This is a sequel to our “10 Things In-House Counsel Expect from External House” article published in September 2020. Click here to read the full post. Of course, we had to write a sequel! What kind of blog would this be if we do not let you hear from the other side?
So, what do External Counsel really want?
- Detailed and Correct Instructions
External Counsel expect to receive detailed and correct instructions from their in-house counsel. No External Counsel wants to go through the stress of working with half-baked information which will only slow down the work process and make he or she appear incompetent. This is a very important issue as it is the first step in problem solving. In-House Counsel help your External Counsel to help you.
You say you want them to let you know as soon as anything goes wrong. But can they really approach you to let you know? Will you blow a gasket or work with them to find a solution to the problems? External Counsel really want to be able to approach you and be comfortable in asking you questions and providing status reports on tasks. If bad news cannot be communicated to you due to In-House Counsel’s fear of reprisal or negative reaction, then it puts the company’s business in jeopardy. An open-door policy that puts both parties at ease is essential to getting the job done.
- Strategic Risk Identification and Management
External Counsel expect their counterparts in-house to be proactive and strategic. As much as In-House counsel expects External Counsel to preemptively anticipate issues before they arise, External Counsel also expects this of In-House Counsel. It is also expected that In-House Counsel articulate potential risks to the company and make an informed judgment on how to handle a matter based on the risk identified. In-house Counsel who lacks these qualities will only fuel a delay in getting the task done because they tend to deal with issues as they arise which is often too late.
- Adequate Preparation
This is basically an extension of the previous paragraph. Preparation is very important in every process and lawyering is no exception. There will be series of meetings between both counsel and the company /organization. Any External Counsel would expect In-House Counsel to be adequately prepared for such meetings/discussions and to take charge of such meetings as and when required.
- Good Working Relationship and Respect
Having a good working relationship will allow for a more thorough understanding of how the business works which will make it easier for External Counsel to carry out his or her work effectively. It will also help to ensure trust which is critical to being an effective counsel. Additionally, External Counsel expects In- House Counsel to treat the entire team with dignity and respect.
- An “All Hands on Deck” Attitude
The fact that a company has invited an External Counsel / firm to work on a matter does not necessarily mean there is one less job to be done by the In- House Counsel. It is expected that both parties work together to ensure a great outcome for all stakeholders.
- Ability to Work Well under Pressure
The ability to handle a diverse number of highly complex, and sensitive matters quickly as well as provide leadership on the direction to take are skills any counsel should possess. This is very essential, as there would always be pressure to meet up with stringent deadlines. It is not farfetched that any external Counsel would expect this attribute from an In-House Counsel.
- Critical Thinking
Asking the right questions and attentively considering each answer is a key skill for any lawyer as it helps to gain a better understanding of legal issues. External Counsel would find him or herself on the right track if In-House Counsel possesses such quality.
- Positive Reaffirmation
There is truly no greater feeling than this. Even if External Counsel is finding it difficult to proffer solutions to an issue, simple words of encouragement would go a long way to stir up counsel’s motivation to do more. Everybody loves to feel the comforting wind that comes with being praised; therefore, it is not uncommon for External Counsel to want or need words of encouragement and positive comments.
Sometimes there might be dead-ends or grid locks when working on a matter and the feeling of disappointment may begin to creep in. At this point, both parties cannot afford to wallow in disappointment or anger. It would be thrilling if In-House Counsel is able to remain optimistic in the face of challenges and keep up the positive energy!
Hello External/In-House Counsel! Let us know if we missed out anything in the comments section. Look forward to hearing from you!