Risk Update

Outside Counsel Guidelines — OCGs are Your “Friend”?

Yesterday we talked OCG pain. Now comes an interesting take from Ballard Spahr: “Outside Counsel Guidelines (OCGS) Are Your Friend.” Not only is the advice prudent, but points indeed for the firm using this as a marketing opportunity for itself, highlighting the measures it has taken to focus on efficiency and compliance:

  • “Outside counsel guidelines (OCGs) are a way for clients to set expectations regarding processes, procedures, and handling of matters… The problem is that OCGs don’t always work the way they should. For one thing, clients are extremely busy and short-staffed. They often don’t have the time to implement, update, and enforce OCGs unless they have dedicated legal operations resources. Instead, clients use outdated OCGs that, in many cases, are inconsistent and unclear. In addition, law firms trying to follow the guidelines often find them complicated and difficult to comply with. The result is that OCGs frequently fail to accomplish their intended results.”
  • “The solution to this problem is, we need to stop approaching OCGs as if they are non-negotiable requirements that clients and law firms need to rigidly follow. Instead, the parties should view the guidelines as a tool that promotes collaboration and deepens the relationship.”
  • “When new or amended OCGs come out, clients should use them as an opportunity to talk with their law firms about goals and expectations. If law firms understand the reasons for guidelines, compliance may feel less burdensome. In addition, the law firm will have a better understanding of which guidelines are most important to the client, and make them a top priority.”
  • “Clients should expect their law firms to focus on delivering value and efficiency, and should make this a part of their OCGs… Two major areas in which law firms can provide efficiencies are 1) developing client-focused technology and 2) using lower-cost resources, such as staff attorneys, contract lawyers, and third-party legal service providers.”
  • “At Ballard Spahr, we’ve seen legal technology benefit our clients and legal teams firsthand. Last year, our Client Value and Innovation Team developed Ballard360, our client technology platform. Since then, the platform has saved our clients millions of dollars in legal spend. The technology has reduced the time spent on first drafts of transactional documents by over 7,120 hours in more than 890 transactions.”
  • “Recently, after proposing a fee arrangement to a client, we received feedback that the price was too high. The client wanted more details about the assumptions we used to price the matter and how we came up with our proposed fee. We explained that, due to the nature of the transaction, the work would require more senior lawyer time but would take fewer hours under that scenario and cost less overall. We agreed to create a financial dashboard for the client that would allow them to see budget-to-actual spend in real time. The dashboard could help the client make proactive decisions about how the matter would be handled if issues arose. We won the work.”