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Legal Commentary

: In Search of Perfect Client Service

"Contract Year Phenomenon" And Lawyer-Client Relationships

By Patrick J. Lamb

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There is something known as "contract year phenomenon."  Wikipedia describes it:

Contract year phenomenon is a term used in North American sports to describe the occurrence when athletes perform at a very high level in the season prior to their free agency eligibility. Most often, these athletes have seasons that are statistically better than previous years, but then once they sign their new contract, they return to their previous level of performance.

The contract year phenomenon is most associated with the NBA due to the league's high salaries and lengthy guaranteed contracts. This occurrence is sometimes seen in MLB but it is almost never found in the NFL due to the league's relatively low salaries and most importantly, the lack of guaranteed contracts. NFL players who sign contracts with new teams and then don't perform can simply be released from their team, as the team is then only held responsible for the bonuses in the contract.

Put another way, when incumbency is assumed by the player, performance declines.

I've always wondered whether this phenomenon plays out in lawyer-client relationships.  For some thought-provoking insights into this question, check out Rees Morrison's post, 10 Steps To Hiring New Outside Counsel.  Maybe if lawyers felt more like NFL players and less like NBA players, we would act like we were always "one play away from being cut."

Full post as published by In Search of Perfect Client Service on June 12, 2009 (boomark / email).

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