Managing your relationship with outside counsel can be challenging. The good ones work hard to make it easy but, even so, there are times when you and your outside lawyers are not on the same page. One of the areas where this is most common is billing. In short, what should you expect to pay for and what should you not expect to see on a bill? Moreover, there is the issue of logistics, i.e., when do you need to get the bills, what information needs to be included, etc. There are many facets of your relationship with outside counsel that you need to think about and constantly manage. One way to do this is through an engagement letter. While this is a good device to manage some aspects of a particular project, the better path is to create and maintain a set of “Outside Counsel Guidelines” — a standing set of rules for how you and your outside counsel will interact on key issues, especially on billing.
Most in-house legal departments have such guidelines ranging from a few pages to over 50 pages or more. Some newer or smaller legal departments may not have any guidelines at all. Regardless of where you find yourself on the continuum of “got them” to “don’t got them,” as we near the end of the year this is the perfect time to either plan on creating guidelines in 2017 or updating the guidelines you already have on the shelf. If you’re in the latter position, it might be time to think about a wholesale review of your guidelines and whether or not you have a set that matches up with how the department operates today or whether you are living with something created 10 to 15 years ago that doesn’t work well in today’s environment. This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of the basic things you need to consider when preparing or updating your Outside Counsel Guidelines: