By Nicholas Gahl, Gahl Legal Group
The relationship between counsel and consultant is critical to a project’s success. Generally given great discretion by the client to retain an environmental consultant, counsel draw from shortlists to fulfill such a privilege. Equally the case, consultants are often the first ones involved, and only through their thoughtful recommendation does the attorney meet the client. Therefore, it is common to see the same counsel-consultant pairings on various sites. The trust and familiarity can benefit all involved, but such relationships are not always the case.
This article focuses on the consultant’s perspective. What makes the relationship work? The following is a compilation of suggestions from various consultants intended to be feedback to environmental counsel. So, whether confronted with a new courtship or trying to maintain your connection, here’s what you need to know from the consultants themselves:
- Foster trust between me and the client. Allow me to talk directly to the client without always coordinating through you. My relationship with the client matters, as well.
- Warn me about potential litigation. If the case is already in litigation or headed that direction, notify me so I know what’s protected communication and what’s discoverable.
- Relay payment information. Keep me informed about payment status. I likely have subs to pay and prefer not to function as a bank. If insurance carriers are paying, tell me their names and percentages so I can track payments and balances.
- Keep track of deadlines. That’s not just my job.
- Stand up for me, you and the client. Push back against unreasonable expectations and demands from carriers and regulators (and sometimes the client). I’ll provide you the technical support, but please say something.
- Review promptly. Please timely provide comments/approval on proposals and draft reports. I promise to send you a draft with sufficient time to review before the deadline, so promise me you’ll respond before the day its due.
- Inform me of developments. I don’t need to be a part of every communication with the client, but let me know about developments affecting my work and the site overall. I don’t withhold data or opinions from you, so please don’t withhold information from me. Related, identify the end goals so I can ensure my work is aimed at the right target.
- Please don't interrogate me. We are on the same team, so feel free to challenge my findings and ask for clarification about the technical basis. Questioning me every time like I am testifying on the stand is not fun. Instead, call an associate into your office if you need to vent.
- Tweaking conclusions is not always okay. Suggesting revisions to make the work product better is great, but revising my conclusions, recommendations, and expert opinions has a limit. Please be mindful of my comfort zone and acknowledge that my work centers on data.
- Stay in your lane. Please don’t over involve yourself in my technical arena. It can be tricky to strike the balance between hands-off and dictating (neither one being ideal), so tailor the amount of oversight and input to my qualifications.
- Dance with who invited you. Don’t kick me off a site for no reason, especially one that I brought to you. If I make mistakes, tell me so I can correct them. Firing me so you can pass the site to one of your better-liked consultants is not cool.
Ideally, this list will make working together in 2018 even easier, efficient and productive. Many thanks to the many consultants for the great input!
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