Successful Partnering between Inside and outside Counsel

By Kenneth N. McKinney and David R. Steward | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

Successful Partnering between Inside and outside Counsel


Kenneth N. McKinney and David R. Steward, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Successful Partnering Between Inside and Outside Counsel is a four-volume treatise from West Publishing that combines extensive analysis of various legal services with practical advice for attorneys to successfully navigate the intricate relationships between inside and outside counsel and their clients.

Sponsored by the American Corporate Counsel Association, this treatise consists of 80 chapters written by over 200 authors and co- authors who serve as general counsel for more than 75 Fortune 500 companies and as the chairmen and senior partners of major law firms from across the country.

The depth and attention to detail demonstrated in these articles reflect the dedication of the authors toward creative problem- solving and the implementation of practical new solutions to address both traditional and new problems faced by corporate clients. It is simply too great a task to do justice to this expansive treatise in a short review. However, insight into this collection can come from considering the treatise's focus on teamwork and communication in the context of how to accomplish the client's needs. This review examines several chapters to highlight just a few of the informative and diverse articles in this treatise.

Chapter Four deals with the very important issue of the selection of outside counsel by the client. Valuable guidance and insight is presented, both from the standpoint of the client and of the outside lawyer. Oklahoma lawyers will find this discussion useful whether they are employed by companies and are responsible for the hiring of lawyers or are the lawyers in private practice interested in doing a better job marketing their abilities to new clients.

Some of the techniques and procedures are more relevant to the Fortune 500 companies, with general counsel and entire legal departments, and others useful to smaller companies, possibly with one or two in-house counsel. The concepts important to selecting the best lawyer for the job may be equally enlightening to the owner of the small business, being the person who hires the lawyer, without assistance from an inside counsel.

The key to success is a relationship of mutual respect intended to jointly resolve the client's problems. The authors of this chapter divide their analysis into four principal steps: first, developing a planning process; second, identification of candidates; third, obtaining information from candidates; and, fourth, actual selection of the lawyer.

The planning process requires a careful look at the company's goals and objectives, which will impact budgeting and fee issues as well as determine the exact legal skills needed. Most companies look to hire the right lawyer, rather than the law firm. Not surprisingly, the best source should be lawyers used previously by the company. Approved outside counsel lists are also a good source, if kept current.

The selection process may be as informal as a telephone conversation with the potential lawyer or as involved as a series of personal interviews with the selected candidates, or the so-called "beauty contests." Whatever the degree of detail or formality, the company's goal is to find the best lawyer to achieve its objectives in the representation.

Interestingly, the authors recommend that the decision to engage counsel be made by the internal lawyers and not the company's executives or senior management. The importance of consulting with management is emphasized to ensure the proper level of confidence and good chemistry exists, but it is felt the selection requires exercise of knowledge and judgment within the expertise of in-house counsel and should reside with them.

The final step before the lawyer is retained requires agreement on at least three points: who from the firm will be responsible for the work; what rates and billing arrangements will apply; and, finally, the nature and extent of the legal services to be provided. …

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