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Unlike a typical professional facing a midlife crisis at the age of 41, I didn’t buy a sports car. I went to law school. I believed then that the practice of law would welcome an inexperienced lawyer with a strong background in business, including a degree from Harvard Business School and five years as an investment banker at Drexel Burnham Lambert. I was wrong about that, as most law firms didn’t quite lay out a welcome mat. But today, in an approach that is now recognized as a multidisciplinary practice (or MDP), firms are beginning to understand the need for a strong business perspective. In addition, there are many nonpracticing J.D.s who wish to recycle their skills into more exciting careers. Upon graduating from the University of Texas School of Law with honors in 1993, I was surprised to find an unreceptive market. In my third year, my only serious job interview had been with financial consulting firm McKinsey and Co., which was not interested in my legal education, but was generally willing to consider hiring a Baker Scholar from Harvard Business School. Friends arranged a couple of courtesy interviews with major law firms, some of whom were frank enough to tell me that law school had not enhanced my market value and that they hoped I had enjoyed my three-year vacation. Most counseled that I return to investment banking. I found two major law firms willing to take a chance with me in their bankruptcy practices. In both cases, we were mutually unsuited for each other. I was not terribly excited about drafting long and detailed reorganization documents, and they were not thrilled to hear my comments about substantive problems with the transactions that I was papering. We parted quickly. Eventually, the thought occurred that I wasn’t enjoying the work: too much drafting and not enough problem solving. Returning to my principal skill set of financial analysis, I joined a small accounting firm that offered valuation and expert testimony services. There, I learned how to pursue the aspects of law that interested me. Just as with investment banking, where I enjoyed the research and financial analysis more than closing the deal, I especially enjoyed legal research and qualitative analysis. As I started up my own practice in valuation and litigation consulting, I wrote articles exploring the boundaries between law and financial analysis, pointing out opportunities in the case law for consultants to change their standard analysis and opportunities in financial analysis for lawyers to optimize their case law. Rather than dwelling on the answers, I thrived on reframing the questions. Through one of those articles, I was recruited into the litigation consulting group for Bickel & Brewer, a national litigation firm based in Dallas known for its focus on complex corporate litigation. The firm’s consulting group of eight professionals needed a director. Though my r�sum� best resembled a Rorschach pattern, it made sense for this opportunity with the need for financial analysis, legal analysis, management, accounting, and econometrics. B&B has a colorful reputation for innovation and creative tactics. In fact, the firm reminds me of my early years at Drexel, when we pioneered in underwriting junk bonds. At B&B, a typical client is someone who has been in litigation for two or three years, fires his existing lawyer, and calls on founding partner William Brewer for assistance in saving the company. This niche for emergency services, as well as the predispositions of the firm, dictates that we must frequently find new and different approaches to the clients’ problems. After all, if the standard approaches were going to work, they would have worked for the previous law firm. Ten years ago, Brewer started up an in-house consulting group to research and organize the facts behind the cases. Professionals with degrees in economics and business were recruited to contribute as integral members of the case team. Five years later, the firm added an affiliate in India, which includes about 80 professionals who review case documents and produce a database of abstracts of the documents. SHORT ON ANALYSIS When I came on board, I found that the consulting group was excellent at researching and organizing the relevant information, but its analysis was underdeveloped. Today, in our group of 12, we have four J.D.s, as well as professionals with 10 to 20 years of experience as accountants or economists. While there are no specific problems in managing a mixed group of consultants with J.D.s and non-J.D.s, there is a cultural divide between litigators and consultants. Attorneys generally do not like to admit that there are subjects beyond their understanding, and they frequently assume that J.D.s are better educated than M.B.A.s or even Ph.D.s. Consultants, on the other hand, do not have sufficient perspective to fully appreciate the pressures or responsibilities that come with litigation. Communication is generally the answer, albeit with the understanding that the two groups often use the terms of art quite differently. My background in both areas helps provide some translation. At present, the American Bar Association is upset at the notion that the Big Five accounting firms want to enter the legal profession with their version of MDPs. As a result, MDPs remain about as popular in the legal profession as junk bonds were initially in the underwriting community. The B&B group relishes this rebel image, knowing that MDPs make too much sense to be ignored for long. As our group’s analyses began to make significant contributions to the firm’s litigation success, the demand for our work grew. As a result, the monthly billings of the group have grown almost 500 percent in the last 27 months. On the fly, we work with our lawyers to help them apply the facts to the law in the minimum time necessary. Initial damages estimates are made, and we then work with the testifying experts to help focus their efforts. In the process, our group saves the client both expert and legal fees, we improve our lawyers’ practice by allowing them more time to work on applying the law to our factual analysis, and we produce substantial profits due to our high productivity. For example, a client came to B&B with suspicions that it had been defrauded in the purchase of letter stock from a public company owned in common with another public company. We were able to demonstrate that there were financial data in one company’s SEC filings that contradicted original data publicly available on the other. Co-counsel, who had been on the case for six months longer than B&B, initially objected to our complaint, claiming that our allegations were unsubstantiated, until we redrafted the complaint with detailed footnotes that cited the SEC filings. They agreed to filing the footnoted version. A prima facie case for fraud was carefully documented before discovery had even begun, and the court appointed a trustee. Today, I enjoy speaking at two or three conferences a year, including chairing a conference on ancillary business activities of law firms. But more importantly, I practice and teach the kind of analysis that I have always liked with a firm that welcomes substantive expertise and a creative approach to problem solving. It’s a lot more exciting these days to drive to work, especially in my new yellow sports car. George Roach is a former investment banker and manager of a commercial cattle ranch who now speaks on multidisciplinary practice and in-house consulting at law firms. He is the director of consulting at Bickel & Brewer in Dallas. He can be reached at [email protected]

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