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Three for 2013: #2 The Score

2012 December 17
by John Wallbillich

This is the second installment of predictions for 2013. The first was “The Team.” (No, I didn’t think about a sporting tone at the start.)

Number two in this hit parade is “The Score.” As in lawyers working in the enterprise space (inside or outside) need to know that some things count and other things are just part of the process in getting there.

It used to be easy for outside counsel to keep score. They counted hours, and regaled peers about going beyond 2,000 hours posted and paid in a calendar year.

In-house counsel also kept score years ago. They typically regaled their former peers in firms about how they did not count hours.

Now in-house counsel need to keep score about how their corporate legal function drives top line revenue, removes costs to bolster bottom line earnings and controls risk so shareholders see gains (and keep them).

It’s harder for outside counsel to keep score now, since they are being pressed by those same in-house counsel to lower costs. Billing higher rates by the hour is a luxury for a few law firms, not a strategy for the rest.

As a general counsel, I remember when an outside lawyer would push back on a given issue when I tried to calibrate it by linking it to a discrete corporate result. The refrain on at least one occasion:

That’s a business issue.

(I wish I had an iPhone then and could have grabbed it and played this. Loud.)

Part of keeping score in 2013 will require an understanding that if something isn’t a “business issue” then it probably shouldn’t be worked on by corporate counsel in the first place.

Pursuing legal questions for the law’s sake is great. It’s just not part of the corporate landscape any more (if it ever was).

We have heard this through the Great Recession:

Do more with less.

I think in 2013 many in-house counsel will move past that bromide. They will be part of growing the enterprise, which will involve handling more work with existing staff.

The “less,” if at all, may refer to fewer outside law firms, charging lower unit costs. And getting better results along the way.

That’s how we keep score today.

Scoreboard...

[Story.]

OK, I’m going all in. We needed Herm Edwards in law school, or a least as a keynoter for an Association of Corporate Counsel annual meeting:

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