How to Expect More From Outside Counsel

By Neetal Parekh on November 03, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and Serengeti Law released their 8th Annual "Managing Outside Counsel" survey last month, revealing some interesting trends in the inside-outside counsel relationship. 

According to their findings, over the past 8 years in-house counsel have been more demanding of their outside counsel.  The study suggests that in-house has taken on the role of manager to outside counsel to heart and has opted for a variety of measures to ensure competitive productivity.  It shows that while the median spending in-house is at one of the highest levels in eight years, median spending on outside counsel is at its lowest level.  

How in-house counsel is expecting more from outside counsel:

  • engage in convergence
  • issue competitive bids for new work
  • require minimum levels of experience of associates working on their projects
  • seek discounts for early payment of bills
  • systematically evaluate the performance of their outside counsel

The survey, which is in its eighth year, provided some overall trends observed over the past years. 

  • in-house counsel are setting more rules for their relationships with outside counsel
  • in-house counsel are terminating relationships with their underperforming outside counsel
  • budgets are widely used to clarify expectations & monitor performance
  • in-house counsel are more carefully monitoring work that is outsourced
  • in-house counsel are using more sophisticated technology to track the activities of outside counsel, and have plans to do more
  • convergence continues to be common, but often just meets expectations
  • although hourly rates still predominate, many corporate clients are getting discounted rates
  • although in-house were having some effect on keeping the increases in hourly rates low, hourly rates are increasing again, leading to less work going to outside counsel
  • outside counsel spending has been a top concern of in-house counsel, but it is being surpassed by those business activities with legal implications
  • in general, in-house counsel have not yet put the necessary systems in place to meet their new reporting obligations

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