If your outside counsel has not worked on re-purposing how their services are delivered to suit your needs, you are entitled to ask why, and to ask them to get to work on doing so. In-house legal departments in the current market are entitled to value in at least four key areas:
1. Monthly Access to Counsel at No Cost For Questions on Miscellaneous or on-Assigned Matters – My clients each have several hours per month of free phone consultation time, analysis, or research on any subjects of their choosing. A good client who invests their money in you to represent them in paid matters is entitled to be able to pick up the phone or send an email with a random or miscellaneous question without worrying about the meter running. It is a way to provide value to good clients, and a way to encourage them to reach out and stay in touch to take advantage of the benefit.
2. No-Cost Quarterly At-Client “Office Hours” – This is an extension of the no-cost consultation service. My clients each get eight hours per quarter of my spending time in their offices, where I can assist and consult on matters of importance, provide updates or continuing education on topics of interest, or to listen and learn about the legal department’s or company’s goals and objectives, and to discuss how we might assist the client in achieving those goals. It is a great way to learn more about a client’s DNA and institutional culture, so that legal services can be aligned with those things.
3. Alternative Fee Options, And The Willingness To Negotiate Any Fee, Any Time – I have posted about the complex subject of alternative legal fees many times, and have a page dedicated to describing many popular alternative fee options. Clients like the ability as they assign matters to outside counsel to toggle back and forth between traditional hourly rate arrangements and alternative fee proposals based on the nature of the matter assigned. The only real rule here is absolute flexibility. The client should be given the option of deciding which fee approach they feel is best for them at the outset of assigning a matter.
Outside counsel should be open always to adjustments in the fees as a case or matter proceeds. Circumstances change, cases can take unexpected twists and turns, and an in – house legal department should never, never feel locked into an unfavorable fee agreement after circumstances material change. Setting legal fees is NOT an adversarial process between outside counsel and general counsel; rather, it is a collaborative one.
4. Re-Thinking Hourly Fee Engagements To Provide More Value – Some clients still prefer engaging outside counsel by way of a traditional hourly fee deal. At the same time, however, in addition to the extras discussed above, they are also looking for value from outside counsel even under these engagements. We have re-packaged our hourly fee engagements with legal departments, and re-thought how they should operate.
Our clients have begun to regularly see “No Charge” line items in their invoices. Under our re-vamped hourly rate system, clients are not charged for routine letters and phone calls, and charged only for substantive work which moves a matter forward. In that way, a client feels like it is paying only for value received, not merely a ticking clock.
All of these pillars serve the same goals: First, these features encourage clients to reach out to outside counsel on non-assigned matters, and feel like they are partnering together to serve the common goal – the client’s interests, without necessarily worrying about cost. Second, these features provide value to clients on the matters which are formally assigned to outside counsel.
To put these advantages to work for your in-house legal department or office of general counsel, reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-731-4800.