Are the days of being an “extensions of your in-house team” over?

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A recurring theme of tendering to in-counsel over the past several years has been the pronounced ability to “act as an extension of your in-house team” – or some variation thereof.

So what can we make of Craig Silliman, executive vice president for public policy and general counsel at Verizon, comments in Bloomberg yesterday that: “We Don’t Need Law Firms At Our Business Meetings”?

Truth is, I’m not sure.

That said,

“One pitch that you sometimes hear from law firms is, ‘We want to be your strategic partner, we want to sit inside your meetings, we want to get to know the business, etc.,’” he said. “That is what our in-house legal team does. We don’t need outside counsel to do that.”

If you’re a private firm or consult – no beating about the bush: that’s scary as sh1t!

But Craig doesn’t stop there, he goes on to say:

  1. “We have a lot of people in-house who are deeply embedded with the business, people who have a good general sense of the business, an ability to issue spot, an ability to support the business on what I’ll call a horizontal basis. By definition, when we’re bringing in outside counsel, we’re bringing them in as a vertical staff, as a highly specialized resource on one particular issue.”
  2. “The best outside counsel understand they are the client of the in-house legal team, and should make that team look good.”
  3. Outside counsel who are best at what they do understand that their one vertical issue fits within a larger strategic framework of legal policy, regulatory, and business issues that our in-house team is supporting the company on. Understanding how their role fits within a larger framework, and therefore the types of decisions we make about how to handle a case, how to move forward on something, have to be viewed through that larger lens.
  4. Related to that, I think outside counsel always serve their clients best when they understand that they are the client of the in-house legal team, and should make that team look good, understanding that the legal team in-house has a set of clients they’re interacting with on a larger basis.

If that weren’t enough , and if you’re like me and work in Marketing, then the following should send splinters up your spine:

“Sometimes part of the marketing pitch from law firms is, “We’re a big global firm. We can be your one-stop shop for all legal services.

That may be useful for some companies, but for us, I don’t think that’s a particularly compelling value proposition, because we have enough feet on the ground. We have enough people in-house that we can actually go out and pick and choose who the specialized resource is in a given firm, in a given country, to provide the needs that we have on that specific issue.

Sometimes part of the marketing pitch from law firms is, “We’re a big global firm. We can be your one-stop shop for all legal services.” For us, I don’t think that’s a particularly compelling value proposition.
Finally, the model of law firms has changed somewhat, as you’ve seen a lot of the work that traditionally was done by first and second year associates — all those document reviews and things like that, which formed the profitability base for law firms — has been automated, or it has been moved to lower-cost legal solutions outside the US or elsewhere.

Take out – every law firm is different: but in a world that is globalizing my view is that local knowledge still trumps.

RWS_01

 

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