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Does Jones Day Have the Secret to Thriving in a Weak Economy?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 16, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

In an article appearing in the Pittsburgh Business Times, Jones Day’s Pittsburgh Managing Partner, Laura Ellsworth, claims that a culture of client service sets that firm apart and is responsible for its not following the downsizing trend prevalent in other large law firms. Of course, the other firms, the ones that are downsizing, say they emphasize client service, too.

So, what is client service? And how do you make it part of your culture? Ellsworth says it is a matter of choice. But what do you choose?

Some of us know the concept by another name: “professionalism.” Ellsworth sums up professionalism by saying that you think about the client’s interest, not your own. What does that mean?

A true professional does not flinch from promoting the client’s interests even when they conflict with those of the lawyer. That means settling the case that ought to be settled before the lawyer has a chance to earn a decent fee. It involves referring a client to another lawyer when the expertise of the second lawyer better fits the task at hand. It requires telling the brutal, honest truth that just might end up getting the lawyer fired. All this doesn’t sound like the best way to grow your law practice. But maybe, while you are paying close attention to your client’s business, you might just earn a modicum of credibility, respect and even trust.

Jones Day may well have developed an exemplary culture of client service. If so, don’t praise the firm, praise the lawyers in it. That’s the key. Only individual lawyers, not organizations, can earn respect and trust as professionals. The leadership that made success possible was exercised by individuals. The choices the built a great law firm were made one-at-a-time, by individuals. And no group of lawyers, no matter how successful, can ever hope to corner the market on professionalism.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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