Waiver, waiver, can we please get this waiver?”
The client sighed deeply, “I have told you once, I have told you twice. This waiver cannot be. I beg you to stop asking me for that which I cannot do.”
Three days later, the client received a letter from the attorney and his firm, “Upon reflection—and further investigation of the facts—it appears, friend, that we do not need a waiver for this particular matter. A conflict does not actually exist. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience.”
The client, having lost all patience and understanding, decided his long-time trusted firm no longer needed the client’s work.
The Law Firm and the Mega-Brand: A Story of Perspective Lost
A LAW FIRM, accustomed to working with large organizations, found itself pitching a well-known Consumer Products Manufacturer. This Manufacturer produced goods which were better known than the company itself.
The Law Firm worked tirelessly to convince the Manufacturer of their attorneys’ depth of knowledge and understanding of the business. On the day of the pitch, the Law Firm regaled the Manufacturer with observations of the marketplace, including a poignant piece of advice the Law Firm was quite pleased to share, “While you are the dominant player in this market, Manufacturer, we must give you warning. Your numerous acquisitions will draw harsh criticism from your competitors and potentially bring harmful lawsuits upon your organization.”
The Law Firm, quite pleased with the impact it was making, continued, “Luckily, we have identified the competitor most likely to bring about such demise.” With a flourish, Law Firm unveiled the logo of the enemy.
The Manufacturer, greatly disturbed, looked at the Law Firm and earnestly replied, “My dear Law Firm, I assure you this competitor will not cause us any harm. This competitor, which you have singled out, has been acquired by us not 18 months ago—and we adhere to a strict policy of not allowing one division to sue another.”
The Manufacturer rose from his seat and showed the Law Firm the door.
The Tale of the Poorly Timed Invoice
ONCE UPON A TIME, in a far off land called South Korea, there was a CEO named Min-Ho. Min-Ho oversaw operations for one of the largest companies in the world, but was concerned as the company did not have a very large presence in the US.
One day, Min-Ho decided the best way to boost his company’s presence would be through a series of acquisitions—but he knew it was prudent to be conservative in his approach.
Min-Ho diligently researched law firms including firms on the current roster as well as one other with whom the company had not previously worked. Conference calls were arranged with each firm. Min-Ho felt the calls were productive and developed a clear preference for the new law firm.
Min-Ho, by his nature, wanted to tell the lead partner personally about his decision to use the firm. The CEO knew a matter of this significance required an in-person visit to discuss strategy, objectives and concerns. Min-Ho carefully packed for his journey and, after a 14-hour flight, arrived in the US.
The CEO invited his new attorney to a dinner over which Min-Ho carefully laid out his concerns regarding the US transactions. The attorney was attentive and understood the issues they would face. At the end of meal, Min-Ho paid for dinner, thanked the attorney for his time, and boarded a plane back to his land.
A few weeks—roughly 60 days—later, Min-Ho received a letter from his attorney. The letter thanked Min-Ho for hiring the attorney and included an invoice for 2,122.17 gold coins. The exact cost of time incurred for meeting on the night of the dinner.
The CEO was troubled. He paid the gold coins to his attorney, but decided it was no longer wise to trust the man. Min-Ho began packing for another trip to the US where he would meet with another attorney he worked with from a different law firm. This time he would be sure the attorney was an individual of a different character.