Law firms should be more proactive in pitching for work, according to corporate general counsel interviewed for an October 30, 2017 article in The American Lawyer.
GCs would like to see their outside law firms show more initiative when it comes to adopting innovative solutions, including proposals for adding value to the legal process. Outside law firms are also encouraged to engage in discussions with corporate legal departments that will help the law firm to gain valuable insight into client needs and future business plans.
GCs appreciate outside counsel that demonstrate knowledge of the corporation’s business challenges, which helps the outside law firm to better advise and collaborate with the company. When outside counsel understands the client’s operating environment, lawyers are better equipped to develop creative solutions that also reflect the business implications of legal decisions.
Outside law firms that approach corporate law departments with a package of solutions to help manage costs while also providing efficient and cost-effective strategies are greatly appreciated by GCs. Alternatively, law firms that fail to provide the most efficient way of handling any piece of litigation are likely to miss out on future opportunities with the client.
Robert Bostrom, general counsel of Abercrombie & Fitch, recommends that outside law firms be leaders in “technology, artificial intelligence, and measures to make the outside counsel relationship cheaper, more efficient, and more user-friendly.” He suggests that law firms reach out when they see a company’s board of directors going through a difficult situation, in an effort to show their interest and demonstrate how the law firm can add value.
Bostrom gave an example from his time as general counsel at Freddie Mac and the mortgage agency had to hire an outside law firm for a complex piece of litigation. Larger brand-name firms came in and only discussed themselves and their credentials, but failed to address the complaint that had been filed against Freddie Mac. A smaller firm came in prepared with a draft motion to dismiss, and discussed the firm’s strategy and theory on the case. The smaller firm ultimately got the job.
Overall, outside law firms are advised to be creative, provide efficient and cost-effective strategies, learn about their client’s business as a whole, and have discussions with their clients on how better to serve their legal and business needs.
Legal market trends include expanded in-house legal departments, as more GCs seek cost reductions by bringing work in-house rather than outsourcing to external law firms.
Implications for Insurance Defense Law Firms
Substitute the chief claims officer at an insurance carrier with the general counsel role referenced above, and many of the same concepts apply. Claims executives are looking for law firms that can both articulate and demonstrate the value they bring to the table. For many insurance defense law firms, describing their strengths does not come easily.
Chief claims officers look for performance capabilities and metrics such as the following:
- Average time to close a case, particularly within categories like auto or premises claims
- Average cost to handle a case, adjusting for case complexity as needed
- Innovative solutions, such as an aggressive motion practice or creative legal strategies
- Savings in the reversal of loss reserves
- Resolution strategies, including trial experience
Being able to distinctively communicate a law firm’s capabilities through a website, firm brochure, and firm resume are essential.
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