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Outside Counsel and Assessing You’re Expectations

“We’re one of the highest-rated firms in the region, and I’d put our expertise up against anyone else. But I sense that we’re not delivering what you want, and I just don’t know why.” You probably won’t hear that from the managing partners at your outside counsel, but they may be thinking it. Their continued viability as outside counsel depends upon keeping you satisfied, but absent a clear set of expectations, they have no way of knowing whether they’re succeeding.

That issue is increasingly important, as corporate CEOs raise the bar for their GCs. Today’s GC’s have higher standards and recognize the need to be more than a smart lawyer. They must incorporate a strategic insight that comes from having an entrepreneurial mindset for that reason. Yes, they need to be great attorneys, but perhaps, more importantly, they must also be skilled business managers.

The Harvard Law Bulletin notes that “GCs no longer are limited to a reactive role overseeing litigation farmed out to law firms but instead are key members of the corporate decision-making team.” A joint study by the ACC and Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession concluded that “both company directors and general counsel expect the value of the general counsel’s strategic input into business decisions to increase.”

Create Synergy With Your Outside Counsel

Successful GCs carry a toolkit that’s the sum of their years of education and business experience. That toolkit is what gives them the facility to solve thorny legal issues and bring ideas that protect their employers and minimize risks. The shrewdest of the group also have a deep understanding of how the legal department can make a strategic contribution to business goals, whether that’s enhancing customer service or enabling new business models. Because they think like entrepreneurs they clearly see the business role of their departments and how they can add value to the corporation.

Those GCs expect more for their investment in outside counsel. They can define those expectations with clarity and as a result continuously assess their counsel’s performance against benchmarks. Because they think like business people first, and lawyers second, they understand the impact outside counsel has upon both their departments and the value their departments generate for the business as a whole. They know that improvements in any aspect of the legal department will flow into the company, and that the best way to achieve big changes is to break them into smaller, manageable objectives.

Their outside counsel never needs to wonder about their performance, because they’re given clear goals and feedback. As they improve their performance, they help the GC improve the company’s business. And more than ever, that’s exactly what allows great GC’s to excel and exceed corporate expectations.

Find out how Qualmet can help you here!

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