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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Better Call Saul and "stealing" clients

A story line on Better Call Saul this season involves Jimmy and his girlfriend leaving their respective large firms to go solo, setting up separate practices with shared space (the separation is so she can keep doing things the right way, while he continues down his path to becoming Saul Goodman). This week, Kim resigns from the firm and recruits (successfully, she believes) the one client that she brought into the firm to follow her. But Jimmy's brother, Chuck, a name partner in the firm, pitches to get the bank to stay with the firm. The gist of the pitch is "yes, Kim is great, but I have long expertise in the complexities of banking law and the work you need done requires the staffing and resources that only can come from a large firm with a lot of associates." And it works, leaving Kim without any clients as she opens her practice.

The TV blogs, especially the comments sections, seem of a mind that Chuck screwed Jimmy and that he did so out of spite. Now, Chuck has screwed Jimmy in the past, so the audience is somewhat primed to dislike him. But did Chuck (and Howard) do anything wrong here? Kim brought the business to the firm, so it was "her" client." And we do not know the business terms between Kim and the firm, which I assume spell out the relationship among the firm, the client, and the rainmaker. But what happens when a lawyer with business leaves a firm? Can the firm try to convince the lawyer's clients to stay with the firm rather than following the individual? And Chuck's pitch in no way disparaged Kim or questioned her abilities, even implicitly; he simply argued that his firm could provide better service, which seems to be what you have to do to get business.

Of course, Jimmy sees it as strictly personal. And his response is to forge a bunch of documents to make Chuck and the firm look bad, which is where we pick up next week.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 7, 2016 at 07:44 PM in Civil Procedure, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Jimmy's reaction is expected but if anything Kim is doing a bit of "stealing" here -- the client came to firm thanks to her rainmaking, yes, but she sold THAT firm to them. Not some solo practitioner. She is at the firm thanks the the firm believing in her, even helping to pay her way to law school.

And, bluntly, Chuck's sale pitch was right. OTOH, he kind of did disparage her a little bit -- basically said she wouldn't be able to handle their needs good enough if something bad happens. After all, he was trying to sell his firm over her solo work. Sure, he said that was a small risk, but that is a major reason you have counsel. As insurance.

Posted by: Joe | Apr 8, 2016 9:59:19 AM

Occupational hazard, no? Associates are often "encouraged" to build a book of business that they will not get (financial) credit for, and over which they will have no decision-making authority. There is no "ownership" over these clients for associates, so there's no harm / no foul when an associate with cultivated clients leaves the firm and the clients stay on.

(Can we also talk about whether Chuck's illness renders him unfit for practice?)

Posted by: TNH | Apr 7, 2016 8:36:46 PM

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