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In-house and Outside Counsel Face Similar Challenges
Marlisse Silver Sweeney, Corporate Counsel
June 10, 2014 |0 Comments
Bombardier Inc. general counsel Daniel Desjardins says he understands the demands law firms are facing in the post-2008 recession era of expectations. In an open letter to firms he posted on the Association of Corporate Counsel site, Desjardins proposes in-house and outside counsel work together in this new legal landscape. “The best allies for the leadership team in driving the transformation of [a] firm are the GCs of its core clients, who, in many ways, are facing the same challenges,” he writes.
“Historically, law firms have not viewed themselves as a business to the same extent as other profit-making organizations,” says Desjardins. This has to change, he suggests, and the first step in so doing is to adapt the service delivery to match the reality of customers. He says the relationship between outside and in-house counsel has changed dramatically, at least at his company, where they’ve in-sourced a lot of key work.
As a result of the changes, work taken to outside counsel isn’t what it used to be. Now, outsourced work is either “of lower perceived value and treated as a commodity” or “significantly strategic that it requires the support of key partners and specialists.” And more often than not, he says, companies are relying on requests for proposals to obtain their legal representation for this work, straining long-held previous relationships with law firms.
Compounding the problem of open communication between the two groups is the structure of the law firm, says Desjardins, which “has not encouraged it to learn from its customers.” Instead, he suggests law firms should not only do their best to learn about their clients’ businesses, but should also canvass them about experiences, processes and policies which, when appropriate, “can be adapted and applied to the law firm.” Indeed, he suggests that as the firm changes its structure to act more like a business, many core corporate clients can assist “in their necessary transformation.”
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