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Law firms are not alone in their uncertainty.

Top legal decision makers see some law firms are at capacity while others are slow. It’s highly uneven for law firms. It can make the most confident CLO stop and think about the best way to manage outside counsel. Especially in the face of their own swirling needs and top management mandates.

Here are the 5 strategies and tactics we are recommending to CLOs right now:

  1. Today’s law firms are widely divergent in the level of commitment they make to clients and ensuring continuity if a key attorney leaves. Ask for a continuity or succession plan in case of staff turnover. In large matters — ask to meet the backup attorneys. A few GCs have asked these backup attorneys to attend key meetings so they remain in the know.
  2. Interview law firm partners instead of watching a pitch. Only interview the partners who would work on your matter. GCs will get a whole different view of the attorneys and how they will work with you.
  3. For large current matters — ask your law firm for a completely new assessment of the matter based on all the new knowledge gained since inception. Ask them what they would do differently knowing what they know now. How can they change? Also, ask them to complete a new estimate for budget and time.
  4. Ask your top law firms for 3 suggestions on how to add more value without cutting rates. Watch how 1 will offer discounts anyway — and at least 1 will have a great new idea.
  5. Share your plans to comply with new regulations with outside counsel and ask how they compare with others in your industry. So many new legal demands are industry specific — the best law firms will be your first line of defense in learning how your industry is impacted.

A confident law firm is an antidote for market uncertainty. New thinking adds to this confidence and lightens client workloads. Both of these add enough value to make rates more of a bit part than a starring role in the law firm relationship.

We caution top legal decision makers about the law firms who will decline to participate — but this will only help a client determine which firms are more committed to others.

Law firms can initiate recommendations 1, 3, 4, and 5. Starting before clients ask offers up some of the more compelling business development opportunities you will see.

Special thanks to my long-time friend, colleague, and poignant interviewer Steve Taylor, Senior Writer/Editor at Of Counsel for posing the question. Steve notes how GCs are looking for new strategies and asked me what I would recommend right now. I recommend you can read his upcoming article in the March issue of Of Counsel.

Best in the market ahead.

The Mad Clientist

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