Improving the Client/Firm Relationship With Technology
Technological change has presented an ongoing challenge to corporate law departments and to the law firms (and other external service providers) with which those departments work. In-house lawyers have also experienced frustration in their relationships with those outside lawyers in respect of coordination of effort, collaboration, and similar issues.
Litigation is a Team Sport – Draft Your Players Carefully
Make your selection of counsel more than a beauty contest
The means by which in-house attorneys choose outside counsel has received less attention than has the choices that they make. The process, though, can impact the choice greatly. A procedure that enlarges the pool of candidates or that focuses the selection method more precisely to match the needs of the matter at hand is likely to yield a better choice.
Maybe Humpty Dumpty Was a Lawyer
In-house counsel and outside counsel view matters on which they work together from different perspectives. Unfortunately, those disparate perspectives result in communication issues and missteps.
Partnering: The “New” Client-Law Firm Relationship
When corporate law departments began expressing a desire for a “partnering” relationship with outside counsel, they often failed to explain the components of that type of relationship and how it would differ from the traditional client/counsel relationship.
The “Art” that is part of “Partnering”
“Partnering” doesn’t present a fixed or universal picture. How it manifests itself might depend on the members of that relationship. How one corporate law department works with outside counsel will differ from how another company’s department does, even with the same law firm. Thus, one should understand the general attributes of that type of relationship and explore how it might be implemented within the context of a particular pairing of client and counsel for it to achieve the best results.
What do law firms sell? What do clients buy?
The discrepancy in perspective between client companies and the law firms that serve them comes into stark relief when one reviews most law firms’ bills.
The care and feeding of outside counsel
Working with outside counsel presents in-house attorneys with a multitude of issues and tasks. Whereas clients once retained firms and paid little attention to how those firms populated the teams that handled it or to how the firms processed it, the costs of law films’ services has led to increased scrutiny of those and other issues.
The Pernicious Effect of the Hourly Rate on Client/Counsel Relations
Time-based billing, which usually appears as one or more hourly rates in law firms’ bills to their corporate clients, leads to multiple issues, many of which adversely impact the relationship between firms and their corporate clients. Understanding those impacts can enable both firms and clients to address multiple issues that have vexed them for years.
If Clients Are Not the Center of Your World, You Will Be on the Periphery of Theirs
Law firms typically claim, in varying ways, that client service is their highest priority. Unfortunately, however, their actions often undercut that claim to one degree or another. For in-house attorneys who select external lawyers on behalf of their companies, “relationship” issues often dominate the selection process.
Walk the Walk: Paying More than Lip Service to Client Service
Implementing a truly client-centered approach to the service of corporate clients requires that law firms understand exactly what clients want with greater particularity than they often do now. Much of that, however, focuses on how those clients “value” the service that they receive and the firms that provide it. Incorporating clients’ view of value into the service delivery will require a review, and possibly a restructuring, of the entire service process within a firm.
If You Don’t See Eye To Eye, Your Minds Will Never Meet…
For two parties in a relationship (the relationship between client and counsel, for example) to reap the benefits that they seek from that relationship, they must understand each other and each other’s needs. Unfortunately, the means by which counsel and client often enter into that relationship doesn’t include as much detail on how they expect to work together as it should. This gap can lead to significant issues that become harder and harder to correct.
If You Don’t Speak the Same Language, How Can You Work Together?
Through in-house and outside counsel works together consistently, they often cause or encounter problems in that relationship due to communication issues. All too often, they use the same terms while imparting differing meanings to those words. Unless they can agree on their expectations of each other and other issues, they will continue to find achieving their goals more difficult.
Without Effective Evaluation, All May Be for Naught
In order to create and continue an effective relationship between a company and its outside counsel requires many distinct initiatives to work in tandem well. One aspect of a good relationship is the ability of each party to that relationship to provide the other party an honest evaluation of its performance in the context of the relationship. Absence of complaint does not always mean that no complaint exists. Periodic evaluation of each other keeps each member of the relationship on its toes and ensures that the relationship will continue to work to both parties’ benefits.
Properly designed metrics can improve your chances to win an RFP
Law firms should understand the value that in-house attorneys place on metrics that demonstrate good management of the affairs entrusted to them. Because metrics matter a great deal to in-house attorneys, they should carry similar weight for outside counsel. Incorporating intelligible metrics in their responses for requests from corporate clients for legal service, whether through an RFP process or otherwise, outside counsel should improve their chances in those competitions.