Recently, in a legal journal, I saw an article in which an in-house lawyer was quoted as saying she had to reduce external counsel’s expenses, because otherwise it would come from her bonus. Although I am sure this lawyer is struggling with stresses, cost management and otherwise, I can only imagine what struck me was the implication of a very adversarial relationship between the client and external counsel. Checkout the Attorneys.
I hope it hasn’t come to that after several years in this field and considering the current economic conditions. It seems to me that the emphasis should be on providing the client with the requisite legal services as effectively as possible, whether those services are rendered by in-house or external counsel. The outcome is best accomplished when the lawyer and the client have a good relationship of confidence and understanding. While the trust must be gained by the lawyer, it is also true that this form of partnership will only occur when the client allows the lawyer to become part of the team.
The lawyer gets to hear about the client’s business in depth in a team-based relationship, the client’s approach to legal problems, and the client’s approach to business problems. As a consequence, without spending more the customer earns added value. Since I already know, the client doesn’t have to waste time asking me about their organisation or their overall objectives.
There are also ways in which an intimate understanding of the company of a client adds value. I and many other industry attorneys, for example, read the company press voraciously almost every day. If I see an article that I think is of importance to a consumer, I will forward it to you. While I strive to do this for every customer, when you fully understand the business of the customer, it is definitely much simpler to be tuned to articles of potential interest.
As I wrote before the least rewarding relationships are when a client handles the lawyer in a glass case very similar to a fire axe: crack glass and use it only in the event of an emergency. I suppose some customers assume that this way they are saving money. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, if the client had called counsel sooner, the fire could probably have been prevented. Rarely is damage management really rewarding for everyone.