"We Hire the Lawyer, Not the Law Firm" - Really?

We Hire the Lawyer, Not the Law Firm - Really?

After hearing yet another general counsel tell me that "We hire the lawyer, not the law firm," it seemed an appropriate time to step back and dissect this apparently simple statement to determine what it really suggests.  Clearly this statement is not as simple as it appears - as a matter of fact it is complicated, multi-faceted and multi-purposed.

This statement has been used for years, and will probably continue to be used - but why?  When general counsel say they hire the lawyer, not the law firm, what are they really saying?  Is it nothing more than posturing?  We can safely say that no in-house counsel is going to hire a lawyer, no matter how competent and successful he or she is, if the lawyer does not have the capacity, resources and backing of a law firm that can properly represent a multi-million dollar business.

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