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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Responsiveness the most important factor for in-house counsel

Responsiveness the most important factor for in-house counsel


In-house lawyers seek knowledge and awareness over price when instructing external law firms

Law firms are under growing pressure to be responsive to client needs, to have 'deep' knowledge of the law, and to have greater commercial awareness, new research suggests.

The survey of more than 200 in-house lawyers found that in-house counsel value responsiveness, understanding of their business and its industry, and specialist expertise as the most important factors when deciding whether to instruct a law firm. These factors all ranked higher than price.

'There is now tremendous pressure on law firms to understand, agree, and keep to service level agreements with their clients, and to ensure their responses reflect the commercial and wider industry in which the client operates,' said Samantha Steer, director for large and medium law firms at the legal UK and Ireland business for Thomson Reuters. 'For in-house counsel, these are often the factors that really justify the fees.'

Steer said the results of the survey will be of interest to 'any forward-looking law firm keen to understand how best to serve their clients' changing needs'. 'What clients really want is an age-old question, and an understanding of the buying decisions and behaviours can help law firms to stay ahead of these trends.'

The importance of technology has also moved up the agenda for in-house counsel, the survey found. Innovative service delivery through technology was ranked as a more important factor in choosing a law firm supplier than personal relationships between the firm and senior decision makers, corporate social responsibility, and size and reach of an international network.

Document automation was highlighted as being a key area where law firms can add value for their clients. For clients that produce a large number of documents with only small variations '“ such as employment contracts or non-disclosure agreements '“ providing technology to automate their production can save in-house lawyers a significant amount of time.

In-house counsel also identified cyber security and data protection; remote working; client collaboration portals; e-billing systems; project management systems; AI-based document review systems; automated triage systems; and e-discovery systems as adding value.

'The ability to show innovation when it comes to delivering legal services is something that is becoming a more important part of a comprehensive commercial law offering,' added Steer.