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When to Hire Outside Counsel: When They Are Nice

By William Vogeler, Esq. on June 20, 2019

Deciding when to hire outside counsel is more art than science.

Sure, there are rules about when you need outside help, like you need certain expertise, you have a conflict of interest, or you just can't handle all the work.

But in every case, it comes down to the right fit. It's like getting a good suit (not a lawsuit.) Here's how general counsel can get a nice one.

Stand Out Counsel

Dennis Garcia, as associate general counsel for Microsoft, has seen a lot of outside counsel. At a legal industry conference, he judged their pitches to provide legal counsel to corporate clients. Many ticked all the boxes, such as:

  • Keeping their presentations simple
  • Differentiating themselves from the competition
  • Highlighting their client references

Firms really stand out when they start strong, he said. Enthusiasm and energy matter -- even for lawyers talking about their bread-and-butter.

But perhaps the most important factor -- in any presentation -- is knowing your audience. You can't sell them if you don't know what they need.

Know the Audience

This is where hiring outside counsel becomes an art. It's the art of sales -- from the buyer's perspective.

"To be an effective seller of legal services you need to step into the shoes of your potential buyer," Garcia said. "In addition, do not assume that you can simply cut and paste from a previous sales pitch as each presentation to a legal department should be appropriately custom-made."

So they're schmoozing you with Power-Point, and that's okay. But sometime in the process, you have to rely on that just-right Goldilocks feeling. If you're not feeling it, it's probably not right.

Of course, GCs can always default to the usual rules: they need outside expertise, they have conflicts of interest, or they just can't handle all the work. But those are different stories.

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