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As an active member of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) and a member of our local ACC Board, I attend many events where participants discuss how to work well with outside counsel. As Wicker Park Group’s own GC, I feel like I am standing on both sides of the fence as a GC for a company that spends every day talking to GCs on behalf of law firms. This gives me a unique perspective.
I recently went to a Corporate Counsel Conference sponsored by a local law firm. They used electronic response cards that instantly captured survey results to questions answered by all in-house counsel in attendance.
The survey reflected two key points I have learned as an attendee of numerous ACC meetings and as a part of Wicker Park:
- We all want the same thing from outside counsel. What is the best way to reach us? Understand our company, get to know us personally and spend some off-the-clock time with us. One GC said, “We want outside counsel to have ‘keep-the-lights-on’ knowledge of our business.” In the Corporate Counsel Conference survey mentioned above, most corporate counsel answered that they are looking for outside counsel who are focused on the company’s bottom line. How can you focus on the bottom line if you do not know the company?
- Most GCs are facing the same or similar challenges when working with outside counsel. The overwhelming majority at the Corporate Counsel Conference answered that managing costs is their greatest challenge. While a legal team is an indispensable part of a company, many in-house lawyers feel they are a cost center to their company, not an income generator, and therefore need to show the company their worth. If outside counsel can help inside counsel add value to the company, then in-house attorneys will want to keep you around.
Relationships are the key. The inside/outside counsel relationship should be a true partnership.
Blog Post by Heather Brock, General Counsel and Director of Operations for Wicker Park Group