As I look back over a year’s worth of posts, I can see that efficiency and cost certainty in the use of outside counsel by insurers is a common theme. 2017, I predict, will bring more of the same for insurance companies and their in house legal departments: an institutional imperative to control costs and to gain cost certainty, in the matters they refer to outside law firms. With that in mind, we take a quick look at some new year’s resolutions, and see whether there is any way to line up the resolutions of in house legal departments and outside law firms.
Resolution: Know The Alternative Fee Options
The duty of outside firms to offer, and in house legal departments to utilize, alternative fee arrangements to continue efficiency in operations requires familiarity by both sides with the large variety of alternative fee tools available. A complete review of some of the most common options appears on this resource page.
Alternative fee options are the language of efficiency in the engagement outside law firms, the coin of the realm for lean and effective operation in the years ahead. It pays both insurers and outside law firms to be conversant in this language, and to communicate with each other in this language.
Resolution: Utilize Legal Project Management (LPM)
There has traditionally been an inverse relationship between insurers’ in house counsel affinity for LPM, and outside law firms’ competence and ability to provide it. As insurers resolve again to control cost with effective LPM in 2017, competitive and responsive outside law firms must learn to use LPM effectively. This requires repetitive use of LPM and case budgeting, and refining the process with each successive use. It requires the reasonable cost projection of a legal matter, so the client can make informed decisions.
LPM projection and budgeting enable in house legal departments to make strategic decisions about which matters to fight, and which matters to resolve, and more importantly, when to do so. LPM provides in house legal departments with important dashboard items, and they will increasingly expect outside law firms to provide these services as part of working for the insurer in 2017 and beyond.
Resolution: Big Data Feedback
In a closely related resolution, in house legal departments at insurance companies will continue to expect more and useful data from outside law firms as to the value provided and the relationship of that value to the amount and type of the legal services billed. Outside law firms must therefore continue to develop metrics tailored to each individual client to provide the client the data it needs and wants to make assessments as to whether matters are run efficiently, and outside law firms are providing value.
Outside firms which do not keep pace with the need to collect and feed back big data to clients on these issues will continue to lag in 2017 and beyond, and the pressure to keep up by providing requested data, and interpretation will be on the rise.
Resolution: Cooperation and Collaboration, Not Conflict and Contention
The legal landscape is a challenging one now, and it is likely to continue to be so. Outside law firms comfortable with the traditional hourly arrangement are oftentimes slow to modernize, and this failure creates a tension between a client and their outside lawyers on whether the fit is right, and whether the billable hour is in the best interests of the client.
Outside law firms must overcome such tension, and begin to view themselves as collaborators and business partners of the insurance in house legal departments they represent. Alternative Fee Arrangements, LPM, and the aggregation and use of data to feedback to the clients are three primary vehicles for such positive change in 2017, and going forward .