GCs discuss changing relationship dynamics with outside firms

Survey reveals new challenges for the in-house bar.

Every year around mid-summer, the InsideCounsel editorial team sits down to discuss the editorial calendar for the following year. First we ask ourselves what we think our readers will need to know in the coming year. To answer this, we refer to previous issues, do research and talk to in-house as well as law firm lawyers to gain insight on what’s most important to you.

Then, individually, we make a list of all the ideas we have, including current events, best practices and how-to stories. Finally, we meet to discuss them and decide which ones will make the cut.  

The most important questions we must ask about each article that goes into InsideCounsel are: “Why do in-house counsel need to know?” and “Is this timely for our readers?” The first question is fairly easy to answer, but as we map out the major stories we will be reporting on in the coming year, it’s always hard to know what will be relevant by the time we actually go to press.  

During one of these editorial meetings in 2008, we launched into a discussion about our annual General Counsel Survey. We had been running the survey for nearly 20 years, and we had noticed that in the previous five years, the results were basically the same: There were a few complaints from both sides, but generally both in-house lawyers and outside counsel were content in their relationships. So we decided to scrap it—reading the same story year after year wasn’t providing any value to our readers. 

Then the economy took a nosedive, and over the course of the next year we watched several high-profile law firms close their doors, legal departments suffer cutbacks in both budgets and staffs, and in-house counsel place more demands on outside counsel. So in summer 2009, when we had our 2010 editorial calendar meeting, we decided to put the General Counsel Survey back on the agenda—and check back in with our readers on this topic.

We expected this “new economy” would have quite an impact on what GCs think of their outside firms. We reported the story a bit differently—focusing primarily on the GC response and  the state of the legal department. We were surprised that the economy didn’t have the impact we expected—GCs overall are still satisfied with their firms. However, the survey did glean some valuable insights on the changing dynamics of the in-house-outside counsel relationship. Read “What's really going on in today's legal departments” and see if you can relate. 

Contributing Author

Cathleen Flahardy

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