Are You In or Out?
by Cole Finegan, Steve Farber
"Inside Counsel." The term strikes fear into the hearts of "Outside Counsel" across America, conjuring up images of conflicting legal strategies, harrowing appearances before the board of directors, endless haggling over legal fees and the endless discussions of "discount billing."
But wait! It doesn’t have to be that way, say the editors and authors of "Successful Partnering Between Inside and Outside Counsel," a treatise just released on the fine art of partnering between inside and outside counsel to provide top-flight advice to corporations around the globe.
In four volumes, consisting of 80 separate chapters, lawyers from across the country came together to write and assemble "Successful Partnering" and to offer wise insights and valuable guideposts to help both sides of the equation navigate the shoals of corporate America. Some fairly hilarious war stories also help wash down some very dry prose along the way.
The authors include the general counsels of more than 75 Fortune 500 companies, including more than 40 of the largest 100 companies, as well as the chairs or senior partners of many of America’s major law firms. These disparate men and women have co-authored chapters that move from the practical "nuts and bolts" of corporate practice to some of the more arcane and rarified aspects of business law. For example, Volume I contains a lengthy explanation on how inside and outside counsel should work together in "Evaluating Legal Risks and Costs With Decision Time Analysis." By Volume IV, our writers are focusing on case studies, including "The Wal-Mart Approach to Litigation" and the "Outsourcing of the Telemedia Legal Contract Function."
While the sheer size (and cost) of "Successful Partnering" necessarily will limit its target audience, these volumes offer enormous experience and expertise to any lawyer willing to invest his or her time and money in the full set.
One observation that seems to run throughout the chapters is that "Over the last 15-20 years, the role of inside counsel and the degree of sophistication, experience, and the caliber of corporate counsel have changed, in some cases dramatically." As each entity’s role has evolved, so has the nature of relations between inside and outside counsel. As one scribe notes, "New approaches have been pioneered, including team approaches, strategic partnering and alternate fee arrangements. Many of these new approvals have been facilitated by technological advances: such things as shared databases, electronic communication and the host of opportunities made possible by telecommunications and computer capabilities that allow the virtual elimination of spatial and geographic barriers."
What also emerges from the myriad of diverse topics is the recognition that human dynamics, not technology, still control and determine the relationship: "Whether the communication is in person or on the telephone and verbal; by video conference; through audio conference call; by the written word in a facsimile; or data transmission over a fiber optic cable; participants to the communication must still search for the same end product: understanding."
"Successful Partnering" mirrors the process and the relationship it dissects, analyzes, explores, and ultimately celebrates. As the inside and outside counsel work together, the reader can’t help but reflect that the suppression of ego, unity of purpose, and cooperative spirit needed to write a readable chapter are the same qualities needed to build a successful partnership and best represent a client’s interests.
Cole Finegan and Steve Farber are both partners at Brownstein, Hyatt and Farber PC.