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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.