How A Law Firm Can Become The Go To Law Firm
When using outside counsel, most companies, especially those that have affiliates or subsidiaries, need a comprehensive approach. Unfortunately, some companies hire law firms on a case-by-case or ad hoc basis. Sometimes divisions of the same company hire different law firms without thinking about potential issues of legal talent and failure to obtain high-quality legal services on a consistent and reasonably priced basis.
If a company has an in-house Law Department, it is incumbent on the in-house Law Department to develop processes to select and use outside counsel on a consistent basis with a focus on quality, reasonable fees, and, of course, success. Such success is normally the result of a long-term relationship in which outside counsel becomes a member of the company’s “team,” learns the business, and can, therefore, provide timely legal and business advice. A General Counsel knows that a vital part of a Legal Risk Management Program is having a go to law firm that can handle major legal issues in an effective and efficient manner. So the General Counsel is always looking for the firm that can deliver.
If a company does not have a large legal staff or does not have an in-house counsel, it must look toward retaining a law firm, which in essence acts as an in-house counsel. In other words, the law firm becomes an “outside general counsel.” By hiring an outside general counsel, a company obtains a firm that can consistently and responsibly evaluates legal issues, decide how to handle them, and implement a comprehensive legal strategy.
In essence, more and more companies as well as General Counsel are only looking for law firms that can add value and either help the in house law department add value or add value to the company’s bottom line. In today’s ultra competitive legal marketplace, only the law firms that can add value are thriving. Law firms are no longer just a provider of legal services- they are a business partner! So the question becomes how can a law firm position itself to add value and become the “go to law firm” or “firm of choice”. Law firms know that when dealing with a company it is essential to meet the General Counsel ( if the company has one) and develop a working relationship. But that is not enough. The days of becoming the go to law firm solely based on relationships are over. Having a good working relationship is of course also necessary. But its all about value add.
IT IS ALL ABOUT VALUE ADD
Here are 12 steps to take to become the firm that adds value-
- Know the business! Understand the major issues facing the business? Take time to understand how the company works !
- Develop a relationship with the GC! Go out and meet him. Call him on the phone.
- Meet the Assistant General Counsel as well and/or other senior lawyers.
- Be responsive- At All Times!
- 24/7- is the new response time.
- Don’t create “busy work”. The GC knows what is important.
- Work with the GC to fit in with the GC’s outside staffing guidelines
- (i) Work with the GC to meet all billing guidelines
- (ii) Be flexible in billing arrangements
- (iii) Don’t overcharge or overspend
- Responsiveness is important! Communicate any and all significant case developments!
- GC’s love litigation plans and well drafted budgets
(i) It requires a well drafted pitch proposal to RFPs.
(ii) What are the major issues in the litigation or matter?
(iii) Be willing to follow the GC’s requested billing format ( and stick to it).
- Go the extra mile!! Do whatever it takes!
- Provide free services
- Be willing to travel free of charge or be willing to drop everything for the client
- Learn how the corporation works
- Learn the organization works!!
(i) What are it’s A/R, billing, credit , accounting and procurement processes?
(ii) What are the main business issues involving its manufacturing or services?
- Don’t take the GC or company for granted – ever!
If a law firm can internalize these 12 steps it is well on its way to become the company’s firm of choice. The GO TO LAW FIRM!