Counsel to Counsel magazine ran an interesting article in its October 2007 issue entitled "Choosing the Right Outside Counsel" The article is a helpful analysis of what GCs should look for when reaching outside of their own corporate resources for the solution of a legal matter.
The article begins with an astute analysis of the increasing focus on corporate ethics and the need for transparency. Among the suggestions the writer mentions to assist in house attorneys in finding outside counsel are networking forums, law firm networks, and, of course...peer review ratings. (Double disclosure before I continue: 1- Martindale, the benchmark for attorney peer rating co-publishes the magazine along with InsideCounsel; 2- My Martindale A/V rating is a badge I've worn proudly for a decade and half and despite where I'm going today in this article, I still believe Martindale Hubbell to be the single best identifier of excellence in attorneys.)
The article, in and of itself, is great; the underlying premise -- that GCs must go to "outside counsel" for legal solutioning, is what is flawed. Agreed: the vast majority of corporations are not quite at an aggressive "think outside the box" stage of legal evolution. Still, the notion that outside law firms are the ONLY option is terribly mistaken. A new generation of solutions is here for large corporations, and some of the mightiest have been blazing the path toward outside legal solutioning.
Consider James Buda, vice president and general counsel for Caterpillar. Five years ago, at the 2002 Law Vegas, Mr. Buda met the attorneys of 10 law firms and told them in no undercertain terms that the party was over and the rules were changing. When Mr. Buda headed Cat's litigation department in the 90's, the company relied on over 400 outside law firms for litigation; he trimmed that down to 20. And these 10 in Vegas were the half which remained after he became GC in January 2002.
You can read the full article here (in fact it is from Corporate Counsel magazine, Inside Counsel's predecessor) but the bottom line is that Mr. Buda totally reinvented Caterpillar's litigation solution to save the company a great deal of money while consolidating control and making the firms accountable for performance via a grading system.
GCs like Mr. Buda are few and far between and bucking the trend of historical outside firm outsourcing is no small feat. But in areas LIKE litigation support, intellectual property, contract management and my own area of immigration and labor law compliance, smarter alternatives continue to evolve for folks who, like Mr. Buda, want a better SOLUTION, not just another firm letterhead.
Compliance needs to be integral. Talk to me and let me show how our solutions can affordably and seamlessly infuse bulletproof workforce compliance into your company. Think outside the box and your company too can walk the way of the Buda.