Managing External Counsel

In-House Legal Tip: Performance Manage your External Counsel

1 min • 20 Oct 22


There are not too many in-house legal teams that talk positively about the value that their external law firms have provided.

Feedback ranges from “we don’t receive the value we expect” through to “our law firms are outstanding but are far too expensive.”

In short, law firm relationships all too often seem to be “suffered” or “indulged” by in-house legal teams, as opposed to being positively welcomed. 

This is a most unsatisfactory outcome for in-house legal teams as: 

  • Law firms will always be an important resource category that in-house teams need to use (when used correctly); and 
  • Law firms can provide genuine value beyond traditional advisory when pointed in the right direction. 

So, we must ask: What have you communicated to your external advisors in terms of the value you would like to see? Have you even had such a conversation? 

If you do not have a clear idea about the value that you want to receive – how do you think the fairly unimaginative folks over in Big Law are going to be able to form a view? 

In short – they won't. 

In-house legal teams need to place their relationships with their regular law firms into a “performance managed” construct. This means identifying what value you want to receive, and managing your relationship with each law firm so that you actually receive that value.

Sounds simple? Well, it is not complicated. But it does mean you need to give active consideration to what value you would like to be receiving. Ask and you may receive; don’t ask and it is guaranteed that you will not.

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