Decade's Biggest Trends for In House Counsel

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 22, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Wondering just what are the big trends amongst in-house counsel over the past decade? You are in luck, as the results are in.

As great changes in the economy and technology force all sectors of the legal market to re-evaluate how they do things, in-house counsel is no exception. Recently, WestLaw Insider reported on the 2010 ACC/Serengeti Managing Outside Counsel Survey Report, detailing the trends for managing outside counsel and what really matters to corporate practitioners this year and this decade.

Here, in the tried and true what's "In and Out" format is brief look at what is important to in-house counsel:

What's Out: Anything that puts in-house counsel out of the driver's seat for controlling costs is decidedly "out," specifically:

  • Handing most or all work to outside counsel. In-house attorneys are looking to keep more work on the desks of their own department.
  • Uncontrolled spending. Compliance is important, but so is watching the budget for outside counsel.
  • Rate increases. In-house counsel is no longer reluctant to exercise their bargaining power when hiring outside counsel.
  • More demands on outside counsel. Linked to that greater bargaining power, in-house counsel are looking for greater control, including asking more often for project budgets, requiring consent for changes in firm staffing and increasing the use of alternative dispute resolution options.

What's In: There are, of course, some things that in-house counsel are bullish on. What's "in" includes:

  • Overall cost control. Spending remained flat in the past year.
  • Alterative fee structures. The billable hour is still king, but alternative fee arrangements based on value-driven results are increasing.
  • Project management. Outside counsel are requested to bring in project management techniques and systems, sometimes even as a condition for retaining them.
  • Experience. Bang for the buck is very, very "in." Sixty-three percent of in-house departments want their outside counsel associates to have a minimum of 5 years experience to work on their projects.

The bottom line is, in a tough market, the bottom line rules. The Serengeti website has more information about the full results of the survey.

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