On legalproductivity.com, in an August 19, 2013 post titled, The Worst Business Lawyer Habit: “Punchbowling,” author Mike Moore told the story of an in-house attorney who turned a simple two-page contract to engage outside counsel into “an 8 page single-spaced monstrosity.” The in-house attorney’s revisions included lengthy, complex clauses, failed to concentrate on key, operational business terms, and in the end, killed the deal. In other words, he put “a turd in the punchbowl.”
The best business lawyers understand the primary objectives of a deal, communicate and assess the relative risks and benefits, and advise in a practical, deal-friendly way. They add value by bringing perspective, balance and clarity. They prioritize helping the parties get the deal done over showing off their intellectual superiority in constructing verbose, disproportionately lengthy linguistic prophylactics against remote, convoluted, hypotheticals. (Irony intended.)
Good business lawyering, according to Mr. Moore (a former business law practitioner), is knowing when the deal should be quashed and knowing when it’s a good deal — and, when the deal is good, not over-layering the contract codifying the deal.
Sure, some deals need a lawyer to come in and quash them, gosh knows the kind of ridiculous stuff that some clients can dream up, but most of the time the parties just need some good, practical advice to help make things happen. Sometimes the Yugo gets you there just as well; not every deal needs a hundred grand worth of precision German engineering.
While Mr. Moore’s message, “don’t be a punchbowler,” was to lawyers, legal consumers should take note as well. Your lawyer should advise you about the benefits, risks and overall value of the deal. And, when the deal is good, your lawyer should not over edit the agreement. Not only does that needlessly run up your legal bill, it can kill the deal.
You’ve got options. The Center for Legal Practice Reform can help you navigate the attorney/client relationship and level the playing field. Call LPR today for a free consultation – (301) 351-7970.