How Do General Counsels Select Law Firms

There’s been a small flurry of great articles about the current state of the art among general counsels of corporations for the selection of outside counsel. All are worth reading by any lawyer who has or wants corporate clients.
First, Bridgette Herschensohn’s “How Do General Counsel Select Law Firms?” summarizes the key points from a recent seminar on this topic that featured a number of cororate general counsels. She highlights five key concerns for corporate counsel. They probably will not surprise you, but I want to highlight two observations. First, corporate counsel seem to use practices that guarantee that (1) they will all keep looking at the same set of large law firms and hoping that these firms will changes and (2) smaller, innovative firms amd lawyers will never get on the hiring radar. This practice is a big deterrent from lawyers looking to leave large firms and create technologically innovative firms. Second, point #4 refers to “the added-value factor.” Here’s the simple translation – alternative billing practices ideally implemented with technology and service enhancements.
Legl market guru Larry Bodine, in his usual incisive fashion, covered another similar seminar and posted about it in his blog at “Getting Into the Corporate Counsel Mind.” He sets out four practical lessons, some of which are in line with the points from Herschensohn’s article and some of which are diametrically opposite.
On Law.com. Nathan Koppel’s “Courting Shell” covers Shell’s recent “beauty contest” to both choose and limit the number of its law firms. Koppel highlights Shell’s primary criteria, such as quality, cost-effectiveness and professionalism, but he focuses on the critical fourth factor, one which some law firms, even in 2004, still find surprising, diversity. It’s an important article for all lawyers working in the corporate legal market. By the way, diversity could easily be one of my first questions in my proposed “2 by 4″ blog feature. I spent a good portion of the 1990s on the steering committee for the St. Louis Minority Clerkship Program and, over the years I’ve heard opinions from lawyers on diversity issues that still make me shake my head and wonder what planet they came from.
I recommend the best resource I’ve found on the interaction of corporate counsel and outside law firms. It’s Larry Smith’s Inside Outside: How Businesses Buy Legal Services. Trust me, you’ll thank me after you read it.
Finally, at Law Practice Today, we’re working on two theme issues for July and August. In July, we’ll focus on electronic discovery. The August issue will address the whole topic of corporate counsel / outside counsel relationships. Please contact me if you have an interest in contributing an article or want to learn about advertising or sponsorship opportunities for either or both issues.