Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

1410 Posts and Counting

Harrison Barnes, Legal Recruiter, on Over-lawyering the Deal.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | December 13, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

Harrison Barnes, the founder of the national legal recruiter, BCG Attorney Search, related the following story of how the extra-intense negotiation of an employment contract by the candidate’s attorney put a chill into the relationship between the parties that never went away.

Barnes hired a legal recruiter with an outstanding track record. When they shook hands on the deal, the candidate told Barnes to expect a call from his lawyer to firm up the contract. Barnes tells the story of what happened next:

A few days later I received a telephone call from an attorney in a major law firm, who had marked up the offer letter I had sent over to the recruiter. He had made so many notes that the document, which was formerly two pages long, now was around seven or eight pages long with all of the added comments. In addition, he had also attached a “suggested employment contract” that was over 45 pages long.

“Who are you?” I asked the attorney during our first phone call. I was a little astonished by the intensity with which he was negotiating some relatively small things. For example, the recruiter wanted to insure that his desk was positioned within 20 feet from “cold filtered spring water”, which would need to be in ready supply for him to drink during his workday.

“I actually do this for Fortune 500 CEOs all the time. This is my specialty, negotiating these sorts of things.”

I spent at least a week exchanging frequent phone calls with the attorney, and also had an in-house attorney from our company talking back and forth with the attorney every single day. After a week of this, I received a phone call from the recruiter:

“Can we wrap this up? This guy is charging me $750 an hour and I have already spent over $30,000 on this. I cannot afford to keep paying the attorney,” he said.

“I do not know how that is possible. He is negotiating every single little thing there is. We keep going back and forth,” I said.

When a Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation is hired, the executive typically has an attorney from a giant law firm negotiating on his or her behalf. The executive is offered the position and then, in response to the offer, the lawyer suddenly appears and starts negotiating. This is what the attorney we were talking with was doing. The list of points he was trying to negotiate with me and my attorney was so voluminous that it would be impossible for me to remember all of those points now. The list included things like being in “Class A” office space, having air conditioning on the weekend, first class airfare for all business-related travel, and more. When people get more powerful in the business world, they have a tendency to demand more. However, the other side to this is that they become more focused on taking and not giving value. They become more concerned with the accoutrements of success rather than focusing on what got them there, usually a lot of hard work.

Barnes went on to relate that this recruiter might still be working for him had this unfortunate event not occurred.  Their relationship never recovered.

This story illustrates a trait often found among lawyers (not all, but many) to overkill a contract negotiation and unwittingly poison the relationship between the parties in the process.  Frequently, the client doesn’t even want any of the 1001 changes suggested by counsel but goes along on the assumption that others must be getting all these perks. Over-negotiated contracts eventually lose their focus, consistency and purpose, becoming a meandering affair, full of lawyerly phrases like “notwithstanding the foregoing” and “including, without limitation.”


For more information on BCG Attorney Search, click here.


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.

  • Recent Posts

  • Posts You Might Like

  • Subscribe to our feed