Securing outside counsel is crucial to any business regardless of the industry or size. However, more than 60% of legal departments within businesses gave serious thought to firing outside legal support in 2001. The number one reason for this consideration was a problem with communication and response. Then when you consider the expense associated with outside counsel, along with a large movement of lawyers, the numbers of unhappy clients in the past five years have increased.
One of the most important factors when hiring outside counsel is to do your homework, know the law firm, as well as what they represent. After all, establishing a secure relationship is a win-win situation for both parties. To ensure you work with the right outside counsel, you will need to measure services offered with price, communication, responsiveness, professionalism, and areas of expertise. Today, we see many large (and small) corporations consolidating services with outside law firms as a means of tightening up operations, and with great success.
Okay, so what is the key to success when looking for and securing outside counsel? The formula is not difficult but it is precise. For starters, look for a law firm that wants and values your input. The foundation of a strong relationship is two-way communication. The firm should actively keep you abreast of changes, and concerns. However, communication is not simply conveying information but also listiening. In other words, if outside counsel does not take the time to listen to the client, to hear and understand potential risks and goals, then the relationship will never work.
Law firms should take the time to learn about your company’s technologies and capabilities. For example, every company has different needs. Whether legal support and advice, technology, or software choices, a law firm needs to take the time to understand the client, their business, the competitive threats and the opportunities. In this way, outside counsel would not only have a comprehensive understanding of your business but also your specific requirements to run that business. Outside counsel should also be fully vested in your financial interests. Their work plan should include ways to cut costs for your company while adding to or maximizing profitability. A good law firm committed to serving your needs, can add value to your operations by identifying ways that you could better utilize your internal systems, as well as their services.
Good legal counsel can also aid you in growing your business. They would teach you about implementing systems, marketing, and using tactics for surviving against your competitors while also providing support in legal matters. Keep in mind that even if you were to find a law firm you liked, as a best practice meet with three, four, or five outside firms to make sure you choose wisely. A good law firm will show you ways of thinking outside the box, and using innovation to drive business results.
Taking time to understand and clearly articulate your needs will facilitate your evaluation of options for outside counsel. You will develop a very specific set of criteria which you can use to objectively measure potential law firms. Doing so will ensure that not only have you chose a firm that is competent but one that partner with you in your business to achieve your specific goals. Being able to clearly communicate with your law firm will not only enable you to effectively evaluate them but will also set the tone for what will hopefully be a long term, mutually beneficial partnership.
Richard A. Hall is founder and President/CEO of LexTech, Inc. , a legal information consulting company. Mr. Hall has a unique breadth of experience which has enabled him to meld technology and sophisticated statistical analysis to produce a technology driven analytical model of the practice of law. As a busy civil trial attorney, he was responsible for the design and implementation of a LAN based litigation database and fully automated document production system for a mid-sized civil defense firm. He developed a task based billing model built on extensive statistical analysis of hundreds of litigated civil matters. In 1994, Mr. Hall invented linguistic modeling software which automatically reads, applies budget codes, budget codes and analyzes legal bill content. He also served as California Director and lecturer for a nationwide bar review. Mr. Hall continues to practice law and perform pro bono services for several Northern California judicial districts.