TR Forefront: How to gain advantage from outside counsel guidelines, November 2017
Peter Zver talks to Thomson Reuters Forefront about how firms can gain an advantage from outside counsel guidelines:
These days, we’re all familiar with outside counsel guidelines, right? Those 15-plus pages you get from every client when they first take you on which set out the rules of engagement.
Typically, they’ll detail every aspect of the work you do for them. This might include things like:
- How often you invoice the client and what costs can and can’t be included (e.g. no photocopying and courier costs)
- How you describe what you’re invoicing for (e.g. itemized invoices with multiple entries)
- Who can and can’t handle different pieces of work (e.g. no senior lawyers doing paralegal work and vice versa)
- The minimum increments of time that can be billed as well as the total time for a single day (e.g. not more than 8 hours unless by prior agreement)
And so on.
Of course, outside council guidelines vary between clients. And that’s just one of the challenges—ensuring you’re always following the specific rules of the client in question.
That said, the overall purpose tends to be the same across all clients. They all want billing that is timely and which accurately and precisely reflects the work done on their behalf. They all want a level of predictability so that legal spend can be planned and budgeted for with no unpleasant surprises. Above all, perhaps, they all want transparency that is full visibility of exactly what they’re paying for, often to a high degree of granularity. The underlying driver is that clients need to see and feel the value that they’re getting for their legal spend.
All well and good. If these are the rules of the game, firms will accept them and get on with it.
But the challenge is how you implement the guidelines in such a way that you achieve compliance and in such a way that enforcement of the rules doesn’t become a costly burden on the firm or the individual.
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