Co-Counsel Tips for a Better Litigating Relationship

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

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The best thing about working as a solo attorney is that you call the shots and you never have to worry about anyone else. The worst thing is that you operate in a vacuum and unless you share office space, you rarely get to bounce ideas off anyone else.

Some of those deficiencies can be solved with a co-counsel arrangement. Here are some tips to make your co-counsel arrangement succeed.

Choose wisely

You won’t know exactly how you and your co-counsel will mesh until you start working together, but you should certainly have an idea about your co-counsel’s personality in advance.

If someone you don’t particularly like asks you to co-counsel a case, that is a recipe for disaster. If you are seeking co-counsel but the only available individual is someone with an opposing litigation style, that is also a likely recipe for disaster.

You don’t need to be best friends with your co-counsel, but make sure it’s someone you think you will get along with.

Set parameters with your new co-counsel

Once your client approves a co-counsel agreement, make sure you set ground rules and expectations with your new partner. If you are used to working on your own, remember that working with someone else requires constant communication.

Chances are, one of you will be the main client contact—but make that explicit. In terms of division of labor, make that clear upfront as well.

Even if you simply agree to divide every new task as they arise, that should prevent things from slipping through the cracks. Most solos are not used to relying on someone else, which means that learning to work with someone is work within itself.

Make sure your co-counsel agreement conforms with your local rules

In my jurisdiction, all fee sharing agreements have to be in writing, the client must agree to it, and the fee split must either be split in accordance with the services performed by each attorney, or each lawyer assumes joint responsibility.

Be sure to check your local rules to make sure your co-counsel agreement conforms. After that, enjoy having an extra set of eyes and ears—and good luck!

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mytudut/5188623575/)

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