In Law Firms of Endearment, I wrote that “[f]or law firms, primary stakeholders are clients, benches, bars, clients, employees, suppliers, communities and partners.” A Law Firm of Endearment, however, “becomes a vehicle of service to every stakeholder group.”1 Clearly, the bench is a primary stakeholder for attorneys. This is easily discernable by considering what happens in litigation when a judge is not kept in the information loop about a case before him or her. The judge is a stakeholder because actions taken by the attorneys and their clients impact the judge. But are legislatures primary stakeholders in the legal industry?
Are Legislatures Stakeholders?
To clarify, an attorney could see his or her role in the legal industry as knowing what the law is and using that knowledge to best serve the client’s interest. Competent client representation does not require engaging legislators in any way. It is hard, however, to say that legislatures are not legal industry stakeholders, they make the law. When a law they have made adversely impacts a client, the law (the work of the legislature itself) can be challenged and changed or overturned judicially. Sometimes this results in a dance between the judiciary and the legislature as a new law is passed in response to judicial force on the law. Legislatures are stakeholders in the legal industry, but are they primary stakeholders in the context of Law Firms of Endearment?
Are Legislatures Primary Stakeholders?
When Sisodia, Sheth and Wolfe studied Firms of Endearment, they found that “84% of conference boards engage in social or citizenship initiatives to improve society, company tradition or personal values.[?. Firms. P. xxiii] This might not necessarily be initiatives that created law or promulgated rules, but citizenship initiatives engage the legislative or executive branches of government where those branches impact, or potentially impact, their customers or corporate mission.
So, for attorneys, legislatures are a primary stakeholder group because they literally create the world of attorneys and their clients, judges and bars.
What About The Executive Branch?
Likewise, the executive branch (agencies, enforcement officers, and such) in executing the law are primary stakeholders because they directly impact our clients’ activities. Sometimes, they directly impact the client’s activities as well. Consider, for example, the law firm that collects consumer debts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the power to curtail the business the law firm conducts in the future and heavily fine the law firm for business it has done in the past. It would be difficult to argue that such agencies are not primary stakeholders in the legal industry.
Legal Industry Primary Stakeholders
So, taking this more inclusive look at primary stakeholder in the legal industry, a lawyer and his or her firm or organization is a vehicle of service to these primary stakeholders:
- Legislatures (Including municipal and town councils),
- Executive Officers and agencies.
- © Brandon L. Blankenship, Quote from Sisodia, Raj; Sheth, Jag; Wolfe, David B., Firms of Endearment, Second Edition, p. 2 ↩