Interesting post in Rees Morrison’s Law Department Management blog. Thoughts on Why Law Departments Retain Outside Counsel discusses several theories. First, brains vs brawn. This theory postulates that inside counsel handle the routine stuff but turn to outside counsel for more challenging work. Second, the overflow theory. Here, outside counsel are retained whenever there is too much work for inside counsel to handle. Third, the theory of core competency. By this theory, inside counsel concentrate on those areas where they excel and outsource the rest. The kissing cousin of this theory is the CYA theory–use outside counsel whenever a potential scapegoat is necessary.
I am hardly in a position to argue whether there is any truth to these theories. But I have to say that they are strangers to my personal experience. In my experience, good inside counsel want good teammates. They can better leverage their skills, experience and understanding of the business by working with people who view them, and treat them, as a teammate. And I always benefit from having inside counsel as a teammate precisely because they have to know more than I do about the business and typically the dispute. Invariably, they’re great brainstroming buddies. They already have earned the confidence of inside management and potential witnesses. I want that confidence to rub off on me–it makes my life so much easier. And so on.
So now we’ve heard from a consultant and an outside counsel. Inside counsel, what’s the answer?