Law firms and the corporate law departments are firmly linked in a partnership that provides full service to a common corporate client. Each makes its contribution to the client. At one time the hard-nosed general counsel's mantra was that "I hire lawyers not firms." That is, when I select a lawyer to handle a case or matter, I focus only on his or her qualifications and the cost - and I don't care about the nonessentials.
However, the nonessentials that our hard-nosed types might not have been concerned about at one time are now major imperatives for their corporate clients. Take diversity, for example. Corporations have become much more sensitive to demographics - about the need for them and their suppliers to look like their customers, stockholders and suppliers - as well as look like the general public (whose attitudes so frequently affect judicial and political outcomes). Civil justice reform is another example. Today's highly sophisticated plaintiffs' bar has so effectively exploited opportunities afforded by our legal system that the traditional case by case approach does little to hold down soaring legal costs. It is clear to corporations that, if the cost of litigation is to be brought down, systemic changes are required.
Corporate counsel have discovered that they can leverage their relationships with outside counsel to achieve corporate imperatives, whether they relate to diversity or civil justice reform. Interestingly, the firms that are sophisticated enough to be sensitive to these corporate imperatives are the firms most likely to have the best lawyers - those that our hard-nosed corporate counsel might have chosen anyway.
One of the beauties of our free enterprise system is that suppliers tend to do what their clients want. Given the immense amount of highly skilled legal talent available, chances are that there is more than one outside lawyer available who can handle that all-important case. Why not select the lawyer from a firm that helps you implement your corporation's imperatives? Remember that if you make the reason for your choice clear, it produces a three-fold benefit. It buttresses the chosen firm's decision to excel, it sends a signal to firms that you might like to use in the future that these imperatives are important to you and it inspires other law departments to use firms similarly committed, thus reinforcing your own efforts to achieve diversity and civil justice reform.
The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel is dedicated to the concept that knowledge is the most important tool of corporate counsel. Each month it draws on the resources of the fine law firms that support it for articles conveying the substantive legal information you need in your practice. We also ask those firms to provide articles about other ways they can assist corporate counsel in achieving corporate objectives. By so doing, it is our hope that we can provide corporate counsel with information about what they can expect from firms in addition to handling a particular case or matter. We believe that the choice of a law firm to handle a case or matter is multidimensional. The skill of the lawyer that is selected is a given, but shouldn't the client expect more?