How in-house and outside counsel can work together
By Tequia Burt
Chicago Lawyer correspondent
More than ever before, corporate legal departments are being viewed as strategic partners by the C-suite. The growth of complex legal and regulatory challenges coupled with increased cyber and data privacy risks have made the counsel from in-house legal teams central to business decisions. No longer considered just cost centers, the operations of the in-house counsel are being aligned with the overall strategic goals of their companies.
Hoping to boost their value and productivity, many in-house legal teams are re-evaluating their relationships with the outside law firms that they hire. According to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Chief Legal Officers 2018 Survey, which polled 1,275 lawyers in September and November of last year, one in three chief legal officers fired outside counsel for failing to meet expectations in 2017.
Moreover, 43 percent definitely plan or are considering terminating an outside provider or firm in 2018, and, among those who let go of a provider or firm last year, one in 10 in-sourced at least part of the work permanently.
So what does that mean for Chicago-area law firms?
At a minimum, in-house counsel at Illinois-based companies expect outside counsel to be excellent attorneys who are experts in their respective areas of practice. To avoid the chopping block, however, law firms should strive to get a deeper understanding of their clients’ companies so that they are able to overlay a business context to their legal advice. Providing stronger communication, more billing transparency, as well as offering a roster of gender and racially diverse lawyers, are also important.