Home Criminal Defense Outside Counsel Need Support Too – Above the Law

Outside Counsel Need Support Too – Above the Law


As in-house counsel, I am often asked what outside counsel could do better as service partners. While I have many opinions on that, this post is a bit different. It is about what we, as in-house counsel, could do to help our outside counsel.

With the insight of one of my mentees, here are three ways in-house counsel could help their outside counsel be more effective business partners.

1. Investing In Relationship-Building

Before you balk at the idea of more time with your outside counsel, hear us out. Research shows that the people you work with and the relationships you may have at work affect your happiness. And, if you follow me, you know that I’m a big believer in the power of relationships. And my philosophy applies equally to the relationship between in-house and outside counsel. It stands to reason that if there is a trusted relationship, there is better communication, collaboration, and more accountability. This synergy can result in better work product, better service, and most importantly better support for us, the client — which ultimately serves our corporate clients.

Of course, a relationship of trust does not occur overnight. It necessarily is developed over time, and it takes investment on our part. This could be as simple as showing up five minutes early to a call or ending a call early to talk about nonwork topics like family life or the best TV shows or movies you have watched recently. More effort could look like scheduling a call, meeting, coffee break, or dinner to get to know your new outside counsel or new member of the trial team, such as an associate. For counsel you have worked with for years, it may be setting a recurring call, coffee break, or dinner to catch up on nonwork things. Depending on the culture of your organization and your comfort level, it could also come in the form of finding opportunities to get counsel face time with the people of the business that you support. When there are great relationships, the smaller things, like keeping each other updated on vacation and out-of-office schedules, should come easily.

2. Educating Counsel On Your Business

When someone starts a new job, one of the first things they do is take part in some kind of on-boarding or orientation session. They learn the business’ culture and philosophy. They often learn how the business works and what each department may be responsible for. It is also the time that the individual learns what is expected of them. So why not the same approach for outside counsel? Providing those educational opportunities can help give outside counsel the ability to be a true extension of the in-house team in support of the business and to be able to better add value to the services they provide, such as keeping you up-to-date on the legal landscape for things that are relevant to the business. This could look like setting up an opportunity for outside counsel to tour a facility or ride along on a sales visit. Maybe it is as simple as walking outside counsel through your preferences on such things as how much time you need to review a substantive document, whether you want official copies of filings, and whether you want calendar entries.

3. Providing Tips On Billing Practices

While this could easily fall under the education section, collections is so vital to outside counsel’s success at their firm that it is worth its own space. For many, this may normally be something that legal operations or your accounting department may handle, but providing any tips on billing is extremely helpful. What do you expect outside counsel to bill for? Expectations on how much time outside counsel should spend on an assignment? What can you do to help foster a relationship between outside counsel and whatever department handles billing?

Beyond more efficiency, an added “bonus” to implementing these tips is how they could help you mentor a promising associate or help you further your diversity, equity, and inclusion commitment by creating opportunities for those underrepresented in our profession. Where the key measure of success at law firms (especially young attorneys aiming for partnership) is whether they can develop relationships and bring in revenue, these tips could go a long way in paving that road for them.

Meyling Mey Ly OrtizMeyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.

Daveante Jones is a labor and employment attorney at Wright Lindsey Jennings LLP. When he’s not helping employers comply with state and federal employment laws, you can find him rooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks. You can follow him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/daveante-jones-0102.


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