Wednesday, 24. July 2024

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Is the “specialist lawyer” always the better choice?

Some clients think: If a lawyer does “only media law” or “only corporate law,” then he or she is necessarily always better in that area than a lawyer who also deals with other areas of law.

But is that true?

I think you have to be careful here and distinguish:

1. The specialist is usually able to answer typical questions from his special field faster than a „general practicioner“. The reason is that specialists have usually dealt with such questions from their special field more frequently. They do not have to familiarize themselves with the subject, read up on it or think about it in depth, but often have a similar case at hand that they have dealt with before.

2. Nevertheless, not every specialist is also a good lawyer. A good lawyer has an above-average general legal qualification, usually proven by two outstanding exams and a doctorate (“Dr. iur.”). In other words, he can think and argue better than others.

Again, not every specialist is an outstanding lawyer. On the contrary. It is in particular those lawyers who do not have an honors exam that often limit themselves to a certain area of the law in their professional career. In the course of time, they then become “specialists” in this area because they do not/can not do anything else. Such “specialists” can often handle the typical cases in their field of law relatively quickly. However, if a specialist lacks good general legal qualifications, he or she will not always be able to handle difficult and atypical cases properly.

3. A lawyer with a good general legal qualification (exams with distinction, Dr. iur) may not be able to answer each and every legal question immediately in a field of law in which he is not a specialist, because maybe he has to do some research first. However, his good general legal qualifications allow him to familiarize himself with difficult cases in a relatively short time and to solve them appropriately. Sometimes the result is even better and more adequate than the specialist´s who lacks the necessary general legal qualifications.

4. Or to put it another way: A weak lawyer who has only just passed his exams with “sufficient” grades will not become a good media lawyer even if he spends a lifetime dealing only with media law. This is because he or she simply lacks the necessary general legal qualifications to formulate good pleadings or contracts. (- Why do the last two paragraphs remind me so much of this stupid muesli ad, in which the company name is repeated again and again? …)

Let me put it this way: If an untalented, bad actor has already played the role of the country doctor five times, he will still not play it better the sixth time than the talented, good actor who slips into this role for the first time.

5. Conclusion: As a client, you should not be blinded by the advertising statement – “We only do media law”. Media law cases can also be handled properly and well by lawyers who – in addition to media law – also have appropriate qualifications in other specialist areas.

Dr. Wolfgang Gottwald
Rechtsanwalt/Attorney at Law

Certified Specialist for Employment, Commercial and Company Law (Germany)

Attorney at Law

Leopoldstraße 51
80802 München

Tel.: 089/383 293-10
Fax: 089/383 293-13