Reprinted with permission. The original article appears at http://chiefexecutive.net/10-ways-squeeze-value-legal-costs
Often, it’s hard to even quantify the value generated from hired legal counsel, and several studies point to controlling legal costs as being a top priority for corporations. Here are 10 ideas for managing your legal spend and maximizing value.
- Recognize that law firms are not “one-size-fits-all.” A law firm managing your patent portfolio may not be equipped to handle employment litigation. Your small but important matter may be low priority for a firm accustomed to multi-million-dollar deals. A large case might demand extensive e-discovery or economic consultants, resources a larger firm might offer in-house. Recognize firms are not “one-size-fits-all” and narrow the field of candidates.
- Identify firms with appropriate experience and talent. Legal matters may require deep knowledge of substantive law; or in-depth industry knowledge; or trial or arbitration skills. Sometimes, a generalist with breadth of experience can best handle the matter. A firm with the right know-how will spend less of your money getting up to speed.
- Identify firms that understand your business and business goals. A law firm should understand your business and industry and how the matter falls within your business strategy. Is it a bet-the-company case, a vindication of your company’s name, or a mere annoyance? Clear communication reduces pyrrhic victories.
- Research the firm’s litigation strategy and its fit with yours. Will the firm incorporate cost-saving measures, such as:
- Exploring collaboration with the other side;
- Involving business people;
- Filing in a rocket docket or fast-track session;
- Seeking neutral-party review and early resolution of key issues;
- Narrowing discovery; and
- Avoiding wars of attrition.
Also, does the firm have a history of sticking to its strategy?
Ensure the firm is invested in you. The firm should care about you, anticipating your needs and pursuing your matter proactively. And the firm should (on its own dime) seek feedback on its performance.
Open the lines of communication. Communication should be constant. Confirm the firm employs legal project management, which produces legal work accurately budgeted and focused on business goals. Develop a plan for communicating strategy, deadlines and results.
Demand and track a reasonable budget. Ask the firm:
- What’s included? Are proposed team members’ hourly rates and estimated hours identified?
- What’s not included? What are the potential budget-busters? Are jury consultants, travel and incidental costs budgeted?
- Can the budget for phases be reduced to meet your litigation goals? Are there tasks you can perform at lower cost?
Determine whether the firm is low-balling. A firm using a budget it cannot meet defeats your goal of controlling costs and sows discontent. Revisit the budget regularly to monitor compliance and to identify needed modifications.
Align financial incentives. With alternative fee arrangements (“AFAs”), clients can demand law firms put skin in the game. AFAs offer budgeting predictability and the opportunity for a creative arrangement optimal for both client and firm. Examples include flat fees, collared fees, reduced rates with a success fee, and many others.
Monitor staffing. Seek a lean, focused team. Ask for team members’ positions, experience, and responsibilities. Ensure the team’s experience is suited to your matter. Diverse teams offer varied perspectives, creating an informed end product and better results. No team members should be added without your approval.
Focus on value. A firm with lower hourly rates doesn’t guarantee cost savings. Lower cost providers may bill twice the hours of a higher-rate provider with great expertise. Seek a quality result at a reasonable cost. That’s value.
Satisfaction with legal representation correlates directly with the value received. With these 10 tips, you’re on your way to getting value for every dollar spent.
The articles on our Website include some of the publications and papers authored by our attorneys, both before and after they joined our firm. The content of these articles should not be taken as legal advice.