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How to Expect More From Outside Counsel

By Neetal Parekh on November 03, 2009 8:47 AM

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Serengeti Law released their 8th Annual "Managing Outside Counsel" survey last month, revealing some interesting trends in the inside-outside counsel relationship. 

According to their findings, over the past 8 years in-house counsel have been more demanding of their outside counsel.  The study suggests that in-house has taken on the role of manager to outside counsel to heart and has opted for a variety of measures to ensure competitive productivity.  It shows that while the median spending in-house is at one of the highest levels in eight years, median spending on outside counsel is at its lowest level.  

How in-house counsel is expecting more from outside counsel:

  • engage in convergence
  • issue competitive bids for new work
  • require minimum levels of experience of associates working on their projects
  • seek discounts for early payment of bills
  • systematically evaluate the performance of their outside counsel

The survey, which is in its eighth year, provided some overall trends observed over the past years. 

  • in-house counsel are setting more rules for their relationships with outside counsel
  • in-house counsel are terminating relationships with their underperforming outside counsel
  • budgets are widely used to clarify expectations & monitor performance
  • in-house counsel are more carefully monitoring work that is outsourced
  • in-house counsel are using more sophisticated technology to track the activities of outside counsel, and have plans to do more
  • convergence continues to be common, but often just meets expectations
  • although hourly rates still predominate, many corporate clients are getting discounted rates
  • although in-house were having some effect on keeping the increases in hourly rates low, hourly rates are increasing again, leading to less work going to outside counsel
  • outside counsel spending has been a top concern of in-house counsel, but it is being surpassed by those business activities with legal implications
  • in general, in-house counsel have not yet put the necessary systems in place to meet their new reporting obligations

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