The futility of collecting work-product from outside counsel

The notion is often bandied about that law departments should collect from their outside counsel in electronic format the documents counsel produce. Then the law department can use those documents on its own or distribute them to other firms and thereby keep costs down. Often espoused; rarely implemented – but why?

Work product repositories from outside counsel flounder that for the same reasons that internal management projects whither away (See my posts of March 16, 2006 regarding the difficulty of internal efforts for retirees.). Oddly, the effort to compile external documents should be easier because no one need make any decisions and a general counsel can delegate the task to a paralegal.

These well-intentioned projects languish because someone must retrieve a useful document, get it to the law firm, and the law firm must make use of it for there to be any gain. Each step in that chain diminishes the likelihood that it will happen, with the net effect that the promise rarely materializes.

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