I’m very excited to be kicking off our newest feature today on Zen – the General Counsel Corner!
Throughout my career, I’ve seen a number of in-house counsel presentations and articles, many of which continue to have the same themes with respect to the inside/outside counsel relationship. It seems that many law firms may still not understand what their clients and potential clients really need and want. To continue to draw attention to those things that matter most to GCs, I’ll be featuring in-house counsel here on the blog in our "General Counsel Corner." Periodically, I’ll be sharing with you a short interview that I’ve done with a GC, in which he or she will answer one key question.
Today’s respondent is the General Counsel for the US arm of an international business, engaged in providing services to the marine and power industries. I asked him:
"What is the most important factor you consider when hiring an outside law firm?"
He said: "…it is hard to focus on only a single factor. As a preliminary matter, it may seem obvious but the most important factor to me in choosing counsel is my confidence that the counsel is likely to deliver the correct answer or strategy, both from both legal and practical perspectives. That is a subjective impression based upon my consideration of the relevant experience of the attorney and takes into account items as broad as firm reputation and as narrow as specific experience with similar situations. As it is often hard to make that determination, especially when choosing counsel abroad or because there are many seemingly competent choices, it is always helpful to have the recommendation of someone you trust (like the ILN) or to start with a smaller project, if feasible, to gain first-hand experience. Other important factors include cost-effectiveness, responsiveness, industry or regional knowledge, supporting team members, prior dealings, etc. but you do not seriously consider those factors unless you have confidence that the firm (or specific attorney with whom you are speaking) is a good one to counsel you on the issue."
These are all excellent and important points – and if you’ll remember, we’ve heard something similar before. In last year’s GC panel at the LMA Conference, one of the panelists told us that:
Another point of contention…was about expertise – while there are a lot of smart lawyers who can get up to speed on an issue, the panelists emphasized that if a lawyer really doesn’t have the expertise, they shouldn’t lie about it. Honesty means more."
Thanks so much to this installment’s GC for his response! I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments below.