There are an amazing number of issues, trends, and headaches to keep track of as in-house counsel. So much, that it can be difficult to know what to focus on. When I was General Counsel I made time each year to step back and try to take a look at the big picture, i.e., given everything going on in the world, what should I and my department be spending time on right now? Certainly, I wanted to make sure things that were important to the goals of business where high on our list. But I also wanted to “benchmark” my team and make sure we were aware of what other legal departments were doing. I would gather information from many different sources and then come up with my own list of current essential “issues/best practices” that I thought we needed to focus on. Generally, my list contained items dealing with risk reduction, technology needs, management practices, key analytics, and ways to enhance the value of the department to the business.
Though I have not been GC for a little while, I keep my eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the world and how might it affect in-house lawyers. I thought I would highlight some of the important things I see out there right now — things that should be on every in-house lawyer’s “watch list.” This edition of “Ten Things” discusses the essential items I would be focused on right now if I were running a legal department in 2017:
It is a common refrain in legal departments all around the globe: how do we get enough money to do the things we need to do to protect the company? There are always more matters clamoring for money than there is money available. This is especially true with litigation. If your company is being sued, you have little choice other than to spend the money needed to defend your interests (unless you feel a quick settlement is a better call). If the company has meritorious claims, then it often faces the difficult choice of whether to spend the money needed to proceed. If not, valuable claims may be lost. If yes, then money that could be spent on other parts of the business is re-routed to legal fees – and, unfortunately, under accounting rules money “invested” in a litigation claim is not treated the same as money invested in the business generally. To deal with this, in-house legal departments try a variety of measures to reduce legal expenses, from reduced hourly rates or fixed fees to contingency fees and blended rates or less expensive counsel. See my blog post on effectively managing legal spend.
Over the past four or five years another potential solution has emerged. Depending on which side of the table you are sitting, the solution is either a blessing or the manifestation of supreme evil. The solution is called “litigation financing” and it is something every in-house counsel should be aware of and thinking about. This edition of “Ten Things” will give you an outline of the basics around litigation financing: (more…)