Having completed Legal Project Management training in two corporate legal departments, I finished this week at the intersection of Sutter and Market Streets here in San Francisco, but for many of my General Counsel clients it’s the intersection of apprehension and opportunity. For some clients, this is alien and uncomfortable territory.
The balance of power has shifted in relationships between law firms and their clients. The firms used to call the shots. They set prices pretty much as they chose. They passed their expenses through to their clients. Then tight economic conditions gave General Counsel the whip hand. GCs have to respond to tremendous pressure from their own management to rein in costs, and this has forced them to change the rules of engagement with their lawyers.
This requires some uncomfortable adjustments. A lot of old ways and old relationships are going to end up on the trash heap. Convergence programs reduce the number of firms providing service, and RFPs require all legal vendors to compete for credibility. Value-based billing, alternative fee arrangements, and the efficacy of Legal Project Management are all hot trends pushing for implementation.
These changes are heady stuff for the innovative and the adventurous, but also potentially threatening, as General Counsel move from the devil they know to the devil they don’t.
There are common questions: What shall I do first? Where do we start? How fast should we go? How do we learn these new tactics and techniques? How much change can our lawyers handle? What if our implementation falls short?
One answer is easy, even if its implications are tough. The answer to the question, “Can’t we just do nothing?”…is NO. Not if you want to survive. Especially in light of corporate legal budgets staying tight in 2011 – or getting tighter.
There is simply no place to hide 60% of your legal spend that’s used for outside counsel. It has to be managed. And, “managing” means more than knocking a few hours off the monthly bill and then paying it.
Here’s some resources to get the creative juices flowing and the blanket off your head:
Symposium on Valuing Litigation (free to ACC Members)
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