We have all seen the articles, attended the conferences or engaged in conversations that express dissatisfaction with law firm billing, the continued growth of legal costs generally, and the disconnect between cost and value received. I have heard these complaints since I first became involved with ACC over 21 years ago. Unfortunately, I think it is fair to say that we (i.e., the in-house bar) must assume some responsibility for the current state of affairs. After all, one of the core responsibilities of a general counsel is how his or her client obtains its legal services. Stated simply, the law department either provides the services or it obtains them elsewhere.
So, if we do not like what we receive, we should change either what or how we conduct our own business.
I am told the Irish have an aphorism about what to do when you must get over a wall that is too high to climb — they say toss your hat to the other side. This coming year, I have a challenge for those who feel that fundamentally changing how they do business with their outside counsel is a wall that is too high to climb. If you want to do something about your dissatisfaction with the current state of the business side of your practice (i.e., the disconnect between the cost of legal services and the value received from outside counsel), then “toss your hat over the wall” and openly set three specific and measurable goals for what you seek to accomplish with your outside firms in 2013.
You might consider the following three goals from the ACC Value Challenge:
- Reduce legal costs by 25-33 percent;
- Obtain predictable costs; and
- Improve outcomes in specific areas (e.g., reduce employment litigation claims, contract disputes, etc.).
While such a public and visible action may cause some anxiety, it also will require you to be creative and find a way to get over the wall in order to get your “hat” — in this case, successfully managing the legal services for your client. My experience has been when I, or someone I know, make a public commitment to achieve a specific goal, we usually do.
I encourage you to give it a try.
Need some help? Check out the resources at the ACC Value Challenge.