October 18, 2017
October 18, 2017
Contributor: Sarah Morris
The wrong trade-offs in selecting outside counsel cost organizations more than money. Are you mismanaging outside counsel? Know the signs.
Imagine if a CEO allocated 55% of his or her company’s annual budget to a star employee whose work was subpar. Now imagine that this employee’s work required over a thousand hours of rework, in addition to the employee’s high salary.
Although this scenario may seem farfetched, it may be familiar to general counsel who spend a majority of their budgets on outside legal services that they feel aren’t measuring up to expectations. While the financial costs are disappointing, the productivity drag and questionable quality are even worse.
“Most corporate law departments take a hands-off approach when managing their outside counsel,” says Abbott Martin, legal research director at CEB, now Gartner. “While micromanaging is never ideal, in-house legal staff must know when and how to set expectations and intervene effectively.”
Enabling a more proactive stance can help enterprises achieve a higher quality of service from their outside legal teams.
Learn More: 6 Shifts GC Must Make by 2025 Action Plan
Based on a Gartner survey, in-house legal teams encounter these most common problems when working with outside counsel:
Encountering these signs may indicate it’s time to retrain people supervising the outside resources.
Most general counsel fail to realize how useful their staffs can be in boosting the quality of the work they receive from external firms, exacerbated by the fact that so many in-house lawyers actually have previous outside corporate legal experience. This type of clubby atmosphere makes even the perception of micromanaging seem uncivilized to most senior in-house lawyers at major enterprises.
General counsel who encourage their legal teams to manage external work more closely face a few key challenges. First, some in-house lawyers manage outside counsel more successfully than do others, but it’s hard to pinpoint what makes them successful. Second, general counsel struggle to find more time for more work from their teams amid the press of day-to-day corporate legal duties.
But keeping a firm hand on the wheel can avoid some big problems down the road. Here’s how:
Execution-focused management improves law firm performance far more than personal connections or monetary incentives. Legal teams that improve their execution-based management can reduce the rate of incorrect work by 71%, according to our data. This type of “hands on” approach involves four key elements:
Although training in-house legal staff to be more proactive in managing outside counsel requires upfront work, the potential returns are more than worth it to improve on a vital, if historically problematic, relationship.
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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
Some Gartner clients can read more in 10 Costly Outside Counsel Mistakes.
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.