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A Different Approach to Practicing Law


I was recently asked to speak about how Slinde Nelson grew from one under-capitalized client to over 400 well-funded clients in just eight years. The answer can't be reduced to a mere couple paragraphs. But what led to the merger of Du Val Business Law and Slinde Nelson was three principals in perfect philosophical agreement. Our firms practiced, respectively, in business transactions legal services and complex commercial litigation, including real estate transactions and disputes. That's not too out of the ordinary, but our entire practice philosophy was anything but typical.

In the business law arena of contracts, licensing agreements, franchising, employment law, and new formations of LLCs and corporations, most lawyers set an hourly fee, and/or a high flat rate, and then get to work. And most do a fine job. Most commercial litigators who practice partnership disputes, employment litigation, or breach of contract claims lay out their cases and prosecute or defend them quite well -- typically with billable hours maximized and anticipated results, hopefully, attained.

But there is a method of legal practice in which the lawyer actually becomes a value-added team member of the client. This happens when the lawyer takes the time to learn all there is to know about the client's company, goes out of his or her way to make strategic introductions for the client, and is able to advise on business matters in addition to the legal issues at hand. The latter, of course, is only possible when the lawyer has the practical experience of running his or her own business, and both Du Val Business Law and Slinde Nelson were firms with these types of lawyers -- even our associates have grounded, real-world business experience.

Now, together, our entire approach demands we escape from behind our lawyers' desks. Our orientation is next to the client, at his table. When a lawyer becomes more intimately familiar with the client and the client's business, when a lawyer rejects strict nickel and dime billing practices, and when a lawyer returns calls as soon as humanly possible, only then does that lawyer become a value-added component of the client's business. In turn, that law firm will grow, as did Du Val Business Law and as has Slinde Nelson, with the assurance that an increasing client base is creating the best marketing available -- word of mouth marketing based on reputation, and results.

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