Managing external legal matters can be seamless with the right planning, tools and business processes. While external delays may be beyond your control, here are some things you should consider to bolster the efficiency of your in-house legal department when dealing with outside counsel.
Develop a project plan
When you’re managing matters with external counsel, a well-developed and easy-to-manage project plan can help tackle major issues (such as budgetary blowouts or excessive staff workload) before they arise.
Your project plan should address your anticipated budget costs, cost review dates and/or stages, timekeeper rate increases, allocated in-house staff, nominated external counsel, disbursements and ancillary costs and court filing fees (if applicable).
In addition, your project plan should facilitate your team’s ability to measure the success of the legal matter in terms of ROI. Therefore, it needs to identify spend by matter type and business unit, chart spending as a percentage of company revenue and track any invoice savings. By doing this, you will be able to more clearly determine where you need to focus your resources, as well as identify common legal challenges affecting your business operations.
It’s also important to be able to review and reflect on the success of a legal matter to influence future decisions and project handling. In this regard, a project plan should accommodate standardised reporting practises, business processes as well as any feedback or evaluation pertaining to the performance of external counsel.
Communication is easy
Your project plan should detail how you will be communicating with counsel regarding legal matters, including phone calls, emails, letters of advice and face to face meetings at particular stages of the matter. To ensure accuracy, use a matter management system and create separate access for external counsel. This can help you keep track of all communications and ensure that all parties involved have actioned on their agreed tasks.
In addition, consider the lines of reporting within your organisation and the communication methods required to keep management updated on important developments. Discuss the processes with external counsel and senior management to come to an agreed standard before the project begins.
Determine budget estimates and reviews
Determining budget estimates for legal matters can be difficult as many factors can influence the overall cost. However, legal cost agreements, itemised bills and clear timekeeper practises can help keep costs within their initial estimates.
It’s also important to consider disbursements such as copying and collating materials – would this be cheaper done in-house or via an external provider? An in-house admin junior could handle filing matters and collating materials at significantly less cost than an in-house solicitor. Also consider travel fees, court filing fees, staff time and other ancillary costs.
More importantly, consider budget in terms of ROI. In other words, while it might be ultimately victorious to engage in lengthy litigation, it may also be financially draining as well as potentially damaging to your business reputation. Therefore, consider settlement negotiations as an important and valuable part of the litigation process and be prepared to cop small losses in return for larger gains.
Invest in legal project management software
Legal project tracker software is an increasingly popular tool in helping legal departments manage their legal matters and external counsel spend. You can access and input information in a few clicks, making it a user-friendly project management system. What’s more, you can quickly extract information about your legal matters to approve or reject invoices, produce detailed budget reports with graphs, accruals, and status for all matters. This valuable data will enable your legal department to have more robust conversations with external counsel throughout the life of the matter, and make more informed decisions when reviewing and assessing your external legal providers.
With the right tools and planning, your business can manage legal matters more efficiently and cost-effectively.