The most effective working arrangement between inside counsel and outside counsel reflects the best elements of a successful business relationship and a true long-term association. Specifically, it brings together two parties with needs and capabilities aligned, operates collaboratively in an environment of mutual respect and benefits from a foundation of trust and partnership.
Such a relationship does not eliminate the need for “outside counsel management” or make that task easier. Instead, it is welcome evidence of successful outside counsel management by the in-house counsel – including, more and more often, the smart utilization of technology – and a willingness by outside counsel to commit to making the partnership work.
Here are 5 ways to optimize outside counsel collaboration:
1. REGULAR COMMUNICATION WITH OUTSIDE COUNSEL
This should be the No. 1 priority for in-house counsel because, from the beginning, communication forms the sturdy base for a collaborative partnership. Communication includes setting clear expectations – at the beginning and throughout the relationship – and addressing these expectations as often as necessary, as well as providing feedback to one another.
Outside counsel needs to know the goals, objectives, and priorities of the business and the in-house team. It is important to note that objectives and priorities can change over time and from project to project regarding particular elements.
It is also wise to review and reset expectations sometimes. Do this annually or more or less often, depending upon the perceived need. The point is that just because there are set expectations does not mean they will remain that way for eternity
2. REGULAR REPORTING ON LEGAL MATTER PROGRESS
Hand in hand with the communication element is the specific matter of progress reports. This allows outside counsel to provide details about what has been accomplished and share their updated roadmap. It is also an opportunity to note any unforeseen circumstances or scope changes that have arisen or may be forming on the horizon. Along with this, discuss any potential budgetary impact.
3. DISCUSSING BUDGETARY LIMITS
Establish budgetary limits clearly and early. This allows outside counsel to plan their staffing and discuss it as needed with in-house counsel. Both parties should agree that the budget reflects the facts known during budgeting and outside counsel’s experience with similar cases but that changes could occur.
4. EXPEDITING PAYMENTS AND CHARGEBACKS WITH BILLING SOFTWARE
Along with providing transparency and accuracy, e-billing software can expedite the processing of payments and chargebacks.
The software can also support real-time billing conversations by allowing both parties to have identical, up-to-the-minute information about activities performed and the associated charges at their fingertips whenever they want.
5. ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP MANAGER AT THE OUTSIDE FIRM
Having one person designated to “own” the relationship can provide additional clarity. This person should also perform billing reviews and track matters in progress and how they stand against the budget.
These elements enable a successful, collaborative working arrangement between inside and outside counsel. Don’t hesitate to weave them in if they sound constructive and are not part of your current fabric. They’ll likely give your operation a step forward in terms of efficient and effective outside counsel collaboration and management.
Learn more about BusyLamp from Onit, our end-to-end legal spend management solution built for European corporate legal departments.