Don’t Fire Your Outside Counsel, Fix the Relationship

If you’re dissatisfied with the performance of one of the outside law firms your department uses, your knee-jerk reaction may be to turn to another firm that has been clamoring for a piece of your business. You can fix this relationship.

That may be a bad idea, for two reasons. First, your current outside counsel has institutional knowledge about your company, as well as that’s hard to replace. The longer they’ve worked with your department, the more they know about both major issues and the little things that can drive us all to distraction. For example, if you depend upon your outside counsel to draft contract language, they know which phrases and clauses you find problematic, so they don’t waste your time. They’ve learned how your company’s senior management team thinks, and they’ve adjusted their counsel appropriately. (And now that you’ve educated them about your industry, do you want to see them working with your competitor?)

Bringing on a new firm may involve a significant amount of downtime, as they learn the most basic details of your company as well as navigate around the unspoken desires and expectations that every GC has. It could be months before their performance is at a level that matches the firm they replaced, and you’ll be distracted from more important issues while you oversee the transition.

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The second reason may be a little harder to swallow, but it’s critically important. Your dissatisfaction with the firm may actually be your own fault. They may be falling short of your expectations because they don’t fully understand what those expectations are. They might not even be aware that you’re not happy with their performance, because you haven’t clearly informed them of your thoughts. If you think they’ll be able to read between the lines and instinctively sense your dissatisfaction, you’re setting both parties up for a fatal disconnect.

Outlining clear expectations of your law firms as well as openly communicating these expectations with them are the most effective way to ensure your external team understands you as a client. By implementing a data-driven process that measures how well law firms are meeting your expectations, you will create an avenue for clearer communication and a foundation for continuous improvement, resulting in greater satisfaction on your part. It’s a surprisingly small investment of time and cost that will result in remarkably large returns.

In other words, instead of firing a firm that isn’t quite up to snuff, invest in the candid dialogue that will allow them to understand as well as meet your standards. You’ll be happier with their performance, and so will they. They’ll appreciate your role in motivating improvement, which will strengthen the relationship and your level of trust in them. You’ll be able to create the kind of alignment that results in a true partnership.

About Qualmet

Qualmet is a cloud-based SaaS provider. Offering customers a single sign-on platform to objectively as well as easily evaluate the quality of service. Services provided by their outside counsel as well as alternative legal service providers. Many of the world’s largest law firms and corporate law departments collaborated in the development of Qualmet. The Qualmet tool uniquely positions users to quickly as well as easily measure the value delivered by their service providers. By coupling industry-aligned evaluation as well as legal metrics with objective benchmarking capabilities, Qualmet helps customers define and drive meaningful cost savings as well as value in their organizations. Qualmet’s searchable database of evaluated service providers ranked based on objective metrics is the first of its kind in the legal industry. Know Where You Stand™. Let Qualmet help you drive sustainable and meaningful value for your organization. Follow us on Facebook for updates.

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