The time has come for in-house counsel to stop accepting excuses and instead start demanding that their outside counsel develop an effective program for Legal Practice Management (LPM). In LPM, outside counsel collaborates with in-house counsel to manage the scope, budget and schedule of legal work. This collaborative process allows for completion of legal work in a more efficient and predictable manner. LPM has many benefits for in-house counsel, including gaining more control over their legal budgets and receiving more information about how outside counsel is working toward a favorable outcome.
In-house counsel also gets the benefits of representation built on their established wants, needs and goals because, with each new legal project, the LPM process evolves towards an increasingly customized level of representation. This increased knowledge can then be leveraged so that the efficiency, predictability, and the overall quality of legal work improves as the relationship between in-house counsel and outside counsel grows.
Once the scope is determined, discussion can move to forecasting costs. Outside counsel should be ready to show how the financials and earned experience go into determinations regarding typical cost. This is also the time to consider use of an Alternative Fee Arrangement (AFA). Using an AFA is the ultimate way for a firm to partner with in-house counsel to share risks and gains. During these discussions, the elephant in the room needs to be front and center. In other words, if there are clear budget-busters, a good LPM process will identify them and include them at the top of the budget so that if and when they occur, they can be quickly managed.