In December, I ran a post about outsourcing the legal function or at least parts of it (here).  My thesis was (and remains) that certain inside functions could be handled better by outside counsel on a fixed fee that would be competitive with or less than the cost of the inside lawyer).   The Wired GC has written a very interesting critique of this idea.  The first noteworthy comment is about benefits from the process of considering whether work could be outsourced:

Nevertheless, this process can have the effect of forcing the GC to take a hard look at what work is being done. Some may be outsourced to law firms. Some may be redistributed internally to lawyers, given to non-legal staff, or restructured using appropriate technology. And-possibly best of all-some work may no longer be done at all.

Frankly, these collateral benefits were ones I had not even considered.

Wired GC goes on to find some potential problems with the example I used, including the again increasing salaries for new associates and the fact that most lawyers would not like to “oversee” litigation being handled on an hourly rate by others. 

It is, quite obviously, impossible in short posts such as those in our blogs to provide a detailed proposal and analysis of the benefits of any significant idea, particularly those such as this one which are so very fact-specific.  But let me say this.  My use of the term “oversee” (as in “overseeing litigation”) was a poor choice of words used to summarize the many responsibilities an inside lawyer has with respect to a lawsuit.  Issues such as budgets, settlements, insurance coverage, keeping business units apprised, setting reserves and so forth all are significant factors.  But I continue to believe my hypothesis is true–not for all but for many.  The functions I described above could be performed as well or better by a senior litigator whose salary prices her out of the marketplace for many inside counsel positions.  Why would a firm perform such work on a fixed fee akin to her what it would cost to handle these functions in-house?  Many firms (and I know this from my own experience) would be thrilled to do so to get a foot in the door.

I am thrilled that the Wired GC found my post worthy of comment.  I hope he and other inside lawyers find the idea worthy of consideration.

  • You are most definitely worthy, sir.
    Actually I didn’t intend a critique; I just wanted to extend the debate a bit.
    At the end of the day, from the perspective of the corporate client, both inside and outside counsel are service providers. We must deliver consistent value, and one way to do that is to work together well.
    The main difference is that you have many clients, and I have one.
    Woe betide the GC who gets cross-threaded with the client…