On June 2, Priori hosted a webinar, “Optimizing the Outside Counsel Process,” with Legal Operators that focused on outside counsel programs and legal resourcing challenges for in-house legal departments. If you missed the event, you can view the recording here.
The panel featured our CEO, Basha Rubin, as well as Lani Quarmby, Associate General Counsel and Managing Director at Bank of America, Aaron Katzel, Chief Operating Officer, Legal & Compliance at Softbank, and Casey Flaherty, Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer at LexFusion.
Here are several key takeaways:
Firm Convergence Initiatives Have Multiple Benefits
Firm convergence initiatives involve reducing the number of network law firms to create efficiency and avoid the data, cost and quality challenges of working with too many firms. They also increase buying power by concentrating matters among fewer law firms. With increased buying power, corporate legal can better negotiate fixed fee arrangements and volume discounts. Streamlining law firms also creates deeper relationships and improves service, as firms are incentivized to participate in a more robust two-way performance review process.
Hiring Firms vs. Hiring Lawyers? It Depends
Whether in-house departments make hiring decisions based on attorney-level talent or law firm characteristics may depend on the organization and context.
Some organizations prioritize business-to-business relationships and create a panel. For instance, if a partner departs for a firm that is not on the company’s approved panel list, that marks the end of that lawyer’s client relationship. This approach enforces firm panel initiatives and affirms prioritized firm relationships. On the other hand, it may leave little room for in-house legal departments to enhance diversity by engaging closely with the career trajectories of individual diverse attorneys at firms.
On the other hand, for legal departments that require a high volume of local counsel or niche expertise may prioritize individual lawyer expertise over a firm relationship. If an attorney is the right fit for a particular matter, legal departments may be likely to hire them whether they practice in a three-person, 25-person or large law firm.
Legal Departments Are Seeking to Streamline the RFP Process
The incremental burden of RFPs has decreased, somewhat, as legal operations has matured and organizations like CLOC and ACC have striven for uniformity. Still, although there has been improvement, RFP responses remain a huge burden on responding law firms, and attendant costs are built into the price of legal services.
One legal department strategy is to only use RFPs or RFIs only for the purpose of streamlining a panel and creating baseline firm information that can be used across multiple matters over time. An RFP process also makes sense for very important matters. Otherwise, for lower-level or more predictable work, RFPs may be more cost than they are worth. Legal departments can—and should—only submit RFPs to firms and vendors that have the requisite experience and expertise, i.e., a real chance at winning the work.