Top 3 Tips for Selecting Outside Counsel

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 28, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's not uncommon for corporations to seek new outside counsel for each investigation or lawsuit, but doing so requires an in-house legal department that is adept at selecting outside counsel that not only meets its needs, but doesn't cost it an arm and a leg.

This isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, with dozens of law firms each claiming to be right for the job.

So how should you select outside counsel? And how do you streamline the process?

There's no correct answer to these questions, but here are a few tips.

1. Assess a firm's knowledge.

It's obviously quite important to find a firm that is well-versed in your business and your needs, but you need to dig deeper. You should ask about relevant relationships and success rates, as well as whether the firm's star players are about to jump ship anytime soon.

Also be sure to assess the firm's abilities in tangentially related fields. You never know when an investigation is going to turn up other pressing problems.

2. Talk about fees.

As garish as it sounds, sometimes it's good to shop around, even when hiring outside counsel.

Ask yourself whether a firm is offering competitive rates. Are they reasonable for the type of expertise you are seeking? Will you be paying for senior associates or first years? Are they willing to negotiate an alternative fee arrangement?

3. Consider personality.

While you're certainly not choosing your life's mate, you're still selecting a group of people with whom you have to work closely.

In order to have a functional business relationship, outside and corporate counsel must build rapport. Such communication requires a group of people who can cater to one another's needs and styles, instead of devolving into conflict and pent up aggression.

However, try not to turn the selecting outside counsel into a personality contest--you don't have to like these people, merely be amenable to working with them.

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